Choosing My Trail Name – The Rest of the Story

Why the Trail Name “Red Beard”?

In my bio, I imply my trail name, Red Beard, is based on my self image. However, there is more to it than that. When I was younger, I had blond hair and a red beard. I jokingly told people that I inherited my blond hair from my father and my red beard from my mother.  So, my image of myself is not that of a bald, gray-bearded old man. I still see myself with that red beard.

The Rest of the Story

My mother passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2016. She was 91 years old. Mom had a full life and many accomplishments, but she was not able to do everything that she wanted.

I am a geologist and my work took me to many different locations. Mom always displayed great interest in where I was and what I was doing. For example, when I was working in Idaho (5 years ago), I took pictures of the wild flowers that I saw. She acquired a book on western wildflowers and looked up the ones that I photographed so she could tell me their names.

In May 2014, my employer reorganized the office that I worked out of and decided that they no longer needed a geologist. I was not disappointed. I completed my involvement in the Idaho job (field work, which I loved) in 2013 and was chained to the office desk since. The company gave me a couple months severance pay, and I collected unemployment for 6 months while halfheartedly looking for a job. When that ran out, I officially retired and started my Social Security.

The good thing about getting laid off…

Mom was a Tampa Bay Rays fan, and that was contagious. Since I did not have to go to work every day, I took Mom to Rays home games as often as possible.  She lived in Clearwater and I live in Lakeland, about an hours drive (when traffic was good). We also met with my youngest daughter in St. Petersburg for lunch about twice a month.

Having the time to spend with my mother was the biggest blessing of being unemployed. We had a lot of conversations reminiscent of the travelling we had done together. Over the years, my brother (career military) lived in different parts of the country. Mom and I would drive to visit him – Virginia, Michigan, Montana. One moonless, cloudless night in Montana we pulled off at a scenic overlook. The scenery was in the sky. I have never seen the Milky Way so bright. We sat on the hood of the car and stared upward in awe. We shared a love of travel, wanderlust, seeing new vistas.

During one of our discussions, I mentioned that I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, all the way from Maine to Georgia. She said that was something that she always wanted to do. So Mom, we are going to start in June…we are going to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, and you are going to be with me every step.



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Comments 4

  • Brenda Lynch : Mar 12th

    Hope it is ok if I follow along–Good Luck!!

    • Tom Abel : Mar 13th

      Please do. Thank you.

  • Tedi : Jan 25th

    Tom; My friend Grant told me about you.
    I am planning to thru hike the AT just Northbound from perhaps Alabama (Nimblewill went that way)
    Grandma Gatewood was a person I esteem.
    I hope the best for all your worthwhile endeavors!

    • Tom : Jan 25th

      Good luck on your hike. The southern terminus of the AT is in Georgia at Springer Mountain. I did a south bound hike from Mt. Katahdin in Maine. It took me 6 months to get to Springer Mountain.


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