Day 55: In the Quiet and Solitude
I had a meeting late this afternoon with Bart Lillie and we picked The Old Mine as the spot to meet. I don't think I've been in there since you quit working there, Katie. I felt guilty when the manager Kevin said, "I haven't seen you in here in a while, Dan!" It was no use in trying to explain. He knew that our main impetus for going there was you. As Bart and I met, John the owner walked in. I waved and he came over. And guess what the first thing out of his mouth was?
"How are Katie and Nick doing?"
It took me by surprise, at first. I mean, Katie, you quit working at The Old Mine almost a year ago…and I was surprised John even knew you two were hiking the Appalachian Trail. I told him that we got to talk (and FaceTime) with you yesterday and that you were doing great. John was genuinely concerned about you and interested in how you were doing. He explained that you two had come by The Old Mine a couple of weeks before you left in April and filled him in on what you were about to embark on. John also told me, "I said to Katie, 'Some time…when you're out there in the quiet and solitude of the woods…think of me.'" After John said goodbye and left, I smiled, thinking of his interest in your journey…and the fact that he really cared. Solomon writes in Proverbs 22:1:
"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
Katie, I know you left The Old Mine because you weren't making enough "silver or gold", but it was so good to see that you left a "good name" at The Old Mine…and it was SO evident in speaking with John tonight. As a dad, I love it when other people care for my kids (and now my grandkids) like I do…and when they see their worth and value…and speak to it. That's what John did tonight. I will also admit my pride. I love telling people what you two are doing. I can't help it. I'm proud of you…in awe of you…and I enjoy bragging on you.
I guess today's note is just to let you know that there are a lot of people out there who care for you…who are cheering you on…and (as John shared) are living vicariously through your adventure. So, if you get a minute…in the quiet and solitude of the hike…think about John…because he's thinking about you.
Day 56: Chestnut Knob
Not all "Trail Magic" happens on the trail, I guess.
I started the morning by exchanging a few messages with Jeff Ingram--a man I went to Milligan College with a couple of lifetimes ago. Jeff had messaged me on Facebook after reading a couple of my blog posts to you two. He wanted to let me know that he lives in Virginia…not far off the Appalachian Trail. He offered his home and shower to you both, if you needed a break and wanted to clean up. Jeff also offered to meet you on the trail with some water, a Coke and some Cliff Bars. He wrote me a few weeks back and being the lousy Facebook correspondent I am…I got back to him today. I know. I suck. But almost immediately after sending my response to Jeff's week's old original note…he quickly shot me back a response. I had informed Jeff that you had just gone through Marion, VA and he wrote:
"They are close, real close. I will try and go up to the Chestnut Knob shelter this evening. I might bump into them. I know the trail is long and it is hard to pinpoint where you are…Don't worry about getting back. I understand. I also understand my chances of seeing them are slim to none, but the chance is zero if I don't go…Maybe take some water and a candy bar or something. I will also take my camera.
Take care my friend,
Jeff sent a follow up message asking for your trail names (Sunshine and Breeze). Then, throughout the day…I kept checking Facebook to see if Jeff had any news about meeting up with you. I was SO hoping you would all connect on Chestnut Ridge. Jeff even posted a handful of pictures on his FB page of the Chestnut Knob shelter and the surrounding area. After seeing his pictures, I got even more excited at the thoughts of you all crossing paths. Then, shortly after I got home I saw this on Jeff's amongst all the comments on his pictures:
"Took me about an hour and a half up (rubber legs & concrete feet) and only an hour coming down. But I am old…"
There was no mention of Sunshine and Breeze. Still, it was fun thinking about this all day--and mainly because of Jeff. While Jeff and I knew each other at Milligan, we didn't hang with the same crowd. Coupled with the fact that I was only there a couple of years, we haven't seen, heard or thought of each other…until you two took to the AT. As much as it pains me to admit it, I found myself extolling the virtues of Facebook again today. It's helped me to keep a lot of folks interested in your journey informed…and it re-connected me to Jeff Ingram…who has shared some kind words about my notes to you…and was such an encouragement today. I love that he took the time…to drive all the way out to the trailhead…and hike the hour and half up to Chestnut Ridge…just on the off-chance of gifting you with a little trail magic.
And while you may not have received any trail magic from Jeff Ingram today…I certainly did. Thanks Jeff!
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."
1 Thessalonians 5:11
(NOTE: After sending Katie and Nick their note that night, Jeff Ingram posted the following message and picture on Facebook. Thanks Jeff!)
“This is the view into Burkes Garden, Virginia. Hope Breeze and Summer make their way here and find the goodie bag I left them. It was left to pick up their spirits.”
Day 57: Brothers and Friends
I'm locked in, so ready or not…here I come!
I've got a plane ticket to Washington, DC…arriving on Saturday, June 20th at 12:30PM. I'll take the Metro from the airport to Union Station…then (around 4PM) I'll take a train up to Harper's Ferry, WV. The big question is: Will you two be there when I arrive? When we talked on Memorial Day, you were pretty confident that you'd be able to make it to Harpers Ferry by June 20th. That's what I'm banking on! I've been talking to your Uncle Dave too. He's the one that put the bug in my ear to meet you at Harpers Ferry. Uncle Dave's not sure he's going to be able to do this. He's going to get back with me, but here's my tentative plan:
Land in Harpers Ferry around 5PM on June 20th. Meet up with you two. Hang out. Take you out to eat, then find a campsite near town. Get up on June 21st and hit the trail. Hike until we stop. Set up camp. Spend the night, then get up on June 22nd. You'll both continue north…and I'll head south…back into Harpers Ferry. Then, (hopefully) Uncle Dave will meet me in Harpers Ferry and we'll spend the night, then get up on June 23rd and do the whole Civil War thing. There are several battlefields Uncle Dave hasn't been to around that area. I haven't been to any, so it'll be fun. Then, at 5AM on June 24th, Uncle Dave will drop me off at the Metro Station in Gaithersburg…and I'll take the Metro back to the airport and head home. That's the game plan right now. We'll see if Uncle Dave can pull his end off. I'll let you know. I know it's going to be quick, but this is about all I can do with your schedule and everything else I've got on mine. Still, I'm excited! Uncle Dave or not. I'm coming up on June 20th and flying back on June 24th. In between…I'm going to meet up with you two!
I really do hope Uncle Dave can make it. And if you told me 40 years ago that I'd be looking forward to hanging out with him…I would've called you crazy! You guys know that Uncle Dave and I went through a real rough patch when we were in our teens…basically all of our teen years! Then, you move out of the home…you mature…you experience a little of life and other people…and the next thing you know…you can't wait to see each other and hang out. Uncle Dave and I got along great as little kids. From about age 3 until about age 7 or 8 Uncle Dave was my hero. I idolized him. (See Below)
He was my big brother and he was faster, funnier and seemingly invincible to me during this time. I followed him around like a shadow and he helped me conquer some of my earliest fears (snakes, salamanders, bullies, etc.). But one of my earliest memories was sitting side-by-side with him…at the feet of our favorite babysitter (Aunt Mary Lou McCracken--a history teacher) learning about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Aunt Mary Lou would tell us stories about Lincoln and the Civil War…but especially about that night in Ford Theater when Booth killed Lincoln. Great stuff for a 4 year old! And at age 4 and 6, Uncle Dave and I knew more about "Hammer Ham Lincoln" and "John Wilkes Boof" than we did about Jesus and His disciples! We couldn't say the Lord's Prayer, but Aunt Mary Lou had us on our way to memorizing The Gettysburg Address! As we got older, Uncle Dave and I went our separate ways…only to come back together to collide and fight…then go our separate ways again. It was a routine that lasted until our early twenties. Over the years…the détente we lived under melted away into what we have today: genuine love and affection for each other.
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17
I know you have both seen this happen…when a friend of yours goes through a tough time with you…and in the end…you end up closer to them than a brother or sister. I have a strong feeling that come September…you will have some new "brothers" and "sisters" with names like Ambush, Old Drum and Yvonne Sherpa--brothers and sisters born out of the adversity of the Appalachian Trail. And some of us live out Proverbs 17:17 in reverse. We start out as brothers…and then we go through our own civil war…through hell…nearly kill each other…only to come out on the other side as friends.
I can't wait until June 20th.
Day 58: A Walk in the Woods
You know how much I love Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk in the Woods”. Well, today I saw the newly released trailer for the movie. We already talked about this before you left. We all knew the movie was in production…and we talked about how there’s no way it’s going to be able to live up to the book. And it’s not one of those “the book was so much better than the movie” things. It’s more about two…WAY past their prime…movie stars bastardizing a great book for the sake of their careers. Bill Bryson could probably be Redford’s son, so there’s no way the book and the movie could have the same themes. This movie’s probably going to be another “Baby Boomers beating back the hands of time” flick.
Watching the trailer this morning…I think I’m right. I couldn’t help but jump at the sight of Robert Redford! He should have just let himself age with dignity. Instead, all that nipping and tucking makes him look like a ventriloquists dummy that walks…or more to the point, hobbles. I mean, he’s as old as Papa…trying to look like he’s 40. It’s sad. And Nick Nolte? He’s just a fatter version of that mugshot of his.
But if I’m being perfectly honest with you…part of what bothers me the most about Redford in this movie is the “in-my-face” reminder that I’m old too. When I think of Robert Redford, I like to think of all those great movies of his I love: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Jeremiah Johnson, Three Days of the Condor, All the President’s Men and The Natural. I want him to be young again…because I want to be young again. Watching the movie trailer just sinks the reality home that we’re getting old.
And like I told you both before you left, you owe to those of us who will never be able to do what you’re doing. I still might step-hike the Appalachian Trail someday, but I’ll never thru-hike it, like you’re doing. That ship has sailed. I’m too old to ever do that now. So, in an effort to revel in your youth…and comfort me in my age…I’ll share this Proverb from Solomon:
“The glory of young men (and women) is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” Proverbs 20:29
All this aside, I still want to see this movie, but I want to see it with you two. IMDB shows the release date as: September 2, 2015—basically right after you finish your hike. As I was watching the trailer this morning I kept seeing real locales of the AT like Fontana Dam (I think) and I was saying to myself, “Nick and Katie have been there!” and “I think they’ve been there!” So while I’m not exactly looking forward to the movie per se…I’m looking forward to watching it with you…and downloading your experience through the scenes from the movie.
I’ll buy the popcorn.