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Report #13
June 13, 1999

Executive Summary

Dick, a/k/a Dream, called from Waynesboro, Virginia, Friday night. They've been in Virginia for 27 days and still have two more weeks to go. Fortunately, Virginia is a beautiful state and the terrain makes hiking relatively easy. Unfortunately, the 97-degree heat makes any kind of movement uncomfortable. Mileage total: 848.2. Dream's feet don't hurt at all. He thinks his feet finally realized he has no intention of quitting, so they decided to stop hurting. I asked if he was wearing sunglasses; the mountain glare is rumored to be brutal. He said no, though he does wear a hat. Besides, most of the time he's in the forest.

Important Note

In myth as well as fairy tales, the forest is always a place of transformation.

The Tale

Early in the evening on June 10, twelve miles outside Waynesboro, a sudden downpour forced Dream and RickRock (slight name change) to call it quits for the day. With rain running into his eyes, Dream eventually pitched his tent. Soaked to the bone and exhausted beyond that, he crawled inside and fell asleep. The next morning he had to repack his tent, covered now with mud and leaves and forest debris. When he told me about it, he laughed. To some, the chore might not have seemed significant, certainly not funny, but it presented a baptism of sorts for Dream, a man known for being fastidious in both his habits and his dress. I never knew him to leave an article of clothing on the floor; never knew him to let a week go by without polishing his shoes at least twice.

RickRock is dealing with issues of his own. Last fall, he and his friend Vern Poplaski set out to hike a 100-mile southbound section of the AT from Waynesboro to Roanoke. According to the email I received from Vern, three days into the hike, they faced "The Priest," a 4.8-mile portion of the trail that goes uphill from 800 feet to just short of 4,000 feet. Rick tried to make the climb, but, according to Vern, halfway up the mountain, Rick had to quit. The trail was beating him. Vern continued on alone, hoping the experience wouldn't crush Rick's dream of eventually hiking the whole trail. Last week, RickRock redeemed himself. Not only did he climb "The Priest" from the easier northbound route he was following, he immediately turned around and climbed the mountain again from the arduous southbound route that had defeated him less than a year ago. Not only did he conquer ́The Priestî this time, he did it in two hours! Of course, he had to turn around and climb it again to continue northbound, but my guess is he was walking on air.

When it comes to hiking the AT, I have only a smattering of knowledge, and none of it from personal experience. I've never hiked in my life. Never, until now, have I wanted to. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm capable of hiking, but, every achievement starts with an idea. (I did, by the way, start up that gas grill by myself.) For me, the physical challenge is not the greatest lure. From what both Dream and RickRock have told me, from what I've read in the email I've received from other hikers-most of whom I've never met-long-distance hiking guarantees physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenge. For many, the reward is growth, sometimes total transformation, in those same areas. And Katahdin is still over three months away.

Back in Virginia, one of the jewels on the AT is Rusty's Hostel. The place is so welcoming, hikers have been known to stay for two weeks, though Dream and RickRock stayed for only a few hours. The hostel is also Rusty's home, complete with bunk houses and solar showers for hikers. Sun-warmed water doesn't give a steamy shower, but to a sweat-drenched hiker, nothing is more refreshing. Except, perhaps, a cold drink. Rusty has those too. Both alcohol and smoking are forbidden at the shelter, but hospitality is endless. The cost? Donations only, in whatever amount a hiker can afford. Rusty has never advertised his hostel. Word-of-mouth has been more than sufficient. Despite the name "rusty," the hostel is a jewel.

The AT is a treasure chest of such jewels. One afternoon, Dream met a man on the trail who was giving away fruit to hikers. Not long after that, Dream and RickRock came to a clearing near a river and pitched their tents for the night. A truck pulled up. The driver, Dan Williams of Parrott, Virginia, asked if they were setting up or leaving. When they answered that they were camping for the night, Dan and his wife, Judy, got out of the truck, set up a stove, and proceeded to cook a pot of beef stew, then fry two orders of eggs and sausage. They explained that they cook for the AT hikers every year, once in May and again in June.

Overwhelmed by their good fortune, Dream and RickRock instantly set aside their dehydrated noodles and rice, and enjoyed the spontaneous banquet. No sooner had they finished, than another truck pulled up. Ed and Maryanne Williams, no relation to Dan and Judy, set up a grill and started cooking hot dogs! They also had brownies, big chewy chocolate fudgy brownies. Dream and RickRock ate again. Though neither family would accept money, they did ask that when the hikers get home, they each perform an act of kindness for another stranger.

Late that night, Dream and RickRock talked about the generous hearts of people who live by the popular bumper sticker, "Practice random acts of kindness" and by the ageless words, "Do unto others".

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Walking With Spring: First Solo Thru-Hike of Appalachian Trail by Earl Shaffer USA order Not available
Appalachian Trail Data Book 1999
Daniel D. Chazin (Editor)
USA order Not available
The Hot Dog Companion : The Story of the Foods We Love to Eat, With a Side of Guilt by David J. Graulich USA order GB order
Bar Cookies A to Z by Marie Simmons, Susan Marie Anderson (Photographer) USA order GB order
Virginia Handbook : Including Chesapeake Bay, Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Washington D.C. (Moon Travel Handbooks) by Julian Smith USA order GB order
Folk-Songs of Virginia by Arthur Davis USA order 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 USA order Not available
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