Hiking the Appalachian Trail #2

Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin

Thru-hike #6

103 days, 2,100 miles, May-Jul, 2009

Ray Jardine

Ray's AT-2009 page 3 of 4
"The Old Ghost"

In this section I would like to give a special thanks to a hiker who goes by the trail name of "The Old Ghost."

I hiked the AT solo this year, but enjoyed a great deal of help from - first and foremost: Jenny - and also many people I met who call themselves "Trail Angels." These people volunteer their time and resources to help hikers. At the top of my list this summer was a hiker/trail angel called "The Old Ghost."

I was crossing a road in the early morning, at a place where the A.T. went through a small road-side parking space. This fellow had his backpack loaded and ready to hike, and leaning against his car, and was just locking the car doors. From the size of his pack I guessed that he was a section hiker about to embark on a multi-day journey.

We exchanged friendly "hellos," and then he surprised me by asking, "What do you need?" I must have had a look of deprivation on my face, for in truth I was urgently hungry - meaning that I was out of food. I was carrying no guidebook or maps, but I had a sheet of data that suggested the presence of a town called Hamburg (read: food) somewhere nearby, or not nearby - I couldn't tell.

So I asked the fellow, "Do you know where Hamburg is?"

"Sure," he said, "I'll take you there."

I could hardly believe my ears, since he was about to start hiking himself.

I said that I would walk there, if the town wasn't far. But I could see no evidence of a town, so was realistically figuring that I would be hiking the A.T. hungry all day.

He insisted on giving me a ride. I said I needed to return to here, somehow, after buying food.

"No problem. I'll drive you back here."

With that, he unlocked the doors, loaded his bacppack into the trunk, and said with a grin, "Get in!"

We drove about four miles to a gas station / convenience store, and my trail angel waited patiently in the store while I shopped for foodstuff - sandwiches and a load of junk food. With no stove, I wasn't being choosey. What mattered most this summer was that I was bolting down enough calories to power my high-mileage days.

I had carried my backpack inside the store, and set it against the wall where I could keep an eye on it. Walking back to the car, I carried my grocery sacks, while the trail angel carried my backpack.

"Feels like about five pounds," he remarked.

"Seven and a half," I corrected, since I was out of food and was carrying no water.

Back at the car, I hinted at doughnuts, since he had mentioned the name of a nearby shop that specialized in them.

"Sure, we'll go there next."

"For some reason," I confided, "I have been dreaming of fresh doughnuts for the last week."

"Yeah, I know how it is. Once you've been out on the trail for several days, you think of nothing but food."

In the doughnut shop I bought enough for six hungry people. The angel wasn't hungry, and said to the casher "This is all for him!"

On the ride back to the trail, we talked about the A.T. and some of the sections he had hiked. He said his trail name was "The Old Ghost" and I asked how he came by that name.

Seems that in the Army he had learned to walk in the woods without making a sound. He said he could walk up to a deer and touch it. (Special Forces came to my mind.)

He asked me what my trail name was, and I said "Plain ol' Ray."

Back at the trail, he shouldered his backpack while I set to work on breakfast. He directed me to put my sack of trash in his car when finished eating, then I was to lock the doors.

How's that for trust?

And how's that for helping a hiker in need? He certainly made my day!

As he was about to hike away, his mind must have started putting two and two together: "Plain ol' Ray" and my super light pack. "Are you Ray Jardine?" he asked.

:-)Dear Ray, It was a pleasure to give you a lift to Hamburg and back to the A.T. I could not believe that I met the great super hiker. you made me a great feeling. have a happy hike. The Old Ghost

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