Luhmann rests upon the faithful companion that
him on his solo journey from Silverton to Durango.
works at Four Corners Health Care Center, began
making the two-day
trek five years ago in honor of the annual Alzheimer’s
and to raise awareness of the disease./Photo by
urango's Deke Luhmann has walked from Silverton to Durango
five separate times. Luhmann is neither a struggling
hitchhiker nor an unimaginative hiker. Each year, he
makes the 50-mile pilgrimage to raise awareness about
Alzheimer's, a disease he knows first-hand through his
work at the Four Corners Health Care Center.
Luhmann has participated in the Southwest Colorado Memory
Walk, which takes place this year on Sept. 18, throughout
its nine-year, local history. His usual memory walk became
a 50-mile haul five years ago when an event coordinator
suggested that he up the stakes.
“One of the Memory Walk nurse coordinators knew of my
background in backpacking and suggested I try walking
from Silverton,” he said. That year, Luhmann departed
from Silverton at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
Luhmann said he doesn't train for the walk, but feels
that perhaps his years of solo backpacking provided him
with the necessary stamina. The journey may seem exhausting.
After all, it takes Luhmann two nine-hour days of walking
to cross the more than 50-miles. But Luhmann is humble
about the annual trip and says he simply thinks the walk
is an “easy one, which is a nice gesture to raise awareness.”
In addition to stamina, Luhmann's other asset is that
he takes sanctuary in solitude. He will end his eight
to nine-hour days, hiking at three-miles an hour, by
camping on Coal Bank Pass the first night and on Animas
View Drive the following night. Over the past few years,
the walk has opened Luhmann's eyes to an area that for
many has become commonplace.
“It's neat to gain a different perspective,” Luhmann
said. “We've all driven and biked that road hundreds
of times, but when you're walking, you see the things
we tend to miss even biking, the fossils and different
rocks along the cliffs.”
|Deke Luhmann rests in his hiking
Tuesday morning. Next week, Luhmann and his
boots will be making the 50-mile trek from
Silverton to Durango./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
Luhmann also insists that his annual trip goes well
beyond continuing an annual act of altruism. He's hopeful
that in helping to create local awareness, he can also
put a familiar face on the fight against the disease.
“Even though I'm only the maintenance man, I'm in and
out of the Alzheimer's unit all the time, and I see it
on a daily basis,” said Luhmann.
And by seeing it on a daily basis, Luhmann has learned
that Alzheimer's is a particularly ravaging disease. “I
get to know the different patients who come in a minimally
progressed state and go to a completely different one
a year later,” he said. “It's sad to meet these great
people and learn their histories, to later see them reduced
to a child-like state.”
He added that Alzheimer's is more widespread than many
“If you look at the statistics, the disease affects
most people,” he said. “If a family member lives long
enough, the chances of getting the disease increase greatly.”
Luhmann is expected to arrive at the Four Corners Health
Center on Friday, Sept. 10, where he is greeted year
after year by patients and his fellow employees and advocates.