Vaughan Traverses FMB

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Walking Woman

“I’ve always been a big walker,” related Fort Myers Beach resident and Friends of The Mound House President Ellen Vaughan! “I have a personal goal of going over 6 miles daily and usually walk the beach. I am a disciplined person, so on rainy, cold or windy days, I walk the south end neighborhoods, where we live, and even around the inside of our apartment to hit that mark! When Town Council announced a few weeks back that they closed the beach due to the Coronavirus, l came up with a new incentive – to walk the entirety of Fort Myers Beach!”

Ellen Walks Fort Myers Beach-Stops at Bowditch Point
Reaching the very north end of the island at Bowditch Point Park, Ellen has enjoyed walking the entire island. Photos submitted.

With the beach closed, Ellen began “devising routes that would allow me to make it to 6 miles, and one day it occurred to me I could probable walk all the island neighborhoods on Estero Island. I started to branch out to those further to our north, then would flip it around and return home, and that was roughly 10 miles each day. I have a Fort Myers Beach map I got a few years back, and started to carve the island into 6-mile loops that I could do, then come back home, but eventually these loops were so far toward the northern end of the island that my husband Pat would drive me to them, then I would walk them and return home. The final part was north of the Matanzas Pass Bridge and up to Bowditch Point Park at the northern tip of Fort Myers Beach. I started the Monday after Easter, and when I was done, I added up my walking log and it came out to 260 miles in a little over two weeks.”

Ellen Vaughan with her map at the Big Carlos Bridge.

Even though Ellen is already a dedicated walker, she achieved one important health benefit from her project. “I have the strong ability to compartmentalize everything, to avoid worrying about the things I cannot change or do anything about, but the coronavirus affects every aspect of our lives, and that causes me a great deal of anxiety, so the walking the beach challenge helped me to get that under control. A big part of my anxiety is because our daughter and her family live in the Republic of Mali in West Africa and they were to come home for the summer, but now they cannot due to the virus. We had their trip all planned out, including Summer Camp up in Michigan for our grandchildren and a trip to visit their friends in Puerto Rico but now none of that will happen. We are to see them around the holidays, but we have no idea what things will be like by then, so we don’t know when we will see them again. Not being around my grandsons is hard and all that walking really helped me cope, as everything now is ‘The Big Unknown!’”

“#WeAreFMB” & Fashionable Sandals

As she traversed Fort Myers Beach, Ellen adopted an informal uniform. “I usually wore a ‘#WeAreFMB’ tanktop’ and surprised a great number of people by wearing sandals, as I always wear sandals when I walk, but only fashionable ones that match my dress! I carried a mask, but only wore it when people stopped me to talk, even though I always maintained social distance. Of course my mask is made out of West African fabric!”

While she achieved her 260-mile goal injury-free, “ironically,” laughed Ellen, “about a
week later, I was back to my usual 6-mile walks around the neighborhoods. I was attempting to cross Estero Boulevard at one of the lit crosswalks and while traffic stopped from the south, I wasn’t sure if a car from the north would, so I held up my hand to get their attention and tripped over a palm frond! I badly bruised my knee and my elbow was a bloody mess, but fortunately two women saw what happened and helped me to my door! That kept me from walking for a few days, so I substituted paddling around our pool instead.”

Ellen came away with two perspectives after walking the island. “I discovered that each neighborhood seems to have their own personality and sense of community, and the other thing is that I had no idea that I knew so many people on Fort Myers Beach! It seemed like, no matter where I was, I would hear people call out, ‘Hey, Ellen Vaughan,’ so that was the most fun part, though usually I was in the middle of the road and they were by their door, so we needed a megaphone and that was pretty comical! As more people learned what I was doing, I received so much support and that is typical of the Fort Myers Beach community, where we all come together, and I love that!”