[Dick Takes a Hike ...]
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Report #6
April 26, 1999

Executive Summary

On Sunday, April 25, Dick climbed Clingman's Dome. It's the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. The next day, he headed for Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg, TN, is about 15 miles west of the trail. Desperate for a meal that didn't have to be mixed with boiling water, Dick and 3 other men decided to hitchhike into town. Dick was picked up by a couple with a luxurious RV. The others were picked up by a man who claimed to be the mayor of Gatlinburg. I believe it. Southern hospitality is legendary.

Important Note

One summer, when Dick was ten years old, he and his younger brother, Albee, hired themselves out to a local farmer to help with the haying. The boys were doing a fine job until a mouse scurried up Dick's pantleg. As Albie tells the story, Dick ran around the field screaming for help, all the while stripping off his pants. Albie said he didn't know if it was Dick's screams or his own laughter that got them fired.

The tale

After wolfing down a hamburger and french fries in Gatlinburg, Dick called from the Marshall Creek Motel. He was looking forward to a hot shower, a shave, and the chance to sleep in a real bed with clean sheets and a pillow that wasn't made of clothes stuffed in a sack. I asked him how he felt about sleeping in the shelters. He said they weren't bad, except for the mice. Apparently, all of the shelters have them, some worse than others. One night, Dick woke up to the feel of mice scurrying over his sleeping bag. He said he was too tired to care, until one of the mice ran through his hair. I'm happy to report he neither screamed nor stripped.

One of Dick's fellow hikers is a young man from Pensacola, Florida. Every night, he places mothballs around his sleeping bag to keep the mice away. His trail name is "Mothballs." That's an easy one to figure out.

The shelters in Georgia were three-sided lean-tos. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the shelters have a fourth "wall" made of an iron grill. The last person in the shelter for the night pulls the wall/door shut and locks it. The precaution is to keep the bears out. I was truly pleased to hear that the shelters were so equipped, but horrified to realize that the need existed. When I was eight years old, I was a Smoky the Bear Junior Forest Ranger, complete with badge and membership card. I took a solemn oath to prevent forest fires. I thought of telling Dick that if a bear came after him, he should just yell, "My wife is a friend of yours!" Instead, I told him to be sure that iron gate was locked good and tight.

Dick has settled into a comfortable stride, averaging 13 to 15 miles a day. He hasn't taken a day off hiking yet, which puts him almost a week ahead of his anticipated schedule.

Since starting out on April 7, Dick has put 208 miles on his feet. I can understand why they're sore. Several days ago, my feet started hurting too. I'm probably feeling sympathy pains for him. So, this evening I bought a new pair of shoes, nice comfy ones, the practical kind I always swore I'd never wear.

Good equipment is essential. Two years ago, Dick won a sweepstakes in which the prize was a $500 gift certificate to a sporting goods store. Unfortunately, the store was going out of business and by the time we got there, the merchandise had been picked over. Dick didn't see anything he liked. Fortunately, because of my astute shopping skills, we managed to spend all the money. What can I say? It's a gift.

When it came time to purchase the critical items, e.g., boots, tent, sleeping bag, backpack, stove, and water purifier, we went to EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports). To reduce the stress on our monthly budget, we'd buy one piece of equipment every other month or buy several pieces when they were on sale. I bought a few items for Christmas. (Okay, I bought more than a few÷I bought a flashlight, a set of pots and pans, extra water filters, several bandanas, a tiny thermometer, a sweatband, a pair of long underwear, several pairs of wool socks. The extra fuel tank made a great stocking stuffer.) I'm sure it would come as no surprise to EMS that their equipment is holding up like iron. It does, however, come as a great relief to Dick - and to me.

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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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