[Dick Takes a Hike ...]
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Report #9
May 15, 1999

Executive Summary

Trail Days site, Damascus, VADick called Saturday afternoon from Damascus, Virginia, 455 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia ñ 3 states down, 11 more to go. Knowing they had to really push if they wanted to reach Damascus in time for "Trail Days," Dick and Rick Rocks covered 116 miles in just over 6 days. Somewhere during that time (Dick wasn't specific), a young man who had just graduated from Michigan State joined them. His name is "Acorn." The threesome arrived Friday morning, in time to hear the legendary Earl Shaffer talk about hiking. In 1948, Shaffer became the first solo thru-hiker. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of his achievement, he hiked the AT again in 1998. Some hikers who weren't sure they'd make it to Damascus in time, hitchhiked. When it comes time for them to return to the trail, those hikers will have to go back to the point where they left the trail. To do otherwise would violate the meaning of being a thru-hiker.

(Earl Shaffers book, Walking With Spring : First Solo Thru-Hike of Appalachian Trail is out of print, but Amazon will try to order it for you. Click USA order USA [only available in the USA. See also the booklist at the bottom of this page.).

Important Note

After our conversation, Dick planned to go to the Damascus library to use if he could use a computer to access the internet. If he was able to do so, he'll see this website for the first time.

The Tale

Trail Days site, Damascus, VAAs I understand it, "Trail Days" is an annual, three-day festival / conference to bring attention to the AT and to celebrate the accomplishments of past and present AT hikers. What I know for sure is that Dick was excited to be part of it. He and Rick Rocks had arrived on Friday to find three huge fields covered with tentsódifferent shapes, different sizes, different colors, but all inhabited by people who shared a love of hiking. After adding their own tents to the collage, they headed for the action.

In addition to hearing Earl Shaffer speak, Dick attended a seminar in which he was told that the most successful hikers are the ones who keep their packs as light as possible. The weight of a pack can really wear the body down. The might explain the long line at the post officeóall those hikers mailing home what had once been considered necessities. Dick was there, packing up those gloves.

The longest lines were those to the food concessions and the telephones. As for the food, the companies and organizations that sponsored Trail Days provided free food for the hikers. Lots of vegetarian dishes, lots of beans, lots of cookies (I'll guess oatmeal). As for the phones, well, Clark Kent would find a whole new challenge in his transformation to superhero. Dick waited in line for two hours so he could call me. That's love!

Dick on laundry dayHe also had to wait in line at the laundromat. Back when Dick was still in the planning stages of this hike, one of the men who works at EMS told him that when it comes time to wash clothes, a hiker will wear nothing but his rain gear so he can launder everything else at one time. I understand the logic, though the visual is worth a chuckle or two. That's why I was a bit concerned when Dick said that in addition to the gloves, he was mailing home the pants to his rain suit.

The next time Dick calls, I hope he'll have more information about "Acorn," the young man who just graduated from Michigan State. In the meantime, I have news from Mothball! Here's a portion of his email:

"I had the privilege of hiking with Dick ëEvery Hiker's Dream' and Rick ëRick Rock' for roughly 150 miles and during that time grew very fond of them both. Even though my hike was shorter than planned, I fell in love with the AT and the wonderful people that have the courage and will to hike it. I miss the trail a great deal and am eager to hike some more. I never backpacked before and I learned a tremendous amount especially about food -- you need a lot. I plan to section hike whenever possible, but someday I will complete a thru-hike. To sum it up nicely I would have to say hiking this part of the AT has been one of the best things I have done in my short life of 26 years.

"I look forward to my next adventure in the Air Force and the future that lies ahead. Last week I took an extensive, I mean extensive, physical and they are currently doing a background check. I should have an OTS start date in about a month.

"I suspect my friends were in Damascus this weekend for Trail Days. Hope the R and R did the feet some good. Please keep me informed about their journey as I'll have a computer to check e-mail at OTSÖ.. Happy Trails! Brad ëMothball'"

Mothball's email wasn't the only one I received through the website. I heard from Steve Holbrook. Steve is 36 years old and has been living on Guam in the western Pacific for the last 11 years. He grew up in the foothills of the Appalachians in Alabama, and hopes to spend a week on the trail in the Smokies in late summer. He asked if Dick would relay more information about the physical demands of hiking.

I'll make a note to ask Dick for specifics the next time he calls. What I already know is that he and Rick Rocks have each lost about 20 pounds. His feet are always sore. It's not uncommon for hikers to loose their toenails. Problems with teeth and gums are notorious. Our dentist warned Dick about that. If he were at home, he'd have a big glass of fresh orange juice every morning with breakfast. He'd have two glasses of milk with dinner. On the trail, breakfast is a handful of gorp and an untoasted toaster pastry. Dinner isÖcreative. Then there's an assortment of rashes to contend with. And sunburn, which can be horribly painful. Dick got sunburned quickly. He tanned just as quickly, but our daughter, who is an esthetician, was more than a little upset to learn that he wasn't using a sunscreen. But then, she was livid when I shamefully admitted I hadn't been exfoliating.

In addition to Steve's inquiry, I've received numerous requests for general information, such as:

  • Dick drinks between 1 to 1 ‡ gallons of water a day.
  • He uses 96 ounces of water to cook supper and wash dishes.
  • He gets up at 6:30 every morning and, at approximately 7:10 a.m., is usually the first one out of camp.
  • At approximately 9 a.m., he stops for breakfast. That means he has several handsful of gorp and a drink of water.
  • He eats lunch at noon.
  • If the plan for the day is to hike 15 miles, he's usually finished around 3 p.m. If the goal for the day is 20 miles, he won't call it quits until 5 or 6 p.m.
  • He uses a Pur water filter instead of treating the water. The Pur is an excellent filter, but Dick still keeps an envelope of Kool-Aid on hand to doctor the taste.
  • His stove is a Whisper Lite. He bought the repair kit, but hasn't needed it.
  • He has a light, two-person tent: the Flashlight Clip by Sierra Design.
  • His pack is the internal design, by Gregory. It holds 5300 cubic inches. Though the pack is sturdy, it weighs somewhere between 5 and 7 pounds. He has seen some new ones that weigh only 22 ounces.
  • His boots are Vasquez Sundowners. Dick's feet still remain blister-free. I'm sure those boots have a lot to do with that.
  • For several years, he has been hiking with a pair of Leki poles. They've saved his knees on many occasions.

My brother-in-law sent a note to Dick that said, in part: "I understand the Army is looking for some good infantry typesóBe All That You Can Be." Dick was in the Army. That's probably where his hiking habit was born. It's also probably why he was so eager to march in the "Hikers' Parade."

(Click here to get to the top of the report).
Here is a selection of books about some subjects mentioned in the report. We maintain an Associates Program with Amazon, both the USA and GB/Europe, so you can order these books - or any other books from Amazon - directly from this site.
Each report will have some links to common and useful books, and we will be building up a collection of other books which may be appropriate to an item or event mentioned in the report. Click on either GB/Europe order or USA order to order the book in Great Britain/Europe or the USA. Click on the BOOKS button at the top of the page to go to our bookstore.

US Order GB/Europe order
Walking With Spring: First Solo Thru-Hike of Appalachian Trail by Earl Shaffer USA order Not available
Virginia Handbook : Including Chesapeake Bay, Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Washington D.C. (Moon Travel Handbooks) by Julian Smith USA order GB order
Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains: A Comprehensive Guide by Kenneth Wise USA order GB order
Fly-Fishing Guide to the Great Smokey Mountains by Don Kirk USA order GB order
Rand McNally Road Atlas of the USA USA order GB order
The Long Road Turns to Joy: A walking guide to meditation Thich Nhat Hanh USA order GB order
Walking the Appalachian Trail Larry Luxenburg USA order GB order
Rand McNally Road Atlas of the USARand McNally Road Atlas of the USA
USA order USA Order
GB/Europe order Order
The Long Road Turns to Joy: A walking guide to meditationThich Nhat Hanh
The Long Road Turns to Joy: A walking guide to meditation
USA order USA Order
GB order GB/Europe Order
Walking the Appalachian TrailLarry Luxenburg
Walking the Appalachian Trail
USA order USA Order
GB order GB/Europe Order