Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Loner HALF WAY Mark! and Harper's Ferry

Loner has posted nine more videos starting at Front Royal, VA, going through Harper's Ferry, WV and Boiling Springs, PA.  Turtles, snakes, deer.... The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Washington Monument and many historical sites in Virginia and Maryland.  For you class of 2013 thru-hikers - shots of the very cool and amazing shelters in VA and Maryland along with lots of views and some famous spots on the AT.  Trains, towns, trains, hostels, The Place and a whole lot more.  I haven't watched them all yet so will add more later.  And he did a video review of his hammock and tarp setup for those gearhounds out there.

It wasn't all fun and games,  Jeff hiked twenty miles on two back to back days in over 100 degree heat and then got sick for three days, either from hiking that much or from drinking bad water or from both.  Those mid-Atlantic states haven't received all the rain that we've had here in the east so their water spots may be drying up. 
Jeff also hit a record number of milestones on this leg of the journey,  I bet each one  was a different kind of adrenaline rush, hiking 1,000 miles - -check, crossing the Mason/Dixon line, check, the half-way mark - check, eating a half gallon of chocolate ice cream in the AT Half Gallon Challenge, getting his photo taken and put in the 2012 hiker book , as well as getting a new hiker number at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters -  check, and .....ta da!.....  putting one foot behind the other in VA, WV, VA and Maryland, check, check, check, check!!

I'm so incredibly proud of him

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Loner at Boiling Springs PA

Loner has finally sent an email, I have to admit, I was worried as it had been seven days since I heard from him, and I knew he'd be out of food in five.  But he wrote that the heat had been unbearable and the trail more difficult, so he'd only been averaging about ten miles a day, as opposed to twenty.  In addition, he took a lot of time to visit favorite historical sites and museums and I'm glad he did, given that he is in an area rich with both Civil War and Revolutionary War history and what better way to learn about our country, than on foot, up close and personal. Jeff said the heat had been rough and a lot of hikers had got sick after drinking bad water - so that's proving Pennsylvania to be a lot more difficult than Virginia.
He met Sispsy a long the way and they shared a room at a resort where they got a hugely reduced hiker  rate  so I'm glad he's having the time to rest up, get showers, wash clothes, etc.  Unfortunately the Wi Fi there is not good so there are no videos, and may not be any more forthcoming.  His camera is acting up and since he's running low on funds, he may not opt to buy a new one.  Bummer.  I show Jeff's videos each week at the DRop In Center for my head injury survivors and they really enjoy it.  They've learned a lot and could talk about the AT more than anyone I know outside of families of hikers and they're pulling for Jeff.
I'll add more later if there's any news.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Loner should be somewhere in Pennsylvania, not so lovingly nicknamed rocksylvania by previous hikers.  In this area the mountains have become eroded to such a degree by time and atmosphere that the mountainsides are littered with broken jagged rocks, which shift as you step on them and shred shoes like, as if recumbent dragons hid there eager to gnawing through anything to get to a thru-hikers already tortured feet.  I'm a little concerned with Jeff on this part of the trail.  An ankle he broke skateboarding about seven or eight years ago has already been giving him trouble and he wrenched his back on a fall and that's been bothering him too.  I haven't heard from him in six days, and he may have run out of food that so gets me a bit worried, since by now he'll have to stop in a town, although he may have wandered more off the trail to view the many important historical areas around Gettysburg and the first Washington Monument, as well as a number of civil war battlefields and sites. And they have restaurants there.
He did send a packet with more brochures of the many museums so hopefully he's taking time out to enjoy them while he can and eating in town. Lots of cool and interesting things from Harper's Ferry and the AT Conservancy, such as someone who will make t-shirts for AT thru-hikers, a guy asking for video footage to put a film together, a free lunch if hikers will come and tell their tail in Pine Furnace, PA today (I hope he did this but he may be past Pine Furnace, coupons for 10% and 20 % for hikers at local restaurants, Ron to Go and Sasquatch's business cards and some gorgeous postcards and interesting museum brochures.  Sounds like a great town!

On a different but important note, Parkside's mother posted a video about how to save oneself form drowning when hit by cramps.  It has now been determined that this is what happened to Parkside.  I urge everyone who swims outside, especially after exercise, or extended effort when potassium may be depleted.  I learned in the SCA that once potassium is depleted in the body from sweating and exertion, all your blood flow is sent to the vital organs leading to cramps and even collapse as your limbs have no strength anymore.  This video shows you the best thing to do to stay safe. It's not what you may think.  Better to know now, than wonder when in the water you cramp, and panic.,0,2089734.story

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sad Week on the AT

This has been a sad time on the Appalachian Trail. and within the Appalachian Trail community.  Last week, June 15, a thru-hiker in his 20's, named Parkside (Paul Bernhardt) passed away.  After hiking 20 miles he reached Pierce Pond in Maine and died shortly after he dove in for a swim.  Unfortunately, only folks form Northern New England may be aware that waters in this area are a frigid 40 degrees.  The AT community is heart broken and shocked and many condolences have gone out to Parkside's family on White Blaze and other forums connected with the hiking community.

Parkside was one of the first thru-hikers to start this year, #11, having set out on February 17th from Georgia and he walked close to 2,000  miles. He was only 150 miles form Katadhin.
He loved the trial and hiking so much, just recently he had written to his mother to ask her to send him his passport so he could keep hiking into Canada.
Mary wrote a great blog on her son,  
and you can see how much she loved him - and worried from time to time. My heart breaks for her and Paul's family as I read it in small bits to keep from crying.
The hikers he was with, along with the whole class of 2012 thru-hikers are grieving, and now they are appealing to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to make Parkside an honorary 2,000 miler.
Paul's mother also has written a eulogy on her blog  and I've just learned that Paul's ashes will be carried by those who hiked with him to Katadhin. It's a fitting tribute to this brave and remarkable young man.  Please read his mother's eulogy.  You will be touched by her love and astounded by what a truly unique and exceptional young man Paul was. Paul was an extraordinary man and now leaves an inspirational legacy.

June 21, 2012

Paul unfortunately died in a water accident on June 15. He drowned while swimming in Pierce Pond in Somerset County Maine. The cause of the drowning was most likely cramps. Possible causes of the cramps could have been the 20 miles he walked that day, the cold water, or low Potassium.  No one knows for sure.

We talked to the hikers who were there at the end. Basically, he pitched his tent,  and decided to go down to the pond for a swim. He was alone and did not inform the others at the shelter. He swam out about 35 yards and most likely started to cramp. He screamed out for help a few times. The hikers in the shelter heard him and rushed down to the pond. They saw him go down, and he never surfaced again. Two of the hikers, Achilles and Carpenter, made multiple attempts to find him, but couldn't. Rescue workers retrieved his body around 11:30 P.M. My husband and I were notified the next day.

"Today is the funeral. Yesterday we had a wake for Paul. I met friends from high school, college, and the neighborhood boys he  played baseball, football, and basketball. An army of caddies and a few members from the country club he worked at for the last five summers came to pay their respects. He was loved by many. We heard story after story how much Paul affected lives. He truly was a beautiful person.

Below is the eulogy I intend to present today at his funeral. I will do my best to read it with pride and dignity. I'll ask Paul to give me strength.

Thank you everyone for coming to the church today. My family and I appreciate your kind words and support during this time.

Paul as you all know was a really awesome kid. He meant so much to you all and to us.  In February when he left for the Appalachian Trail, I was fearful of something happening to him.

I envisioned crazed intruders at the campsite, hungry bears, poisonous snakes, or a tick biting him and infecting him with Lyme disease.  I knew he was at risk and it scared me to think of him helpless. As time went on, I started relaxing more, feeling more comfortable, as he became more experienced. He was so happy, so I was happy. Comfortable. Unfortunately, the pond-the cramps in his legs - took him away from us forever.

After the news about Paul, all I could feel was sadness-a great sense of disappointment-not for us, but for Paul. He had less than 150 miles to go after hiking over 2,000 miles. He had about two weeks to completion.

For four months, he had been walking-hiking-towards this goal to reach Katahdin Mountain in Baxter State Park in Maine.  He didn’t get to complete his goal. And I know how much this would frustrate him.

Paul didn’t like to do things half way. When he put his mind to something, he would go all the way. He was a purist about things. For instance, when he was a kid he was on a “Bad News Bears” kind of team. I remember him coming home with a pitcher’s net and practicing for hours in the backyard to improve his pitch. When he realized it was more than good pitching his team needed, he decided to motivate his teammates. He would come to games with his pockets full of quarters and would offer them to anyone on the team who caught a ball or made a good play. He tried to motivate them and make them care more about the game.

During his middle school years, baseball was his passion. He was consumed 100%. He knew all the stats for all the Yankee players and more. He read large books about the History of Baseball, the History of the Yankees, biographies of Derek Jeter, Satchel Paige, and Joe DiMaggio. In the bathroom to this day, is a Baseball Trivia book he memorized.

The games up the block with the Weeks Lane crew were played all summer long and drove the neighbors crazy.  Each game was intense, loud, and like a World Series every day. Paul helped organize the games and players.  When he would come home, he organized and played the Fantasy Baseball game on his Xbox.  Paul was a committed individual at a young age.

At 16, he told me about his plans to save money, get a license, and buy a car. On his 17th birthday, we were in a Brooklyn chop shop together buying his first car. He proudly handed the car dealer his $7,000 in cash he had saved from working at the club for two years. He knew the car type and color he wanted and wouldn’t give in.
Despite all the heeded warnings from his father and uncles, he went ahead and bought it. It actually turned out to be a pretty good car for the past three years. His main reason for having the car was to get him to and from work. He set that goal and made it happen.

The Fresh Meadows Country Club was an important part of his summers for the last five years. He was committed to working at the club. While other kids were at the beach, hanging out, enjoying their days off, Paul was at the club six days a week, sometimes from 6 AM-8PM. He worked his butt off caddying, helping the starter, parking the carts, and cleaning up the bag room. He was awarded a caddy scholarship, which helped to pay nearly half his tuition at Hunter College. He was a responsible kid who took his job seriously. And he continued to save his money to support his goals.

When he got his mind set on walking the trail, he of course, did not want to just be a section hiker, he felt the need to be a thru hiker. This meant he had to complete the whole trail from Georgia to Maine.  For about a year and a half before, he trained daily in his room working out to a P90X video, becoming a full vegetarian, and walking or biking to many beautiful places in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.

He read books, journals, and countless info on line about the trail. He again had a goal and it was full steam ahead.

Along the trail, he had met so many amazing people, such as fellow hikers, hostel owners, townspeople, and trail angels who provided him with food and shelter. He loved meeting the people, as much as, he loved the incredible beauty of the natural world he was surrounded by.

So because of Paul’s commitment to do things all the way, and to honor his dedication to completing the Appalachian Trail, his beloved hiker friends; Cat Woman, Swivel, Spiral, Germanator, Achilles, and Drop Out have agreed to take some of his ashes with them to Katahdin Mountain to ensure that Paul will achieve his goal.

Thank you everyone."

Loner at Tinker Cliffs

This series of photos is form a video Jeff aka Loner made by placing his camera somewhere on the mountainside and letting it film as he walked into view.  I'm so glad he did.  While I enjoy the hiker cam as he walks along so we can feel and see what he is, I really like to watch him as he tackles various parts of the trail.
Tinker Cliffs, like McAfee Knob and Angel's Rest is another iconic natural landmark along the Appalachian Trail. I don't think it's one of the most difficult, but I think hikers find it fun to challenge their bodies in different ways from hiking straight up a mountain or climbing up using the metal grab bars.
While Jeff has been a hiker for many years, he hasn't been a rock climber.  I know he has probably navigated rock faces in the Piedtmont foothills and Blue Ridge mountains where he hikes locacly on the border between Wetern South Carolina and North Carolina, but I'm sure each encounter is very different.  It appears that some of the rock climbing is one place where the hiking poles seem to be a hindrance rather than an aid.  On the flats and going down hill on paths they help ortect the knees by talking some of the weight off of them, but here they're just a nuisance hikers have to carry and climbing up rock faces they're just a hassle to the point where hikers throw the poles ahead of them, hoping they don't tumble down the mountainside so that the hikers can have their hands free to grab handholds in the rock.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Loner reaches Harper's Ferry

I just received a brief email from Loner, who was writing form the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.   I didn't realize they' be open on Sundays.  This is a pivotal point in a thru-hiker's journey since it is the home place of The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the agency which offers all kinds of information to section and thru-hikers, hires ridge runners, communicates with all of the various volunteers clubs who help maintain sections of the trail, and helps to preserve and protect the Appalachian Trail. In addition they encourage youth education and encourage community support and name new trail communities each year - those towns which are supportive and welcome hikers.
They also publish a magazine called A.T. Journeys and publish books on the trail, as well as maps and guide books. 

Here each thru-hiker is photographed and registered and given a new hiker number.  When Jeff registered at the southern terminus of the trail in Amicalola Falls, he was hiker #801 to set off for the 2012 thru-hike.  Now at Harper's Ferry Jeff is #529 to reach that spot coming from Georgia.
The Conservancy is a place each hiker is thrilled to reach, a milestone along the trail, where they can use the computer, talk to folks knowledgeable about the trial, visit the gift shop, see the photos of all who have gone before and meet other hikers, and best of all, get their photo added to the wall.  
Jeff only had time for another brief email from the library before he left Harper's Ferry but did say that he'd taken the time to check out a lot of the historical sites, including the site of a civil war fort.  He has a great interest in history and artifacts and I'm so glad he's taking the time to walk slowly or walk off the trail to see sites most Americans don't get to see.  I have to think that beside the many benefits hikers gain from the trail, an unexpected one is to see the history of our country and its development to in a more connective way as he travels from one state to another, meets the people, sees the way they preserve the past and honor it.  I Can't wait to see the new videos as they always hold something new and unexpected for me and I'm invited to learn a small percentage of what he sees firsthand.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Loner at Front Royal over 900 miles!

Loner took a zero day in Front Royal, over 900 miles now and has posted nine more videos at this you tube AT page of the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Mtns.  Lots of critters in these mountains, deer almost every day, a number of bears, more snakes and his first turtle, bunnies and strange birds.
Town and museum stops in Waynesboro and Front Royal and running across shops and snack bars along the Shenandoahs at Skyland, Mountain View and Elkwallow, where he enjoyed the famous blackberry milkshake and a massive salty pretzel. The Virginia Trail Angels, not to be outdone by those in Georgia, Tennesee and North Carolina picked Loner and BI from Hampton, NH  up and drove them to the Dutch Haus in Montebello for a free lunch topped with their peanut butter chocolate chip pie. The scenery is beautiful, green and peaceful with many overlooks such as Spy Rock and the gorgeous valley below He walked through horse farms and hammocked on hilltops. Jeff crossed lots of cool bridges over over of mountains and thru the hills.
The views are gorgeous and Loner says the walking is easier and can do 20 to 22 mile days here - a big upgrade from 8 on those first newbie days on Spring Mtn.
 There a few AT traditions here such as on Priest Mtn. where at the shelter after Priest, thur-hikers are supposed to write a confessions in the shlter register.  Makes for good reading, I'm sure.  Someone should publish those volumes.  Jeff confessed to his fondness for the famous Virginia blackberry shakes. Further on, Jeff got to see a large collection of Native American artifacts.  Arrowhead hunting is one of his passions and before this trip he went kayaking three or so days a week to hunt local artifacts and has quite a collection. He has a number of videos on this hobby too, which can be viewed at CarolinaArrowheads. 
For the gear gurus out there, one of the video does a review of a beer can  camp stove.  Pretty impressive for such a small thing and a fave with the ultralight hikers. So far it looks like all of his gear has been perfect for him, I'm not counting shoes, because all hikers end up wearing more than one pair, Jeff just took it a bit further than most! He'll probably kill the third pair in Rocksylvania. 
But don't take my word for any of this.  It's more fun to watch the videos!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mail Drop FROM Loner

A package of goodies from Loner arrived in my mailbox today - lots of pamphlets from Virginia, some great small books for his collection, one on Virginia Native Americans and another on Virginia History, business cards for me to include in his scrapbook with email addresses from other thru-hikers, and a flash drive with videos and photos.  Most of them are from the beginning of his trip so I'm only able to guess where he is now. 
He shipped the package from Waynesboro, so I imagine he is somewhere in the Shenadoah's, heading for the halfway mark. He mentioned in a comment on one of his videos that he left a book I sent him to read, Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis at the Dutch Hause in Virginia. I'm planning on buying a new one to keep in my library.
 I checked out the website and it looks like a great bed and breakfast who also cater to thru-hikers so I hope he was able to stay there one night.  I told him to leave the book behind somewhere as a tiny bit of Trail Magic so he didn't have to carry the extra weight since he's a gram weenie and tries to keep his pack weight down to 15 lbs. with water.
So once again  I'm getting to enjoy to beauty of his journey long distance and am busy planning spots we can stay when we drive up to Trail Days next year.
He'll probably have a fit I'm making all these plans, but he can go up in his camper and Beth and I and the girls can go separately so we can plan separate trips and meet there.  I already have a list of cabins and B&B's I want to visit.
And while I'm on the subject of mail drops - I'm learning they don't always work out.  Jeff arrived in Damascus, VA too late on a Saturday to food drops up, so decided to move on.   He left a note asking if they could be forwarded to Marion, which unfortunately did not happen, (maybe it disappeared), However, the lady at the Marion P.O. was so nice that she called the Damascus office and asked them to forward them to Pearisburg, which they did.  Unfortunately this ended up with loner receiving seven boxes in one drop!  Two I'd sent already to Pearisburg,  The bounce box and computer box Jeff sends ahead every two hundred miles and three my daughter and I sent to Damascus.  This is not such a good situation - you can have too much of a good thing when you have to carry seven boxes a mile to the hostel or hotel or figure out which ones to forward ahead. Luckily Jeff got a ride to the hotel.
 But at least he got almost everything (except for the 2nd half of his guide book, which if it was in an envelope ended up in a whole different room.)
So there you have it - the post offices in trail towns will do everything they can to get mail to our hikers, but coordinate with your hikers ahead of time, if possible, to avoid goodie overload!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On the Beaten Path book review

I finished On the Beaten Path by Robert Alden Rubin, recently and have to say it's one of the most lyrical books on the AT experience I've ever read.  I love Rubin's writing, as I should, since he was an editor before hitting the trail and made the journey after becoming disillusioned with his job, along with the difficulties editors face, which I know first hand as an editor at Shadow Archer Press.  Slogging through lots of stories to find the gems and then once you do so, the pain of writing rejection letters, and even having to reject good writing simply because there's no room.
Rubin's descriptions are poetic and vibrant, his approaches change as he is transformed by the trip and the spiritual nature, not in any heavy handed way, more the way one feels when they stand at a summit in awe of the vision stretched out before, above and below them.  He can translate this into words and therefore into our minds and hearts.  This is a book I'll read over and over.  It is an end-to- end, shelter by shelter NOBO relating of the trek, which at this point in educating myself about the trail, I enjoy.  It makes it easier for me to look up sections as Loner goes through each particular area so I can imagine what he's seeing.
The human story is just as vivid as the nature and travel experience.  Rubin honestly accounts the confusion and unsettled discomfort he feels and which drives him to the trail, despite the fact it is a hardship on his wife.  We are allowed to come to an understanding, as he does, of how each hiker is transformed by the experience and via a ripple effect so are those in their lives.  This remarkable weaving of many perspectives of the Trail helps us understands why some people "need" to make this journey.  Some may see it as an escapist act, but in the larger vision, it is not a running away from the world but a running towards the true north authentic self.I agree with Bryson in looking at the attempted thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail as a sort of pilgrimage, something each culture needs as a sort of initiation, a coming to terms of what's important and how one must be transformed, an act which minds like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell considered imperative to the growth of each person.
While not as irreverent as Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods", Rubin's book still has its funny bits, and while not as detailed as David Miller's book AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, with it's organized info, I found On the Beaten Path less dry for a non hiker who is looking more for a story than for a tool to use to plan a hike.
So far, I think Rubin's book is my favorite on the Appalachian Trail, a profound story on both an inner and outer level, of what he calls a pilgrimage. Rubin masterfully blends the powerful encounters of human nature and Mother Nature into a vivid portrayal of this monumental task.
As an added side note, I've read that many thru hikers become involved with the AT in some capacity, working as trial maintainers, or ridge runners, working at hostels, outfitters or restaurants in trail towns or becoming ridge runners.  But in a fitting way, Robert Alden Rubin, after finishing his thru hike and some deep thinking became a Senior Editor at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and now he and his wife live near Haper's Ferry.  How lucky for us.
I was lucky enough to score a signed copies of As Far As the Eye Can See by David Brill, and Just Passin' Thru by Winton Porter, two very different books, both equally enjoyable, memorable in how they both illustrate the trail as well as the out of step with the world but in step with their inner desires types of people who take on this monumental trek.
 AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by, David Miller, In Beauty May She Walk, by Leslie Mass.           

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Adventure and Escapist Family Tendencies

While I still struggle with worries, they're now outpaced by my admiration for my son and all the other dreamers and doers who take to the Appalachian Trail, or any other long distance trail for that matter.  I'm sure other parents and spouses of long distance hikers, those I've met online thanks to my son's journey: Patti, mother of Rayo, Karen mother of Strange Habit from Virginia,  Selena, mother of Fillipe from Florida, come to savor this same sensation.  A feeling of overflowing pride, a brimming up and spilling over of hope and faith, and a new found understanding, nowhere near complete, but more so than six months ago of what out family members are made of.
As I watch Loner's videos, I see a man, who while sensitive enough to be on the verge of tears because fellow hikers are forced off the trail by injuries, can also be a man who finds a kind yet confident way to get a rattlesnake off the trail, grins with excitement instead of running when he sees a bear, and can slog hundreds of miles in shoes that are held together by threads.
I knew Jeff had a great love of the outdoors and an ability to live in uncomfortable conditions, but not like this, not day after day, not while in pain or battling exhaustion still miles from town, a hot meal,  shower and rest. With every video and email I'm learning more and more about my son, seeing him in a way most parents of adult children get to do, as well as tagging along in a vicarious way on what may be one of the greatest adventures of his life.
After my son Jeff,  but up his recent videos of his AT trip while he was about the 720 mile mark along the trail, I started thinking about all the unusual passions and interests he's pursued over the years and how they've become, in some odd quirky and totally unexpected perfectly timed, synchronistic way, a part of his AT journey.
Over the course of the past tow months, Jeff's had the opportunity to indulge himself in some of his passions which don't really relate to hiking to the Appalachian Trail - skateboarding, old cars and indie film making. He's had a chance to skate board. He's never been one to follow the crowd,  always drawn to activities, hobbies, jobs which were challenging and fulfilling in a meaningful way.  While he's a quiet guy, he also has a bit of an adrenaline-seeker streak, which I thought he was feeding enough when he went back to skateboarding in a big way while in his thirties.  He spent the last two or three years traveling throughout the southeast testing his skills at skateparks all over the country then writing about it in a mag he started and filming his team's trips as an indie film maker. But I guess that wasn't enough.

So my daughter, Beth and I shouldn't have been all that surprised when Jeff, who had decided to take on the name, Loner, informed us he was embarking on the five month NOBO hike up the Appalachian Trail.
I should have seen it coming. He's always been interested in the outdoors first as a cub scout and then when we would go arrowhead hunting and hiking in the Piedmont, the foothills of the Blue Ridge,when he was in his pre-teens. 
And his adventurous side kicked in when he first took up skateboarding, going from ramps he built in the backyard to skating half pipes and jumping over cars in competitions, then moving onto racing a stock car he built on a dirt track near here.
While, I've never had an adventure such as the one upon which my son has embarked on the AT Trail, I too have an adventurous spirit.
In the past, I flew hot-air balloons and was a photo journalist for national hot-air ballooning and hang gliding magazines, covered the goth, heavy metal, grunge and industrial metal music scene for Edge Magazine and free-lanced for music mags during the 90's.
After I worked as a photojounralist for The Greenville News, I totally switched career paths and traveled up and down the East Coast in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) as a spinner, weaver and merchant with my cottage industry, Black Swan Thieves Market, spent 42 weekends a year in a canvas pavilion, and went to week long wars in the current Middle Ages where I was transported  back to 14th century Europe.

So, there's a history of some of our family dropping out of the confines of mainstream society and finding a way to make it while also doing something escapist. I went back about 600 years, a bit of risk in the context of what I view as a 21st century judgmental compartmentalized society.
But it wasn't far enough  I was still in a system: a man-made system with man-made rules. At first I thought I was becoming more of myself, and in some ways I did because the SCA fosters creativity, working as it does with an apprenticeship approach.. The longest I did it for was almost a week and I needed a car load of material things unable to give up creature comforts like a cot, hot meals which didn't include Ramen Noodles and Pop Tarts, and pretty costumes to wear to events in the Middle Ages.
My son is much more of a minimalist.  He only needs on 15 lb. backpack and two walking sticks. And as much as the SCA provided in arousing my aesthetic and history loving self, it was still a system, granted lived out in nature, but not a part of it.  Not like the way the AT thur-hikers experience the natural world. 
   Jeff, through a series of events, learned about systems and how they can suck the soul out of your being. And for his own peace of mind, he chose to go back in time further than 600 years.  Way before civilization  encroached right up to the edge of the mountainous wooded trail which runs from Alabama up to Canada, a great swath of diversity in flora, fauna and wildlife.
Jeff went back to a time when you lived by your wits paying attention to each passing moment, learning with your lizard brain how to note the sounds, smells, tastes and sensations which will enhance the enjoyment of the mountains, or may even save your life or at least during adverse weather conditions, extensive trudging over rough terrain and in dealing with the ways of the forest.  On the AT, people cannot be conqueror, but participant. That seems to me to be a learning that alters one's soul.. Little can be taken for granted again when water, food, and warmth are rated as fortunate gifts offered in miniscule amounts. 
Jeff  tends to go after his dreams and making them happen: building his own skateboard ramps and race car, learning the trade of an indie film maker, publishing magazines, starting his own skateboard company, and finding a niche as avid arrowhead hunter.
If you met him at any one of the hostel, diners or all you can eat buffets along the trail, you'll never guess he's done all these things. You'll meet a quiet, unassuming guy, with an easy laugh and a ready hand to help. He's trustworthy and genuine with a tender streak his family and friends know well and appreciate all the time. But beneath that exterior he quietly and with dedication and he goes what he's after, rarely inclined to give up, ready to meet the next challenge and figure out a way around it. He's that kind of guy and as his mom, with each day, I discover more and more reasons of why I feel overwhelmed with pride more often than worries.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Loner at mile 854, Waynesboro, VA

Loner has reached Waynesville, Va but only for a pit stop to pick up a mail drop.  He walked 130 miles in the past week and is now beyond 854 miles.  He's booking it! Here's the email I rec'd from him.  He didn't load up any videos this time.  Maybe when he reaches Harper's Ferry,WV at 1,017 miles.

Hello Mom:
Thank you so much for the messages and drop box.  Really liked the pic of Kendall/Devon and the cards.  I'll try and film something.  Just doing a quick pick up here in Waynesburo, VA.  Mile 854 I think. 

Glad you got the pc going and are drawing again. 

Please tell your clients thank you and that meant a lot that they take a interest.  Some of the hikers play hacky sack because it's easy to carry.  I found one someone lost and carried it 20 miles till I found them.  They thought they would never see it again.

I've been leap-frogging with a dude from Hampton, NH named B1.  He only has one hand but does fine on the trail.  Also just met Apache.  He has videos on YouTube too and was surprised I caught him. 

The trail has been hard at times but fun too.  Lots of views and cool history stuff.   Some rain and no-see-ems but not many ticks yet.  I'm going to get some deet after the Shenandoahs.  Lows in the mid 40s at night so glad I kept my cold gear.  Many sent it all home. 

Looking forward to Harper's Ferry and the half way point.  Also going to Washington for a day off. 

If you want you can seed a drop box to Harper's Ferry, WV 25425.  I'll be in WV late next week and knock off 3 states in a hurry.

Sorry if I did not get to all your questions.  I'll write when I can,  Jeffrey

Apache, who Jeff mentions in the email, is on you tube as Biopthera, a DIY young guy who made almost all of his gear and who Jeff and I have been following since almost the beginning. It's cool to see threads of trail relationships unwind, online and even moreso for Jeff as he gets to see them in person, the connections, the webbing, as if Clotho, one of the three fates in Greek mythology, weaves together the stories, like or contrary minds entwining and unwinding, to make their experience all the more powerful.  Loner leapfrogs with hikers from all over the world, separating and meeting up again, reading their posts in the shelter logbooks, or their blogs online, their journal entries on White Blaze or Tail Journals, seeing their videos online every 200 miles when he gets off-trail, picks up his pc from the PO and sees what other 2012 thru-hikers are up to. As he does so, hes' constantly interconnected in a compulsive traveling community, a city of seekers, who find their ways not on a yellow brick road, but through green tunnels, over sunlit or fog-shrouded balds, and over mountaintops strafed by lightening and wind. The lure of the white blaze and call of Katadhin are forces they can't deny.   
I can't wait to see more videos and share them with my clients at the Head and Spinal Cord Injury Drop in Center where we do a session on the Appalachian Trail once a week. This last drop off box included cards they all made him to encourage and support him and make him laugh.  They're really enjoying the series. We do games, quizzes, discussions and they know more about the Appalachian Trail now than most Americans.  they get a kick out of Jeff's videos and have learned all the AT hiker and love hearing about the AT traditions and little rituals, such as the Half Gallon Challenge.  One of my clients was a park ranger, a couple lived right near the trail and saw thru-hikers and one client camped a good bit as a  Eagle Scout and now volunteers and is a scout leader with his dad.
I'll post more as I hear more.  This was a very brief stop as he's trying not to spend money in towns and complete as much mileage as he can before he runs out of money.
 Back at you later...