As of June 1, Dick and Rick Rocks have hiked 709 miles of the AT. Boggles my mind. Equally boggling is the fact that Dick's feet continue to be blister-free. I'd say that's quite an endorsement for his Vasque Sundowners and for Dick's continuing effort to lighten his load. His last shipment home included half of his Bandaids, several straps from his pack, and a pair of tweezers. Weight is weight.
Though I haven't heard from him since June 1, I have received another batch of photographs. He took most of them during "Trail Days" in Damascus. There appears to be no shortage of fun. In one photo, Dick is shaking hands with the legendary Earl Shaffer. Compare these pictures of Dick with the one at the opening of the website - the photo showing him standing on our deck trying out his pack. Dick and I will be married 18 years next month and, until now, I've never seen his ribs!
(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 [only available in the USA. Contact Mike if you are interested in finding a copy]. See also the booklist at the bottom of this page.).
Because I haven't heard from Dick in over a week, this report is not related to our usual conversation. It is, however, a reflection of those conversations I've been having with people all over the world, thanks to this website. As I see it, the AT community is not restricted to only those hardy souls trekking north or south on the Appalachians. It grows daily with every photograph shared, every story told, every "Way to go, Dick!" message on my answering machine, every e-mail forwarded to every friend and family member. Welcome.
Summers in Virginia are hot. During our last conversation, Dick mentioned that fact several times. I didn't need convincing. I remember. The daytime temperatures soar in the 90s. The nights are only a little cooler. The bugs rule.
I'm ashamed to admit this now, but when I was growing up, summer fun was cruel. The boys would tie string around the bellies of jumbo june bugs and pretend they were airplanes. The girls would catch lightning bugs, remove the "lights," and pretend they were diamond rings. Hikers have fun too. Dick said that on some nights people sit around a campfire and sing. Some carry musical instruments and play for the enjoyment of all. One night before Mothball left the trail, he sat at the campfire and said it was his birthday. Quietly, a hiker known as "Wharf Rat" slipped away. A few minutes later he returned, holding what he called a birthday brownie, complete with a single birthday candle. All present joined in a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday." I hope Mothball made a wish. In one of his emails to me, he asked that should anyone on the trail run across Wharf Rat, please thank him again for the great B-day brownie.
The last time Dick called, I had a chance to talk to Rick Rocks also. I asked him why he wanted to hike the AT. His first response: "The challenge." He said that he had been on several decent-sized hiking trips in the past and had covered approximately 400 miles of the AT in various sections; but, he had never attempted a hike of this distance, or one that presented such a challenge to his endurance level. I asked if he'd found the rewards worth the effort. He had. Definitely. He also gave me permission to share a portion of an e-mail he had sent to his parents, an e-mail his father had forwarded it to me. As his dad put it, "I thought I'd pass along some words from Rick about his awe inspiring enjoyment of the scenery."
In Rick Rocks words: "On 5/20 we made it to the Village Motel at the intersection of I-8 and US 11. Yesterday I completed my longest day of hiking Ů 24.8 miles. This was much longer than I had expected to do, but the terrain was easy and we needed a campsite with water. The last couple of days have been quite relaxing. We had lower mileage days with great scenery. While hiking through Grayson Highlands State Park, we got to see a herd of wild ponies. They came up to us and we petted them while they licked our backpacks and chewed on my hiking staff. The grasslands at the tops of these mountains were so beautiful. It is difficult to put into words. Just being there lifted my spirits. The whole trip has been one surprise after another. The same day we played with the ponies, the trail led us through a cave at the top of a mountain. Amazing, just amazing."
Here's a post I received from Ellie Sullo, one of my writer friends. "When our kids were young we took a camping trip down through the Blue Ridge and Great Smokey Mountains. We ended at Gatlinburg. Your post reminded us how truly hospitable and NICE the folks in the area are. We were close to the entrance there to Smokey Mountain National Park, where we spent the night and went to a sing-along led by Park Rangers. It was there we learned half a dozen songs that our family still sings together at appropriate, and some inappropriate family moments, even though the "kids" are in their forties with their own broods, and the songs have been passed down one more generation! Sippin' Cider was one, and His Name was Ethan Drum. Great national treasures from the Smokies. We'll at least hum them tonight in your honor!"
For some who e-mailed me, the idea of hiking the AT was not a memory, but a dream. Joe Statt from Cincinnati wrote to say: "I'm following Dick's hike with great interest. I hope he makes it all the way to Maine. Let him know that there are others out there rooting and praying for him. ÷.
"When I realized our youngest of four was going off to college this fall, I announced to my wife that I was thinking about taking a walk, from Georgia to Maine. My wife gave me that knowing nod and glazed look she exhibits whenever I announce another hair-brained idea. Actually, I've been thinking about it for a long time. IŽve acquired most of the equipment I need over the years, and have upgraded to better and lighter stuff when I see it on sale someplace. All I need to do is find a block of time sometime in the next few years and do it÷."
Sounds to me as though Joe has a plan. Here's hoping that it won't be long before he can experience the adventure.
Anyone who has hiked the AT knows about "trail angels," those people who live along the trail and so generously offer hikers everything from food, water, and transportation to the use of the rocking chairs on their front porches, even the use of their showers. Here's a note I received from Fran Bragg and Frank Osborne of Canton, Georgia, that illustrates the idea better than I ever could:
"My father and I have hiked the approach trail several times since we life fairly close to Springer Mountain. We have often talked about doing a longer trip (perhaps several days) but never seem to come up with enough time. This (the trail journal) is a wonderful way to vicariously live life on the trail without the blisters! (My husband much prefers this method!) ÷
"Dad lives much closer than I, in Ellijay, Georgia, and the Benton-MacKaye trail goes across the property of the church he attends. He has decided, due to the things he has read about the trail, to be a trail angel for those who are hiking across the property. He is leaving a cooler full of cold drinks and snacks and plans to help build an overnight shelter for hikers on that trail. He is 62 and very active and we still hope to have our "adventure" before too much longer÷."
Every time I read that post, I worry a little less about Dick. Though Georgia is hundreds of miles behind him, I'm sure there are trail angels like Frank Osborne all along the way. In the meantime, I'm waiting for that phone to ring.
(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 or 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||Not available|
|Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway by Victoria Logue, Frank Logue, Nicole Blouin|
|Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains: A Guide for the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah National Park, and Neighboring Areas by Marcus B. Simpson|
|Blue Ridge Range : The Gentle Mountains (National Geographic Park Profiles) by Ron Fisher, Richard Alexander Cooke, National Geographic Society|
|Virginia Handbook : Including Chesapeake Bay, Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Washington D.C. (Moon Travel Handbooks) by Julian Smith|
|Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains: A Comprehensive Guide by Kenneth Wise|
|Fly-Fishing Guide to the Great Smokey Mountains by Don Kirk|
|Folk-Songs of Virginia by Arthur Davis||Not available|
|Folk-Songs of the South; Collected Under the Auspices of the West Virginia Folk-Lore Society by John Harrington Cox (Preface), Arthur Kyle, Jr. Davis||Not available|
|Rand McNally Road Atlas of the USA|
|The Long Road Turns to Joy: A walking guide to meditation Thich Nhat Hanh|
|Walking the Appalachian Trail Larry Luxenburg|
Rand McNally Road Atlas of the USA
Thich Nhat Hanh
The Long Road Turns to Joy: A walking guide to meditation
Walking the Appalachian Trail