It was May 12, 2013 when I went back for my third year of section hiking the Appalachian Trail. I stopped the year before at the Bearfence Mountain Hut near the Lewis Mountain Campground on Skyline Drive in Virginia. Jenny drove me back there, and on the way we took a mini-vacation a 100 miles North in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Our lodging for two nights was a relatively expensive bed and breakfast. We learned about John Browns Raid, hiked along the Potomac River, and ate good food. Two and a half months later I was in North Adams, Massachusetts 650 miles up the trail, and thirty pounds lighter.
Back home our business of selling the Veeders roadside mailbox was on hold. In 1979 when the business started I sold and installed our hand made vandal resistant mailbox to friends and neighbors in the Cincinnati area. Thirty-five years later when I started hiking, the internet had evolved as a way people could communicate long distance without the need for money and/or a third person or a company in the middle. Our business always benefited from local word of mouth, but when we sold the mailbox on the internet that word of mouth increased to where sales were constant year around. Plus, our customers were the end user, and always nice people.
As I got older I learned I had to buy out the time to do what I wanted to do, otherwise it would not happen. Hiking was that way. I put on our internet “page” words to our potential customers that said our shop was closed for the year, and that I would be happy to make them a mailbox the following year. I used the word “sabbatical” with one b. One close relative said the statement was laughable. Highly educated people working in universities say the word sabbatical when they are taking a year off to do something different. As with most things I didn’t qualify, but my meaning got across. As the year 2014 rolled in with lots of ice and snow I got ready to make mailboxes. Many people who called the Summer before left friendly messages of good will, and for me to call them when the shop was ready. They wanted a mailbox and were willing to wait.
When Jenny stopped the car at Lewis Mountain campground to let me out I realized that everything was going to be very different for quite some time. We said goodby, she took a picture as I disappeared into the woods, and in a few minutes I was on the Appalachian Trail. My pack weighed 41 pounds with food and water.
After a mile on the trail I came to the turn-off to Bearfence Mountain Hut. That is where I stopped the previous year. Back then Jenny picked me up in the nearby town of Luray, Virginia. I wanted to show her one of the shelters or huts as their called in Virginia, and we hiked the short distance to Bearfence Hut in the snow. When she saw it and the nearby privy she said flatly that she could never stay there thank you very much.
This time when I got to the turn-off I stopped briefly to think about our being there, and then I went North feeling strong and healthy inside. I was 66-years old. The first year, 2011, when I hiked from Georgia to Damascus, Virginia I was recovering from a herniated L5 vertebrae in my back bone. By the third Summer it didn’t bother me anymore. I had lost weight and was stronger both mentally and physically, but still I was a slow hiker. Many of the 20-year old hikers (they may have been 35) going from Georgia to Maine in one Summer went by me as if I was standing still. Sometimes I’d occasionally see the same people for a few days because they had gone to town to resupply but in general people went past me and were gone like the mad hatter on its way to Maine. I began to think I was the dumbest kid in the school room, but then I remembered what an old-timer told me in Georgia. He said, “Get your mind in gear and your ass will follow.” It was mental. I stopped thinking I was slow otherwise I would never finish.