Remembering Baltimore Jack: A Tribute to the Trail Legend
I didn’t meet Baltimore Jack during my thru-hike, at least not that I was aware of. As Pox Holiday would attest, this is a rare feat. I do recall someone of Jack’s stature grilling burgers at Mountain Crossings (a common Baltimore Jack good deed), but because I was so ignorant of the Trail’s culture before leaving for my hike, I wasn’t privy to his legend at the time- and thus didn’t know to make a big deal of it.
It wasn’t until a year after my thru-hike that the name Baltimore Jack entered into my lexicon. This happened as a result of his routinely starting fires in a couple of the popular AT Facebook groups. Whether he was (repeatedly) calling out Warren Doyle or playing devil’s advocate in seemingly every debate, the name Baltimore Jack kept appearing and reappearing on my feed.
“Who the f*ck is this guy?“, I wondered. So I dug in. Many blog posts and White Blaze threads later and two things had become apparent:
- People either loved or hated Baltimore Jack. More people fell into the former camp, but there seemed to be no shades of grey.
- This man ate, slept, and breathed the Appalachian Trail. Not only had he hiked the Trail nine times (eight thru-hikes and another as a section hike), but he had transitioned into a full-time trail angel in his post hiking-days. When he wasn’t helping weary hikers on the trail, making extended guest appearances at hostels along the trail, or lending his fabled culinary skills, he was most likely stirring the pot or shedding insight online (one example: a single-spaced, 26 page guide to resupplying).
It wasn’t until Trail Days 2015 that I’d have my first- and sadly last- face to face encounter with the legend. Baltimore Jack strolled up to the Appalachian Trials booth early on Saturday morning, before the collective swarm of thru-hikers had awoken from a drunken slumber. I recognized him instantly. Before I could get a word out, Jack began talking:
“It’s a good thing you’re doing with the site. A lot of people are reading. You’re doing a good job.” I thanked him, and said that meant a lot coming from someone of his prestige. He continued, “just make a point to leave this tent now and again. Walk around. Visit the others.”
I was trying to determine if he lead with the first part to soften the blow of the second, or conversely, added the critique to release some of the air from my head- but either way, his point was well taken. The previous day, I had left the Appalachian Trials booth thrice- once to grab lunch and twice to go to the bathroom. He was right- and how he knew this was, and still is, beyond me.
We chatted for another minute or so, and then he continued making the rounds.
Every day of Trail Days since that encounter, I’ve made a point to make an extended lap, stopping into others’ booths, meeting new faces.
I share the above story, not because it’s particularly compelling (it isn’t), but instead because it feels so characteristic. Baltimore Jack was an agent of the trail and its people. He was an astute observer and unabashedly outspoken. Above all, he cared deeply about the AT’s culture, his world. All of this became readily apparent in just the first 20 seconds of our lone interaction.
In an effort to pay homage to the late trail legend and angel, we put a call out to our community to share their Baltimore Jack stories. Surely, they aren’t as engaging as if they were told by the master story-teller himself, but these encounters serve to paint a more precise portrait of the larger than life AT personality.
A sampling of these encounters are below. Enjoy.
“I met Baltimore Jack at Neel Gap. He was staying there and helping out at the store. He told us all how to avoid camping in the overcrowded shelters in the Smokies: “So, you hike to where you’re stopping for the night, kick back with a book and relax, watching the hikers all file in. When evening comes and the shelter is full, you say to yourself, (I’ll never forget his tone here) “Oh goodness me, the shelter is full. I guess I’ll have to pitch my tent. Drat.” Then he gave my hiking partner and I soap for our laundry because we didn’t have any, and just told us to pay it forward.” – Eric “Wanderbus” McDaniel, 2014 AT thru-hiker
“The first time I met Jack was two years ago at Neel Gap as we came stumbling off Blood Mountain around 10 PM after a very long day. He welcomed my friend and me in with open arms and found us a place to sleep and some towels for us to shower. This was our third day on the Appalachian trail. We knew nothing when it came to the AT other than it was about 2000 miles and ran all the way to Maine. Jack informed us that everyone working at the hostel had thru hiked the trail at least once, and my friend had the nerve to ask him ‘even you?’ Bear in mind we had hiked a very long day and were physically and mentally drained. Jack was surprised we hadn’t heard of him but didn’t boast how many times he had hiked. We found that out later and felt like morons. Since that encounter I only saw him once or twice but talked every once in a while on Facebook. I wanted to see him in Franklin when I was there this year but we couldn’t seem to make it work out. I’ll never forget last trail days though when he was watching over the hikers but still having a good time. He was like the uncle that everyone needs and looks up to. Baltimore Jack has given more to this trail than anyone could put down in words so now, we honor him.” – NightWhisperer, Hiker/Trail Angel
It’s not any more of a special story than any one else’s; I mostly am writing to share the sheer impact Baltimore Jack had on probably 1000s of hikers. So we were at Dan Quinn’s place in Vermont and Jack was there and he cooked us ( about 6 of us) a HUGE spaghetti, salad, garlic bread to the nth degree supper and laughed and told stories and generally it was the best night I had on the trail. His sage words of advice, paraphrased, were “”And if you find a perfect campsite at 1 in the afternoon next to a beautiful lake, stay there. Who knows if you’ll ever be that way again?” – Birdy (Anna Ball), 2014 AT thru-hiker
“I worked at a coffee shop in Hanover, NH for a few months to save up before heading off on the trail. In the offseason, Jack would come in nearly every day to work on…whatever it was he was working on. He’d always have a big pile of papers, but I have no idea what he was actually doing. He’d come in in the late afternoon, when it was quiet. He’d always get the same thing, a large coffee full to the brim, and a water with no ice. It took forever to brew that much, so we’d always start brewing as soon as he walked in the door. I was planning for the trail at the time, and would occasionally ask him questions. He was always happy to answer, although he had his own strong opinions about things, and would sometimes go off on tangents, leaving me there nodding along, waiting for my chance to break off and get back to work. I ended up not taking a lot of his advice – a combination of having different opinions on hiking and also me being young – but at the time it was good to hear anything. He’ll certainly be missed.” – The Brain, 2007 AT hiker
“I believe I met Jack on day 1 or 2 of his first thru hike attempt in ’95. Crazy big frame pack, bad knees, duct tape and a big heart. He was the sort of guy who would think you a fool but be ready to offer you anything you needed. Very sorry to hear of his passing.” – Jonathan Curtis (Jon), 1995 AT Thru-Hiker
“I saw Baltimore Jack outside of the Harpers Ferry Outfitter. A group of us were chatting with him. He handed me an A.T. patch. I dont know if he knew I was going to make it to Maine or just handed a random hiker a patch. Whatever the motive was ,it gave me hope and inspiration to keep going when times were tough!” – Too Long, 2014 A.T. Thru Hiker
“I met Baltimore Jack at Mountains Crossings (Neel Gap, GA) when I arrived cold and soaked after a rainy trek over Blood Mountain. I had no idea who he was until later, because he never bragged about himself – he just asked about my life and my hike. My dad and I were determined to get from Springer to Fontana Dam in 13 days because he had to get back to work, and I was determined to hike to Maine in 5 months to get back to school. Many people scoffed and cautioned that I wouldn’t be able to keep up that pace, but not Baltimore Jack. Trail angels and big, burly hikers alike used to look at me, with my Walmart gear, and assume I couldn’t walk as fast as I said I was going to. I remember Baltimore Jack as one of the only people, early on, who believed me when I described my goals.
I didn’t see him again on my thru hike. But a year and a half later, I set out for a short trip from Standing Bear Farm to Hot Springs. Baltimore Jack was there at Standing Bear when I arrived around ten in the morning. The first thing he did was bring me a shot of bourbon and a breakfast sandwich. He still cared more about listening than talking. And this time, I needed a different kind of encouragement. I no longer needed someone to believe I could thru hike – I needed someone who understood what it’s like to be in the slump of the real world, between adventures. He was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, but one of the most unassuming and relatable.
People call Baltimore Jack a legend because he has thru-hiked so many times. But the most remarkable thing about him was the way he genuinely listened and cared and encouraged people. And of course, the way he always had bourbon to share.” – Marci Weber (Mariposa), 2014 NoBo Thru-Hiker
“Fortunate enough to have met him thrice, my first encounter with Baltimore Jack took place a wee 30 miles into my 2015 thru-hike outside of the Mountain Crossings at Neel’s Gap.
This was perhaps, now that I am really trying to recall details, the day of my most incredible pain on the entire Trail. However, all of my woes were pushed aside when I limped up the stairs of the outfitter and saw him, THE Baltimore Jack I had read so much about during my intensive research of hiking the AT.
I walked up to him and asked if he would take a picture with me.
“Do you know me?” He asked. I still wonder to this day if he was serious.
“EVERYONE knows you, Jack,” I replied.
We posed for a picture and began talking for a while. He noticed my trekking pole was bent and offered to fix it for me, free of charge.
The next time I saw Jack was at Trail Days with the Four Pines crew. He gave Miss Donna a necklace, we talked a while, drank some bourbon and had a safety meeting. Jack was a great person to be around.
Hanover, New Hampshire was my last visit with Jack. I found him sitting outside of the Dirt Cowboy Cafe. I was surprised to see him, and sat down to talk. We stayed for an hour talking, and he invited me to stay at his friend’s house for the night. Wouldn’t let my buy him anything to eat or drink, though.
Although they were few and far between, these meetings with Baltimore Jack will always hold a special place in my heart. He was easy to talk to. He was kind. He was hiker trash and he bled Appalachian Trail, through and through. The Trail is magical, and one of the causes of that is because of those who play a part in the life of the Trail. Baltimore Jack is a legend, and may his spirit echo through the mountains and valleys of Appalachia for eternity. ” – Rocky Mountain High, 2015 Thru-hiker trash
“Baltimore Jack. He so used to get under my skin. Baltimore Jack. A guy I blocked on Facebook one time. Then last year we talked. I was working at Laughing Heart in Hot Springs. He asked if we could use help. So he came. And I got to spend three weeks working with him day in and day out.
That three weeks I really got to get to know Jack. Not the Jack on Facebook. But Jack the man. The friendly loving giving soul that he was. The man who just loved to feed the hikers. The man who lived to cook.
Baltimore Jack was a great man. Did he love to stir it up? Absolutely. He would not be Jack if he didn’t. Jack will never rest in peace. It’s not his style. Heaven is in trouble, because Jack is in the house.
Sometimes you could be an asshole. But all the time you were a loving wonderful man. I will miss you muchly. Your wisdom enlightened me. Your compassion blew me away. Your smile made me smile. And your food. Holy shit your food. You will be missed by so many.
Last year at the Gathering we were talking outside. I said Jack I love you man. But if you don’t start taking care of yourself, you are not going to be here next year. But Jack was Jack. He lived his life. I am proud to have known him, and proud to have spent so much time with him. So long Jack. Now go raise some hell in heaven. And what ever you do. DO NOT REST IN PEACE! That would not be you.” – Tom Kennedy, HIKE for Mental Health
“After arriving at Neel Gap 2 minutes before closing I ran up for a shakedown thus missing church trail magic down stairs. An hour or so later when I finally made it down to the hostel Baltimore Jack greeted me and handed me the biggest bag of church food I had ever seen!! He simply explained that I shouldn’t miss out on it. After that he told us stories of the trail and his life for hours! Later I went to sleep still listening to his stories while I slowly fell asleep. In may when I made my down to trail says I was supposed that Baltimore Jack still remembered me!” – Rocket Girl, 2014 AT thru hiker
“Not a long story or a particularly interesting one but, I met him in Neel Gap. We were looking for a glasses repair kit and couldn’t find one, I hadn’t brought one with me on the trail because I’m a dumbo. Baltimore jack went and found his kit and helped me fix my glasses! A great guy who will be missed.” – Brandon (Stretch) Hoeckel, 2015 thru hiker
Here is how my AT journey started and how Baltimore Jack entered my family’s life. I insisted on starting as close to Springer as possible, so my dad and I got a ride on the very rough Forest Service road. After my dad said goodbye to me, he drove around and wound up at Neel’s Gap. As he put it, “There, I met Baltimore Jack, who has hiked the trail I think nine times, and turns out he lives one town away from me. We hit it off great; he’s a super guy, and says he’ll keep an eye out for Sarah’s arrival.” To find out he lives a town away from my parents, who are on the trail in Vermont.
I trudged along, and eventually did make it to Neel’s Gap. I found my journal entry from that day: “I met Baltimore Jack. Great guy! He of course remembered my dad and was altogether very helpful .”
I remember being continually floored by how good people can be throughout my entire short hike. This day, a church came by the hostel and served up an enormous meal for everyone. Another inspiration got noted in my journal. “After , I talked to Baltimore Jack for awhile and then got around to shower and laundry. He gave us detergent and coins. For free. People!” The smallest of things can make the biggest difference – and that day, it was the ease of talking, the encouragement, and free laundry.
I knew Baltimore Jack for only a couple hours, but that’s all you need to get a feel for the kind of person he was.” – Sarah (Ent), 2014 AT hiker
“I ran into Baltimore Jack any number of times on the trail in 1995. He was a character even then, looking like a bit of a burnout even while being able to converse in great detail about a large variety of subjects. I eventually shifted ahead of Jack in the pack, but ran into him again and again as one or the other of us would first shift ahead, then fall back due to injuries, or side trips along the way. The second time I met Jack (after the trail) was Trail Days 1998, when we caught up as if we had never been apart. We spoke at great length about our various adventures on the trail, etc. That was what really forged our bond.
Since 1998 Jack and I kept in touch through various online fora, email, etc., We were frequent contributors and allies in various arguments on ATML and Wingfoots other lists and fora, not because we were friends, but because we tended to see things from the same angles…which may be why we were friends… But we also ran into each other completely randomly over the years. One time I was in Hanover to interview a very distinguished scientist and emeritus member of the faculty, and ran into Jack on the street, gathering up thru-hikers for a feed at his house in town. I was unable to get to the feed myself due to my professional commitments, but running into Jack was like old home days….like no time had passed since our last meeting at all.
Seemed like every time I was in town in Hanover it just so happened that Jack was around. We never planned it, in fact any time I tried to plan something, it would fall through, but fate intervened and we would run into each other unexpectedly. Despite rarely getting to see each other over twenty years, Baltimore Jack and I remained friends, and it was a friendship that I valued more highly than many others, and always will.” – Andrew Priestley (Iceman), AT95
“I met Jack at Bob Peoples’ hostel last year on my thru hike attempt. I failed to finish my thru hike because of a broken foot. Baltimore Jack was working at Budget Inn in Franklin this spring and messaged me asking me to stop by one night. I did a few days later and spent about 2 hours talking with him about life’s choices and hiking. He urged me to finish my thru hike and gave me tips at being more successful this year. I wasn’t planning a thru hike, just a section to get as far as I could get. He was talking about plans for the future and getting together again. We rummaged around in the hiker box and found something for each of us: a sleeping pad for my dog and a shaker of seasoning mix for him. He really got me thinking about another thru hike attempt this year. He died 4 days later. I’m hiking for Jack this year. ‘Heroes are remembered, but legends never die.’” – Tinkerbell, 2015-2016 thru hike attempt
“Jack brought me to the Appalachian Trail Community. He literally introduced me to it, it is such a big part of my life and something that I love dearly. I will never forget how he calculated exactly where I would find my friend who was thru hiking in NH. I was amazed how he knew where she would be. Sure enough… I started climbing Smarts Mountain, ten minutes behind me I heard the pounding of hiking poles and look back and pull over to the side of the trail to let the hikers by and sure enough, my friend, Apple Butter, who I drove to NH to see was right there. Just like Jack helped me plan. He of course gave me a list of places to stay and stop. One of them being Glencliff Hostel. This was of course after he told me I’d kill myself if I went through with my original plan, which in my true style is to bite off more than I can chew. I had originally planned to take my first backpacking trip in the Whites and surprise Apple Butter there, until after about the 6th time Jack told me I’d kill myself… trying to keep up, find her or just in the Whites for my first trip… I am not sure which reason he said it about or if all. Of course knowing what I do now, I would say all. Thanks Jack Tarlin, I will never forget you for introducing me to the AT. <3″ – Heather Brave Marie, Trail Angel
“I met Jack at Kincora hostel, the night before an unusually heavy Halloween blizzard. The weather was awful, so he gave me a beanie for extra warmth. When I sat down to eat some food from my pack, he said, “Um, stop eating that. I made you spaghetti and garlic bread!” Before I set out again for the trail, he took one look at the worn trekking poles I had carried since Maine and said, “Bob, get me a hammer!” He wouldn’t let me leave until he had replaced the tips of my trekking poles with brand new ones that were nicer than the ones that came on my poles. His generosity really lifted my spirits before I hiked out into the snow.” – Chin-up, 2014 AT SOBO thru hiker
“I cannot recall when I first heard of Baltimore Jack, but I knew “OF” him way before starting the trail. Of course scouring White Blaze gleaning information pre-hike meant you had to come across the name Baltimore Jack at some point. But it was other hikers that had spoken of him, like he was a legend of the trail. Like meeting him was a blessing and if you received his approval you would have been gifted the power of trail Gods to assist you on your journey. They spoke of this bigger than life character that was the trail.
I was suffering, I was suffering BAD as we hiked into Mountain Crossing store. Having slack packed over Blood Mountain because my 55lb pack had taken its toll the previous 4 days and I was sick, physically drained and ready to say “its not for me”.
We headed to the backroom area to see if I could change my gear out during one of their famous shake downs. And there he was, there was Baltimore Jack, a huge grin on his face and truly larger than life. Tights, shorts, old trail tshirt and a necklace and chewing a toothpick. “suffering?” he asked as I steadied my footing trying to remove my pack. “yes sir” I replied. I knew who he was, I didnt need an introduction, I just wanted some of that Jack motivation I had heard about. “Tell you what” he continued “go booking into the hostel and rest. Come back tomorrow and we will shakedown your gear”. At that moment, Jack’s words were EXACTLY what I needed. I needed someone to tell me to rest, to take it easy a little.
The next day we (my son and I hiked the trail) went back to Mountain Crossing. Jack was there and assigned a store assistant to help me. As I was having my pack ripped apart and spread all over the store floor Jack spent his time talking with my son. He gave my son some English tea bags and told him “its the little things that keep you going”, my son says he carried that wisdom with him the whole trail. Passing on advice and wisdom, which as this was his first time ever hiking or camping I am sure he was pleased to hear especially after watching his old man struggling so hard over Sassafras.
After I had 25lbs trimmed from my pack and parted with $600 for lighter tent I joined my son and Jack. Jack must of seen the stress of the first 4 days on my face, he was encouraging and without being “do it my way” he gave gentle guidance on how to hike the AT. He even pulled out a photo of himself on Katahdin from his wallet as a younger man and very much thinner, when I mentioned my weight; “Don’t worry, you will look like this when you have finished”. The conversation went to Warren Doyle and Jacks response of “I wouldn’t piss down his mouth if his throat was on fire” had me laughing. We chatted for a long time and in reflection I wish we had stayed longer, but with new found motivation and a lighter pack I was keen to get back to the trail.
I am certain that without Jacks interaction I may not have continued on the trail during what was, the most difficult time for me. Those hikers I met previously on the trail and before who likened Jack to a legend, to someone that if your received his blessing you would finish the trail; well they were right!
Jack was bigger than life. Jack was life!” – BigTex & Rugby, 2014 AT Thru Hikers
“I knew of Jack from the planning stages of this adventure. I used one of his mail drop guides as the foundation for ours. I wasn’t just in awe of this trailebrity, I was grateful.
Baltimore Jack wasn’t a tall man or a young man. He didn’t reek of ex-military bravado nor did he have the overwhelming gentility of an ivy league college professor. He was not a disconnected flower child or rebellious environmentalist. Like the Cheshire Cat’s smile, he was a mystery you could engage with.
Stone faced at a computer, I began to fill out my Smokies permit. Mamie was getting her knee looked at and I was anxious over the potential results. This was my attempt to be productive. Jack sat at a nearby desk offering support and advice, perhaps trying to shake my gloom in between checking new guests in. I asked him about his life before the trail, his family, politics. Eventually, he asked me about school. Everyone does because I’m “around that age” and a lot of folks on the AT are taking a gap year or have just graduated. I push my tongue against the back of my teeth defensively, habitually. “Theatre” I say evenly. “I’m a director and a writer.”
Before even leaving college, I learned to brace myself for the negative reactions regarding my degree, my dreams, my life.
I understand that most people are not trying to make me feel that I’m irresponsible and destined for unhappiness and starvation. Their comments about the economy, stability, and back up plans come from a place of care, concern and ultimately, fear for my well being. But bracing myself for the unwarranted criticism is all I can do at this point. I can’t say I don’t care, not yet.
Jack doesn’t mention the the economy or stability or a back up plan. Instead he asks me about my three favorite plays (Long Days Journey Into Night, How I Learned to Drive, and Much Ado About Nothing). We talk about how fascinating Iago is and make a few jokes at Othello’s expense. He starts telling me about Robert Bolt, the screenwriter for classics like A Man For All Seasons, Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, The Bounty and The Mission. The Smokies permit abandoned, we watch the opening scene of The Missiontogether. As a crucified missionary priest plummets over a waterfall, I realize that I’ve found one of my people in this upside down, well-marked world. Baltimore Jack didn’t look at me like a dirty, irresponsible child in a tie dye dress with no goals and no future. He looked at me like I could be the next Robert Bolt, a writer of big, important work.
Well, he was wearing sunglasses, so I can’t be sure. But it felt like that was how he was looking at me.
He scrawled some reading and viewing suggestions on white lined paper and ripped it from a notebook, much like Alice’s notes that told her what to eat and what to drink. Notes that would offer direction on how to make herself smaller or bigger depending on which world she found herself in.
“We’ll see you in Maine.” Jack tells me on my way out. “You don’t b*tch and you’re doing good miles.”
When things get tough, I find myself thinking of Jack. At first it was more of a “Oh my god. Jack was so wrong about me. He couldn’t have know X was going to happen. Or that I’d feel Y.” Until it hit me.He did. He hiked the AT 9 times. Of course he knew I was going to get rained on, doubt myself, get blisters etc. And this simple realization has helped. A lot.
Though it breaks my heart to know he’s passed, I am appreciative of our time together and the things he did to encourage me to stay the course.” – Taylor Ciambra (an excerpt from her post, “The Best People Are Bonkers: Remembering Baltimore Jack“), 2015 thru-hiker
To close, here’s an interview with Baltimore Jack from 1998, during his third thru-hikes.
Feel free to keep the Baltimore Jack stories coming in the comments below.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.
He was a huge a-hole. There was no reason to “stir the pot” with anyone. People claim he was a “trail legend”, but teal trail legends like Nimblewill Nomad do not troll or antagonize people online to relieve stress and anger like Jack did. They are humble and kind, like Nimblewill Nomad.
So sorry you had to be negative, Bill. I know a lot of truly awful folks and Jack was not one of them. He was no saint, he drank way too much and he ticked off a lot of folks but damn, he was one of the kindest and funniest trail persons I have ever met. The first time was in 2014 in the wee small hours of the night, during a wicked rain/sleet storm that arrived unexpectedly. My hiking buddy and I were on the verge of being soaked, and Jack (who was on duty as a night watchman or something!) let us spend the rest of that night in our (almost) dry bags in the pass-through area at the lodge at Neels’ gap. The staff and other hikers were very surprised the next morning, but I am pretty sure he saved us from incipient hypothermia.
The last time I saw Jack was the strongest memory. Mama Bear and I were at Kincorra, last June, and we were discussing the movie Wild with Jack and Bob Peoples. We were describing the scene where Cheryl gets into town and discovers al the hippies crying and lamenting the death of Jerry Garcia. Jack cocked his head, and mused “Oh yeah, I remember something like that too. I was doing one of my thru hikes, and I ran into a bunch of devastated younger hikers… They were all sad and carrying on…I asked them what had happened and they said “Oh man! It is so sad! Jerry’s gone! Jerry Garcia!!!!” He stopped. I said “Well, go on, what did you do?” With that complete Jack deadpan, he took another sip of whatever he was drinking, and he said “I just looked at them and said, ‘Well, hell, kids, at least it wasn’t Springsteen!” Absolutely priceless. I will always remember him. One of a kind!
Point of information: According to Laurie Potteiger of the ATC, Jack Tarlin walked the AT eight times, including seven consecutive thru-hikes from 1997-2003. That also corresponds with what Jack Tarlin put in a few of his trail register entries after 2003.
I never met Jack in person or on the Trail that I know of. He seems to be one of those larger than life figures that happened to choose the AT as his raison d’etre . My experience with Baltimore Jack was on the internet and it wasn’t a good one. I stopped attending AT forums after Jack answered a post I made on White Blaze trying to stress that through-hikers should always keep the conservation purpose of the Appalachian Trail at heart and be conscious of its seriousness towards the Trail. Through-hikers, whether conscious of it or not, were taking over the focus of the Trail and losing sight of what its original purpose was. Baltimore Jack’s answer to my post was “No one in here is interested in what you have to say”. I myself was a 1986 through-hiker who after doing my hike dedicated more hours by many fold over the other members of my New York New Jersey Trail Conference volunteers. I had overseen the Harriman Park section of the AT for over 10 years and got our group to build Wild Cat Shelter. I had also backed Wingfoot and Weary in their attempts to teach hikers about that second half of the AT that was so important to its definition.
I’ve seen people say Weary and Baltimore Jack were two legends. In my internet discussions Weary was so sickened by the opinions towards Trail protection and a wilderness ethic that Baltimore Jack and his hiker mob represented that he called people like him Trail “users” and not the type who gave back where it counted. Since I didn’t really know Jack I guess I could say he lived the Trail life some of us fantasize we could. More power to him for that. And it seems he did pretty well at the through-hiker half of the Trail. It’s good somebody could I guess. However in my opinion whatever demons drove Jack to the Trail were the same ones that told him responsibility for the Trail’s purpose was something that they couldn’t live with and whose agenda differed from theirs. Jack took a wrong turn in the path when it came to what was most important to the AT…
Jack wintered in Hanover Nh for many years. He cut wooden pallets to heat my shop and my house. He always had books at Christmas for my little girls and stories for everyone anytime. I could leave him to run the stoves while I went on military assignments and know my family was safe.
We are still burning wood that Jack cut long ago. I am reminded every time I make a fire of my old friend. He called himself a drinker with a hiking problem. The AT was his life, not the trail, it was the people he served with compassion. When he died the out pouring of Love was profound. I Couldn’t believe how many people he helped along their journey. To those who have something bad to say about Baltimore Jack I am sorry for you. We are not called to be perfect
We are called to Love God and our neighbors. Jack, with all of his flaws, is an Appalachian Trail legend whose acts of giving will live on after the naysayers are forgotten.