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Re: Hike report

Enjoyed your journal so I couldn't resist sending you one in return.

Jim Lemire

                  FRONT ROYAL TO BIG MEADOWS

   I drove to Front Royal, Virginia and found the Trail without difficulty on
June 10, 1989. It was nearly
dark and I slept in the car as planned. Another car pulled up and appeared to
have a similar plan. In
the morning, I met the gentleman in the other car and he proved to be quite
helpful. He even told me
that he would report to the local sheriff that my car would be there for four
days so they could check
on it. Because of the general conversation we had about the Trail, I trusted
   I started out to cover the whopping distance of three and a half miles to
the Tom Floyd Shelter,
carrying a book and my camcorder to pass time with at the shelter. I stopped
in the first minute to take
a few pictures of the sign that read, "NO TRESPASSING VIOLATORS WILL BE EATEN
". I kept
looking through the chain link fence on the right  for exotic animals and saw
a donkey and three
zebras. The fence seemed endless.
   A few hours of hiking and a few hours of reading wore me out (just
kidding) and I was sleeping in
the early afternoon. The topic of conversation in the register was the Gypsy
Moth problem. They really
have done some serious devastation of the foliage in the area and the issue
most debated was
whether or not to spray insecticide.
   Several long distance hikers passed by and I was embarrassed to be asked
where I started my
hike. Three and a half miles is a very short walk but I planned on using the
shelters exclusively and
took a camcorder instead of a tent.
Two thru hikers northbound from Georgia, Ranger Randy and Mystic Mint were
the first to arrive that
were also staying at the shelter. Randy was quite happy to find me from his
home state of New
Hampshire. Later we were joined by Corndog, from Florida, who was southbound
like myself. He had
quit his job to hike a few hundred miles of the Trail, looking for a new
direction in his life. We all sat
around Randy's campfire well into dark when a voice said, "Don't shoot," and
Randy replied, "Who is
it?". The voice answered, "KC, the Swallow," and then came in sight out of
the dark. He had hiked 30
    At 6 am two hikers arrived with burnt out headlamps after traveling a
continuous 38 miles. I shock
my head and chuckled in disbelief that anyone would try such a thing. It
seemed that after goofing off
for a few days, they had gotten behind schedule only to find themselves with
10 cents and a box of
cereal between them. They had to get to the Post Office in Front Royal for
supplies. Sometimes, I
think that hikers like these are on the trail specifically for my amusement.
Their carefree style is
contrary to mine. I plan to be at an exact location every night. Perhaps, I
would go with the flow if I
was on an extended thru hike instead of my section hikes.

    I saw 5 deer in the first few miles of the day and then decided to carry
the camcorder in my hand.
Naturally, I didn't see any the rest of the way to Gravel Springs Hut.
Several thru hikers passed by
and I met Barkiller Bob resting along side of the Trail. He had been with
Plato and H3, who were the
two that had hiked all night, when he quit at the Hut.
    A half hour after reaching the Hut, it poured and other hikers began
arriving. Corndog and three
recent graduates of Annapolis came from the north and Dean came from the
south. The college
graduates were on a first time backpacking trip as a last hurrah before their
friendship was separated
by many miles. Dean talked continually and no one seemed to mind. He told us
to order a Wild
Mountain Berry milk shake at the Elkwallow Gap store and I went to sleep
dwelling on the taste of it.
    When the rain stopped, I finally got a deer on my camcorder. A doe came
near the shelter and
became the first of many I was able to videotape.
    At Elkwallow Gap I ordered the milk shake and was not disappointed. It
was purple and defied a
flavor comparison but tasted great. In all of two minutes it was gone so I
picked up an orange juice
and package of cheese and sat down on the walk outside the building with two
other hikers. April Fool
had started her thru hike on the first of April and had pack problems.
Fortunately, the pack
manufacturer took care of her by mailing parts to the nearest Post Office.
    The fourteen people that stayed at Pass Mt. Shelter were a fairly good
cross section of the North
American Continent. A couple from Canada as well as residents of Texas,
Florida, Massachusetts,
Georgia, Maryland, and New Hampshire made for interesting conversation. The
subject of world
politics and philosophy were discussed alternately with vigor and humor.
Everyone there seemed to
have an exceptional sense of humor and two individuals competed for the top
stand up comedian.
They were so good at it, I found myself laughing in anticipation when either
of them started to tell a
    The subject of bears came up, and I listened and stayed quiet, waiting to
strike with my one  liner at
the perfect moment. As the bear stories winded down, I nonchalantly added, "I
saw 3 zebras a few
days ago." Heads spun quickly in my direction. For a few seconds, 9
northbound hikers who had not
yet seen the National Zoo compound, wondered if I was crazy. I couldn't hold
the straight face and
burst out laughing and people began to realize the existence of the compound.
      These people are
what I envision in a lean-to scene. They represent an opportunity for anyone
to discuss current issues
with people from different walks of life instead of the small circle of
society our locality and careers
limit us to. Students speak with other students and teachers, doctors with
doctors, nurses, and
patients, and so on. On this day at Pass Mt. Hut, a retailer conversed with
an airline pilot, a teacher, 3
college students, a career military man, a jobless person, and 2 doctors.
Social status didn't count for
much. We all lived in the lean-to and owned the things we carried in on our
backs. We have that
common ground. We are all backpackers on the Appalachian Trail.
    Early in the morning, I passed through Thornton Gap and ignored Panorama,
a restaurant and gift
shop. A person could hike through much of Shenandoah National Park without a
pack because food
and water are so available at the many road crossings. The Trail near Mary's
Rock was lined with
Mountain Laurel in full bloom. In some straight passages, the Trail was
grassy under foot and I was
sure if I waited, a wedding procession would pass by. As the trail passed the
buildings of Skyland
Lodge, a soda machine in plain sight proved irresistible. When I put money in
it, it started to talk to
me. I drank the soda looking at the machine and shaking my head. There was a
restaurant nearby
and I walked in with the idea of having a meal. I changed my mind when I
found the occupants well
dressed. Eating near my unclean, sweating body was probably not in their
vacation plans.
   Just as I approached Rock Spring Hut, the thunder started. For the second
time, I avoided getting
wet by reaching the shelter at the right time. Corndog came in soon after and
we had the shelter to
ourselves. It was the first time I talked to him at length even though we had
been at every shelter
together for the past four days. He was worried about getting a job when he
left the Trail and it
showed that he needed a good job to boost his self confidence.
    He and I hiked together for the four miles to Big Meadows, where I shook
his hand and wished him
luck before leaving the Trail.
    I had a huge, satisfying breakfast before starting to hitchhike to my car
in Front Royal. A
motorcycle group passed by and the first member waved and I found myself
waving back for the next
five minutes as they continued by.
I imagined that we had some common bond that related to the freedom of the