Dick celebrated his 60th birthday today. He woke up to hear Plantar whistling "Happy Birthday." He called tonight from Balsom Lodge, near North Adams, Massachusetts. He and Rick covered 120 miles that week. They have 589 miles to go, or as Dick put it, "just a stroll." If all goes well, that will translate to six or seven weeks. That realization has made many hikers slow down, not wanting the experience to end. I asked Dick how he felt about returning to the real world. He said he's thinking about hiking beyond Katahdin into Canada, thereby completing the International Trail. It would take only another month. Only.
Dick admitted that he didn't know how well the International Trail was blazed. Nor did he have a list of mail drops. I asked how many of the other hikers would be continuing into Canada. He said he hadn't been able to convince anyone to join him. Dick also told me that back in Connecticut, a hiker called Draco had been bitten by a rattlesnake.
As it turned out, the forest fire back in Kent did not affect the AT. Though there were several more fires over the next few days, hikers in the area managed to hike through. I asked Dick if he had any regrets about skipping those nine miles, knowing he'd have to make them up after reaching Katahdin. Neither he nor Rick regretted their decision.
As for the rattlesnake - It seems that Draco came upon the snake as it was sunning. He grabbed the snake behind the neck and held it tight. His buddy, Lovely Over-Packed, would be along any minute and could take a picture. At least that was the plan. But Lovely Over-Packed didn't arrive as quickly as Draco had anticipated and, in the meantime, he loosened his grip. Just a fraction. Just enough.
The snake bit him on the hand. By the time Lovely Over-Packed arrived, Draco's hand was swollen and he was feeling ill. Lovely walked him out of the woods and into Sharon, Connecticut, where they found an emergency clinic. From there, Draco was taken by Life-Star helicopter to Hartford Hospital. Dick said no one had heard anything about him since then. He gave me Draco's real name and I said I'd call the hospital in the morning.
When Dick went to pick up his latest box of food, he found another box, this one from webmaster Mike Southern and his wife Anne Richards. They had sent him a special t-shirt, one from Robert Redford's collection. The front has a small logo: Sundance. On the back the shirt features two big shoe prints (hiking boots) and the instructions: Take A Hike. Dick put it on to have pictures taken, but then shipped it home to me. He didn't want to get it ruined on the trail. He'll have plenty of time to wear it when it gets home, whenever that is.