[Dick Takes a Hike ...]
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Report #5
April 22, 1999

Executive Summary

Dick reached Fontana Dam, NC, today. That's 161.7 miles from Springer Mountain, GA. The occasional side-trips into towns along the way have added another 20+ miles to his total. Other than sore feet, he's feeling fine. He estimates he's lost 10 pounds.

The Tale

Dick called Thursday night, but I was at the beauty salon having my hair cut. While I was thrilled to hear his voice, I was disappointed to have missed his callˇespecially when he said he'd be entering the Smoky Mountain State Park the next day and that there would be no facilities or phones for approximately ten days. He gave me the number at the phone booth where he was calling and said he'd wait there for an hour. Well, truth be told, I wasn't just having my hair cut; I was having it colored. And that's a two-hour process (Matrix No. 7, a nice coppery red). I went to bed feeling miserable.

Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

To my surprise and delight, Dick called the next morning! He didn't like the idea of our not talking for ten days any more than I did. He also wanted me to send him a few things, including his radio. He said that from where he was standing at Fontana Dam, Tennessee was within walking distance. So was Maine, but I didn't say that.

For the last week or so, he and six other hikers would meet at the end of the day. By now, several had slowed down so much they were a full day behind. A few others dropped out altogether. Dick and a young man from Pennsylvania ("Rick Rocks") were the only two of the original seven left. They met a man seventy-six years old who was hiking the trail. He said he was going to have to go back, that while his spirit was strong, his legs could no longer handle the strain. I can't imagine the courage it must have taken for that man to get as far as he had.

In private email, several people have commented on how Dick couldn't have gone on his great adventure without my support. The truth is, he could have, but he wouldn't have. We talked about this for years, and spent months in hard, pencil-to-paper planning. If I wasn't comfortable with the idea, he wouldn't go. That was the agreement. The other truth is that for more than twenty years, he supported me both financially and emotionally in ways I could never repay. I don't know how many husbands would say to their wives, "Sure, honey, I understand. You want to quit your job with its nice 401k and four weeks' vacation so you can write romance novels. Great. Go for it." Now I'm back in the 9-to-5 world and he's giving his dream a shot. I say, "Go for it, Dick!"

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Rand McNally Road Atlas of the USARand McNally Road Atlas of the USA
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The Long Road Turns to Joy: A walking guide to meditationThich Nhat Hanh
The Long Road Turns to Joy: A walking guide to meditation
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Walking the Appalachian TrailLarry Luxenburg
Walking the Appalachian Trail
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