copyright the Chronicle August 6, 2014
by David Dudley
DERBY — If you were driving along Route 105 this past weekend, or Route 5 on Monday, chances are you passed a well-tanned man, walking, pushing a cart with bicycle wheels alongside the road, accompanied by his dog. On Monday afternoon, he rambled his way through Derby, on his fiftieth consecutive day of walking this summer.
That man is Regent Hurtubise, 66, of Chartierville, Quebec, which is just across the New Hampshire border. His beloved dog, who travels with him, is named Rocky. Though Mr. Hurtubise may look, at first glance, like a drifter, he is a homeowner in Quebec, living off a pension from the Canadian government. Mr. Hurtubise and Rocky are on the final leg of a 400-mile walk.
Mr. Hurtubise made a pilgrimage to Plattsburgh, New York, this summer to visit a camp where, along with his wife and his first born child, he vacationed many years ago. He also made a point of stopping to visit with his sister.
He got the idea three years ago, when he was going through his desk. He came upon a photo he collected on a trip made more than a decade ago, when he visited the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
“I was looking through my desk, and I found this picture,” Mr. Hurtubise said, speaking English with a heavy French Canadian accent. “I thought, I don’t still have this picture for nothing. So, I decided to go to the place in the picture.”
Among other motivations, death compels Mr. Hurtubise to walk.
“Two years ago, I lost my brother. He was two years younger than me. All kinds of people around me, that are my age, were dying. That taught me that, if I want to travel, I had better do it before it’s my turn to die.
“I want to go back to places I went when I was young, where I spent time with friends, and girlfriends. So, instead of taking care of my house for the summer, I went walking.”
Mr. Hurtubise set out on foot that first summer, accompanied by Rocky, to walk the White Mountains. Though he and his companion embarked in mid-July, they did not return until months later, on October 4.
“It was so so cold,” Mr. Hurtubise said. “That’s when I learned to sleep with my dog, in the sleeping bag. It was the only way I could keep from freezing to death.”
The following summer, Mr. Hurtubise decided to embark on another journey. This time, up North, to St. Donat dans les Laurentides, in Quebec.
The last time he’d been to this place was more than 40 years ago. He was then a boy of 14.
To his dismay, he returned to find the home dilapidated, the beach closed, and the water contaminated.
“The swing I remember was gone,” he said. “There was no boat, like I remember. Nothing…It was there that I learned to enjoy the company of women. There were no women there, either …Oh boy.”
But Mr. Hurtubise was not deterred. As this summer began, he set out on his present pilgrimage to Plattsburgh. He was last in the area when he was 24.
“I had to return there this year,” he said “I had to do it before it was my time to die. I was supposed to make my return through Canada, my home country. But I decided to go through Vermont. I like people here better than the people in my home country. They are so much nicer.”
Mr. Hurtubise went on to relate how, as he passed through Newport Center, he came upon a cold bottle of water — still icy, as though it were fresh from the fridge — and a dog biscuit, alongside the road.
“Nobody in Quebec would do that. Only people in Vermont,” Mr. Hurtubise said.
Another of his goals, while traveling, is to spend as little money as possible. While Mr. Hurtubise does spend money on food, he carries many of his own supplies: peanut butter, canned salmon, and especially peanuts. He rarely spends money on campgrounds, or hotel rooms.
“I sleep behind churches, in ditches, graveyards . . . Wherever I can find peace.” he said. “Once, I did have to get a room, because a big storm came. It was the first time in three years I paid for a room.”
According to sacred texts in Vedanta Hinduism, there are four stages of life. Mr. Hurtubise seems to embody the fourth and final stage, Sannyasa, wherein one is supposed to renounce the world, become a wandering monk, and should be honored as a spiritual leader in society.
Though Mr. Hurtubise said he doesn’t believe in God, he nevertheless is a spiritual man. In three summers spent walking across the Northeast, he said that nothing bad has happened to him. He thanks guardian angels for keeping him safe.
“We are taught that we are bodies, that may or may not have a soul within us,” he said. “We should think that we are souls, who have bodies. I am a spirit seeking experience through my body. That is why I walk.”
contact David Dudley at [email protected]