Appalachian Trail journal

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Week Thirteen: West Virginia, my damnation, and a few days off before Maryland

Sunday July 3rd, 1983
Got up at 5:00am and began the easy hike into Harpers Ferry. Along the way, I encountered some Jesus freaks near town and we discussed my damnation. They were camped out in a rather large canvas tent. The group was a family - Mom, dad and two little girls. I remember that the girls were cute as a button and they had blond hair and random dirt smudges on their faces and other exposed skin from playing on the ground. The dad called me over for tea and asked me if I loved Jesus. I was running ahead of time to meet my girlfriend in Harpers Ferry and was thirsty so I figured that I could re-hydrate, rest and kill some time while aggravating someone in the process. My answer was that I had never met him, so no I didn't love him. He told me the Jesus dying for us story and I asked him how old he was. He seemed quite startled by the question but answered and then asked me why I would ask. I said the since he wasn't 1983 years old how could he possibly know if these stories were true or just some BS concocted by a bunch of priests with an agenda. He showed me a bible and told me that God wrote it through the apostles (by then I had finished my tea) so I told him that God didn't exist and was a man made fabrication. He became silent and as I left I told him to get a job and take care of his wife and kids properly as a man should. It was fun.

Had an easy hitch to The Cliffside Inn where Dia was staying. Arrive at the Inn by about 9:00am. Dia and I went for breakfast and as we ate, I told her about the trip so far. I am so happy to see her again! One of the first orders of business was to visit the ATC headquarters and have my photo taken for the record. All thru-hikers who stop in are photographed with the Polaroid camera owned by the ATC. Being a Sunday, the regulars were not there, only volunteers.

(View from the Cliffside Inn) (My Harper's Ferry ATC Photo with Dia)

Monday July 4th, 1983
Whether it be the nice cozy bed, or the fact that Dia was in it with me, I woke up late this morning. Not that I thought it needed to be done, but Dia decided to clean out my pots, and then we began washing a load of laundry. Once the load came out, we put the clothes in the dryer and set out for breakfast rather than wait for the dryer. Of course we chose to eat at an AYCE (All You Can Eat) cafeteria style breakfast. Since my hiking clothes were in the clothes dryer I was wearing a pair of gym shorts. Dia had brought along with her a package that someone had sent to her to send to me, and in that box was an "I Love Rhode Island" bumper sticker. I decided to apply it to my gym shorts (on my derriere of course) and paraded on down to breakfast. I went through the buffet, loaded my plate to overcapacity, which was ten sizes too small for my appetite, and proceeded eating like a thru-hiker. A few minutes later, I glanced off to the side and spotted an older couple sitting at a table beside us. The old bitty took notice of my overflowing china, and elbowed her husband while quietly saying that she thought Dia "was a bad girlfriend" because "she was not feeding me properly". She said, "Look at that skinny guy - he's eating like he hasn't eaten in days," and further noting, "she must never feed him - that poor guy is just skin and bones". By that time I had finished my first plate and stepped away from our table to load it up again. As I turned toward the buffet and away from the old couple, she spotted the bumper sticker on my butt and elbowed her husband again while saying, "look, she doesn't even mend his clothes - she just puts a bumper sticker to cover up the hole"!

Following breakfast we set out to do some other chores that needed doing, but would never get done out on the trail, such as airing out my sleeping bag and backpack. I wrote letters and post cards, and cleaned my stove. Later in the day when it cooled down, Dia and I went into town to see the sights. Bummer! Everything is closed today because it's the 4th of July - so I made my own fireworks tonight.....again.

Tomorrow will probably be a busy day.

Tuesday July 5th, 1983
Today was only moderately busy. We ate breakfast at a diner in town, and went to the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conference) headquarters again to meet Jean Cashin, a very nice lady, the woman in charge, who is definitely on the ball. I finally bought the Philosopher's Guide, 1983 data book, and guide packets #2 and #3.

Wednesday July 6th, 1983
We took the bus down to Charlestown, West Virginia. There we dropped my boots off to be re-soled and I had my backpack repaired. Some of the stitching had come undone at the waist strap, so I had the cobbler restitch it and add more stitching so it would hold better. (In subsequent iterations of the Kelty Tioga, I saw that they had triple stitched those areas which had come undone during my thru-hike). Next we did grocery shopping, and ate breakfast. The bus returned us to the hotel about 3:00pm. There I re-packed and wrote letters home. The night was spent watching television and being a sloth, but a sloth in the arms of my loved one.

Thursday July 7th, 1983
Dia and I had our last breakfast together this morning, and shortly after parted again. From the train station where I watched as Dia 's trail rolled out, I returned to ATC headquarters to wait for the mini-bus to the trail head. While waiting, a television camera crew came in and told us that they were doing a story about the A.T. and its solo thru-hikers. Janet Thigpen and Robert Wagner and I happened to be in the vicinity and were recruited as actors for the day. The TV crew, whom I believe were employees from a station out of D.C. took us to Weverton Cliffs where they interviewed me about my journey so far, then gave me a ride to the cobbler, where they filmed me going in to pick up my freshly resoled boots. They also filmed me hiking down the trail as I "left" Harpers Ferry. By the time they we got done with all the takes, it was too late to make it to the first shelter, which is only six miles out of town, so here I stay at the KOA campground 'till tomorrow morning. Tent sites are $4.00.

(Potomac River from Weverton Cliffs) (Potomac River area) (Film crew on Weverton Cliffs)

Friday July 8th, 1983
Got up at 6:00am and had to walk from the KOA campground to the trail, which was about 3 miles away.

Today I entered Maryland and a couple of it's state parks. One notable park was Gathland State Park which is dedicated to Civil war journalists. I was impressed by the arch at Gathland State Park. I had never really thought about war correspondents dying in action. I had thought of the men that died in wars, but not until today did I ever think of those that went into battle and lived with the soldiers to document the history of these events. While reading the placards that detailed the events of the war, the story of the horrors they also endured came alive in my mind. As I continued on, I wondered if I was walking on ground where skirmishes had occurred in the past, and if men had died from those skirmishes where my feet were now treading. This trail and these woods have been host to many in the past. This is not my trail, nor my woods, for I am but a vagabond traveler here within a moment in time. These moments that I spend here will be brief, and eventually lost for eternity.

Ate lunch at Crampton Gap. While there, I talked to a guy from Pennsylvania, and told him to go to Weverton Cliffs because the view was fantastic.

I pulled into Pine Knob Shelter about 7:30pm at the end a 25 mile day. Unfortunately, there were a bunch of boy scouts there. Fortunately, they were tenting out, were well behaved, and set up a fair distance from the shelter. I will sleep well tonight for I am quite tired after twenty-five miles. Hiking was fantastic today; the weather was perfect: warm, sunny and a bit breezy with little humidity. The trail was also very easy, but quite rocky at times.

(State Line at Sandy Hook) (Entrance to Gathland StatePark) (Civil War Stories in the Park) (Sign at Washington Monument) (First Completed Washington monument) (Footbridge over I-70 for hikers)

Saturday July 9th, 1983
Woke up to another beautiful day. One of the main attractions today was Pen Mar Picnic Grounds. Just a short distance before I arrived at Pen Mar Park, I came upon an area on a cliff where people participated in the sport of hang gliding. When I arrived at the park, which I figured everyone who was hang gliding had to have started from, it seemed like a long walk (to the platforms for launching) for such a short ride. Seeing the Pen Mar park sign meant one thing to me that none of the other picnicker's could boast - I smiled an inner smile as I was blowing past another state boundary - Maryland was history! Welcome Pennsylvania! As I passed by I also checked the time and found I had gotten there just in time to mooch a free meal from some of the tourists.

The smells emanating from the barbecue pits called to me like the Seirenes of the Argonauts, but with nobody to lash me to a tree. My mooching technique was simple. I positioned myself on the picnic table nearest to a good looking feast while looking tired, spent and destitute. I pulled out a lowly granola bar and my Nalgene bottle of warm water from inside my pack, and began to eat. Soon I would be asked where I was going .... and then I'd spring the trap. "I came from Georgia", I would say, "and I'm going to Maine. With any luck I should get there in three more months". Followed by, "only a thousand more miles to go" said in a most pathetic tone. Now interested in this novelty, I was invited over, and proceeded to trade trail tales for food. The longer the tale, the more I could partake in the grilled delicacies provided by my hosts. I crafted my stories to be long and detailed .... with many pauses to maximize caloric intake. Once engorged I would politely beg off to resume the arduous and relentless task at hand. After all, I had to travel so many more miles before the end of the day. It was a performance worthy of an academy award. Some of what I was offered and ate included ham and beans, potato salad, chips, and cold juice.

After that wonderful surprise, I continued on the trail and got to the shelter by 7:00pm after a twenty-one mile day. Mackie Run Shelter is very close to the road. As a result, there may be contact with people other than hikers. One of the locals was walking his dog and wandered into the shelter vicinity, so I asked him if there was a store nearby. He said yes, and even offered me a ride up there and back. I came back to the shelter with a quart of ice cream, and a liter of coke.

All in all I had an exceptionally lucky day and covered a lot of miles as well.

(Pen Mar area)



Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983