Déjà Vu: Back in Familiar Territory
“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
On the Corner of Waring Drive and Delaware Avenue
Section hiker Ray Galli meet thru-hiker OneFoot. This day has been a long time coming, and it was all that OneFoot had hoped it would be. There was a sense of euphoria and a feeling of accomplishment and pride. He was in familiar territory now. He’s been there, done that, and he’s about to do it one more time. This time there’s no tight schedule, no worry about getting back to work. His whole mind-set has changed over these last four months and 1,300-plus miles. He’s adjusted well to this thru-hiking lifestyle. Right now, he is having the time of his life.
Just Around that Corner
OneFoot was hiking with a group that hadn’t been on this part of the trail before. As they approached a bend in the dirt road/trail, he said, “I’ll bet there’s a mailbox around the corner that says Nixon.” OneFoot then whispered to himself, “Please don’t let them have moved, please don’t let them have moved.” They turned the corner and there it was, the mailbox reading Nixon. He has an amazing memory for details on the trail. He can recall the slightest things, which makes re-hiking these next 500 miles even more fun or more crazy for doing it again. I haven’t decided which yet.
Synopsis of NJ and NY, So Far
Awesome. Having the time of his life. Great people. Low to no water. We can tell he’s having fun. His trail journal notes are sparse.
Make New Friends but Keep the Old
This week OneFoot was joined on the trail by his friend and former colleague Paul. At the same time, thru-hiker Autumn met up with them on the trail and asked if she could hang with them for a bit. One week later, OneFoot and Autumn are still putting in the miles together. Sadly, Paul had to return home but not before doing an awesome job section hiking for four days. It’s not easy joining a hiker who has been on trail for nearly 1,400 miles, but Paul put in the miles and got it done. Impressive. The three of them had a lot of laughs together.
Paul has been an incredible support to OneFoot’s AT adventure. He deserves this shout-out, for sure. On this trip he went above and beyond. He started by showing up with Chick-fil-A spicy chicken sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and Chick-fil-A sauce (thanks, Megan). Then he reveals the beers on ice and salami and cheese he packed in to Brink Road Shelter for the first night. From Unionville, he surprised OneFoot and Autumn with turkey grinders and, in typical Paul fashion, the thru-hikers ate half their grinders while Paul ate the whole thing. (Paul, Ray made me type that!) Generosity beyond measure. Not to mention he was awesome company.
Did Someone Say Ice Cream?
It was time to take Molly the Roadtrek on the road to see OneFoot. We picked a trailhead to meet at but he mentioned that he’d be stopping at Bellvale Farms Creamery for an ice cream. That was too good an opportunity to pass up so I scooted a little farther up I-84, found Bellvale and waited for OneFoot. How awesome it was to see him and Autumn turn that corner. There I watched them each devour the biggest banana splits I’ve even seen in my life. Did they say nine scoops of ice cream? Oh, but they were “small scoops.” From there they finished their day without the full packs and I moved ahead to our original rendezvous point. As I sat waiting for them, I enjoyed the company of several hikers who stopped by to enjoy cold soda, beer, and snacks. They were also able to top off their water bottles, which was probably appreciated as much as the cold drinks given how dry the trail has been in the NJ/NY area.
News From Home – Overcoming Lifelong Fears
As I mentioned, this trip out to see OneFoot I took the motorhome. It’s a 23-foot Class B Roadtrek – so not huge – but certainly bigger than my daily drive. I’m pretty proud of myself for learning the systems and how to maneuver, even in traffic. Time for true confessions. One of my greatest fears in life is the traffic roundabout. It’s not rational. It’s even a bit ridiculous but my lifelong fear is navigating those darn things. I fear I’ll become Charlie on the MTA and won’t ever return. For those who are too young for the Kingston Trio reference, I fear a “look kids, it’s Big Ben” scenario where I just travel around and around. Wouldn’t you know it, this area of New York loves their roundabouts. To get OneFoot and Autumn to the trail one morning I had to navigate no less than five roundabouts. And in the motorhome, no less. Realizing that closing my eyes and punching the gas wouldn’t be the best strategy, I put on my big girl pants and took control of those damn roundabouts. OK, OneFoot, there was that one near hit. Whatever. Another milestone for me during OneFoot’s AT adventure. Throw it at me world. I got this!
OneFoot’s Progress and Report Card
Mathematics, A+: Math skills have greatly improved through this journey. His ability to quickly and accurately compute mileage is impressive.
Social skills, A+: This is, perhaps, his greatest area of growth. His openness and ability to relate to a wide range of ages and personalities speaks to the healing powers of the trail. His true self is shining through.
Geography, A+: AWOL’s guide, Guthook app. He knows the physical features of this trail well. Too well on some days.
Grammar and language skills, A: He’s expanded his vocabulary, using words and phrases such as wonky, sons of bitches, nailed it, and 2018 Appalachian Trail Georgia to Maine, baby, woo! I had to look up the definition of wonky. It means crooked, off-center, or askew. Pretty much sums up life on the AT.
Health and physical education, A+: At 50 years old, OneFoot is in the best physical shape of his life. His weight is at the lowest in his adult life. He feels great. With the latest round of poison ivy gone, we give thanks for every day he remains healthy. He looks like an old man with that gray beard but he’s got the spirit of a twentysomething.
Attendance, A+: He shows up and fully participates in life every day. Blue skies, blazing heat, torrential rain, he is ready to go because hikers hike.
History, A+: He is the author of his own story and that story will be ingrained in our family history. Hopefully, many years from now, our great-great-grandchildren will read through his AT journal and say, “Wow, Grandpa OneFoot really lived a good life.” Yes, he did.
Until the Next White Blaze,
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