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Report #14
June 24, 1999

Executive Summary

Time to celebrate. After five weeks in Virginia, Dream and RickRock reached Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, headquarters of the AT, and passed the 1,000-mile mark! They'll cover the 40 miles of trail in Maryland in the next two days, then it's on to Pennsylvania. Officials at the AT headquarters told Dream he was the 834th hiker to come through the headquarters this year; RickRock was number 835. The officials also said there have been 120 more hikers than last year on this date. While at Harper's Ferry, Dream weighed both himself and his pack. The pack came in at 47 pounds. He registered an even 150, meaning he has lost another 8 pounds, for a total weight loss of 38 pounds.

Important Note

Dream and RickRock aren't the only hikers celebrating their arrival at Harper's Ferry. If all goes well, on Saturday, June 26, after section-hiking for 21 years, five women known as "The Mountain Marching Mommas" will reach Harper's Ferry and finally complete the AT! Details below.

The Tale

Though hiking in the Shenandoah was easier than any other place on the trail so far, northern Virginia has proved to be no picnic. In the area known as the "Roller Coaster", our hikers faced eight steep mountains tucked together as tight as an accordion. A sign near the entrance warns hikers to proceed at their own risk. The experience brought them back to reality. Good thing. Katahdin is still more than 1,000 miles away.

In an ongoing effort to lighten his load, Dream sat down one morning and ate all four cups of pudding I had shipped to him. That man will make any excuse to get more butterscotch pudding.

As webmaster Mike mentioned in his transmittal post, I've spent the last several days in North and South Dakota at a family reunion. Over 150 people came from all four corners of the United States. Ages ranged from a few weeks to mid-90s. As a whole, the experience was educational, entertaining, and encouraging. I was particularly pleased to see that one of my ancestors owned a camera shop, though I must have missed those genes. While in the Dakotas, I bought a disposable camera to replace my regular heavy camera. I'd like to think I had captured the essence of my German/Dutch ancestors from the rugged wilderness of the prairie, the inscriptions on their gravemarkers, and the faces of the newborn generation. But, alas, somewhere along the way, I lost the camera.

Trail Angels Dan and Judy Williams

Dream standing on the tip of McAfee Knob

Rick Rocks in the pool at Irish Creek

Five exhausted and happy men

Fortunately, Dream has had much better luck with disposable cameras. Here's a picture of trail angels Dan and Judy Williams cooking beef stew at Little Irish Creek, and a spectacular shot of Dream standing on the tip of McAfee Knob. I got chills when I first saw this picture. There's also see a photo (on the site soon) of the Five Mountain Marching Mommas. He met them in a shelter where they'd gone to escape the rain. They were soaking wet, but thrilled to be there. After hearing their tale, I can understand why.

Back in 1978, these women decided to hike a section of the AT every year until they completed it. In 21 years, they hiked 27 sections, at an average of 80 miles a section. Sometimes they would hike north to south, sometimes south to north. On June 26 they planned to reach Harper's Ferry and complete the final section of the trail. The women have been the subjects of numerous newspaper articles and television interviews. Their names are Hoosier Momma (Mary Phenning), Gypsy (Charme Burns), Orange Blossom (Sylvia Crump), Momma Kazoo (Ellen Kilpatrick), and Mother Superior (Lenore Bunny Schneider). If you'd like to send a congratulations note to them, you can send it to: The Mountain Marching Mommas, 511 49th Street West, Bradenton, FL 34209.

The idea of hiking with friends has definite appeal. One of Rick's friends, Brian, drove from Pittsburgh to hike with him for four days in the Shenandoah. Brian brought along two of his friends, Bill from Michigan, and Josh from Wisconsin. Along with Dream, those are the five exhausted and happy men you'll see in one of the mountain-top pictures.

Dream said he was so happy to be out of Virginia; it represents such a long segment of the journey. He told me about two "power hikers", Grizzly and No Moss, who clocked four states in one day: the final section of Virginia, the 2 mile of the trail that runs through West Virginia, the 30 miles of trail in Maryland, and just enough to cross the border into Pennsylvania. They accomplished the feat by "slack packing", a term used to describe a situation in which someone drives a hiker's pack to a predetermined destination a certain number of miles farther along the trail. The hiker is then free to hike without having the burden of carrying a heavy pack. Dream and RickRock have slack-packed once so far.

Finally, a hiking tip to share with those of you planning to head for the trail. Dream's boots, Vasque Sundowners, are still in great condition. Based on comparisons he has made with other hikers' boots, he is convinced that he has extended the longevity of his boots by wearing gaiters every day. Even the short gaiters keep water and debris out of his boots-not unlike wearing rubber boots to protect your shoes. If Dream's mom were alive today, she'd be shaking her finger at him, smiling, and saying, "I told you so."