Monday, July 15, 2024

INTERESTING FOLKS: “The Walker” Challenged Himself to Stop Smoking by Taking Cig-Free Long Walks Everywhere – and It Worked!

Seen here in front of a Hot Dog Johnny’s mural at the Paulinskill Viaduct, Mike Mascia’s treks take him to these local gems. Photo by MB Journe, 3/2024.

When you think of our quiet corner of Northwest Jersey, you think of White Lake, Blair Falls, the Blairstown Farmers’ Market, Main Street’s Friday the 13th frivalities, Donald Stoddart (a.k.a. “Spider”), a friendly local personality, and “the Walker.”

Inquiring minds want to know who is that man who seems to walk so briskly everywhere.

He’s Mike Mascia, 37, of Hardwick. He’s been walking since 2013, and his stride is fast, with no signs of fatigue. If he’s asked if he would like a ride, nine times out of 10 he will politely decline.

He has been seen walking down Route 94, on back roads around North Warren, and he has been spotted as far away as Hope, Hackettstown, Belvidere, Columbia and Washington, weather permitting but more often than not, rain or shine. If you drive the local roads, you’ve seen him. 

Mascia enjoys Warren County with its beautiful rolling hills and majestic streams. He grew up here, graduating from North Warren Regional High School in 2005. He has walked to and from work locally. 

Why does he walk? 

Simply said and exemplified by this artwork kindly donated by a fan, Mascia walks for peace of mind. Photo by MB Journe, 3/2024.

Mascia used to smoke. His habit began in high school, and eight years later he was smoking a pack a day. Starting his day with a cigarette, his oral surgeon advised him not to smoke before surgery to remove his wisdom teeth.

So, he quit. 

He devised the lasting plan to quit smoking by simply taking a walk and leaving his cigarettes at home. At first, he could not walk very far before he needed a cigarette. Once he worked himself up to an hour, it began to get easier.

A surprising transformation started to take place. He noticed how good he felt and how well he slept at night. The more he walked, the better he felt. Walking is known to build endorphins which elevates mood.

Mascia loving the day in front of a local sign in Frelinghuysen. Photo by MB Journe, 3/2024.

He gets up each morning, has a good breakfast of four scrambled eggs, a banana, apple sauce and a cup of coffee, and off he goes.

Where does he go?

Sometimes he walks to the TA (Truck Stop of America, in Columbia) which is a 24-mile round trip. Sometimes he will walk down Route 519 to Route 46, then up Route 94 to his home in Hardwick, a 37-mile trip which takes nine hours. He has been spotted at the Quick Check at the corner of 519 and Route 46 in White Township, a 28-mile round trip. And, beyond.

Mascia out and about, walking past this sign at Genesis Farm. Photo by MB Journe, 3/2024.

Mascia likes to tell this story: He was walking down Route 94 when a beagle started to follow him. “Go home!” he said, but to no avail. After a considerable distance, Mascia had to turn around and return the dog to his master, illustrating that a man can be a dog’s best friend.

Often people honk and wave as they drive by Mascia. He waves back happily. Recently, a friend painted a peace sign on the back of his jacket since he is walking for peace of mind. A couple of times, he said he has been greeted with a honk and a peace sign from the drivers. 

Yelens Choban
MB Journe, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

MB has been a resident of Frelinghuysen for the past 22 years. She lives in an old farmhouse on the side of the road. She enjoys the simple life, puttering in her flower garden, practicing Qi Gong under her redbud tree, or creating art on the deck.
MB's experience as a journalist began when her son was quite young, she began writing for The Paulinskill Valley Chronicle, often bringing him to work with her. Her responsibilities were writing articles with photos, selling ads, and billing. This suited her, as a single mother not wanting to be separated from her small child.

She considers herself a lover of nature, often seen photographing its beauty. She has worked as a seasonal employee of YMCA Camp Mason for the past 17 years. She is a teacher and mentor of children, always emphasizing the YMCA’s core values - caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. She tries to listen carefully to each individual she interviews, getting their viewpoint. That is why she likes to write about the interesting people and places that make Warren County such a nice place to live.