Thirteen: West Virginia, my damnation, and a few days off before Maryland
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"!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
(Entrance to Gathland
(Civil War Stories
in the Park)
(Sign at Washington
I-70 for hikers)
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.
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)