Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Hiker Community

The day dawned overcast, but at least there was no rain falling.  We got our packs ready, had our breakfast, and headed out.  When we got up the mountain almost within sight of the Blue Ridge Parkway, we drove right into the cloud--visibility about 20 feet.  Incredible.

We continued on down the Parkway to the parking lot where Gene was to start his hike.  He got out of the truck and headed north.  I drove back to Rockfish Gap where he would come out of the woods with the thought that when the fog lifted, I’d head south.  The fog never lifted and it’s probably still there, shrouding the mountain top.

I parked the truck and got out my sudoku book.  I gave some thought to going home to wait the 3-4 hours it would take Gene to do the hike.  In the end I decided just to wait and I am so glad I did.

It wasn’t long before a plain gray van pulled up.  It was one of those that can seat 8, 10, 12 people--a big van.  As the driver was backing into his parking space, I noticed his license plate said something about PCT.  To me, that could only mean Pacific Crest Trail.  He parked, but never got out of the van.  Convinced he was a hiker shuttle, I got out of the truck and went over to speak with him.  Sure enough, Walter, who was in his late 60s or early 70s, didn’t have anything better to do this morning, so he drove up to Rockfish Gap where the trail crosses the road to Waynesboro for the express purpose of shuttling hikers into town.  What an angel.

We talked for several minutes.  He had thru-hiked the PCT several years ago and his wife had used the van to shuttle him (and anyone else needing a ride) back and forth to the trail all along its route from Mexico to Canada.  She’s an angel, too.

While I waited for Gene, Walter made three trips into town and back.

Gene finally appeared out of the fog just after noon.  He and 5 other hikers.  We loaded them all into the truck and dropped them off downtown.

The hiking community is just like all other communities within our society.  Everybody looks out for everybody else.  The hikers share common experiences and make friends.  As the hikers came out of the fog, Walter and I greeted each one and asked if they needed a ride.  We also asked if there were other hikers coming into town.  Without exception, every hiker knew if there were more hikers on the way.  Although we had never seen any of these people before, they were not strangers; we were all part of the same community.

In the RV community, we experienced a similar situation while driving along the Alaska Highway.  Anyone on that highway in an RV was a member of our community.  Often we saw the same travelers over and over, creating bonds that have enriched our lives.

With today’s hike, we have completed the Blue Ridge section--a distance of 105 miles.  Next week we will start on the 105 miles of trail through Shenandoah National Park.

That’s all for today.

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