[at-l] what are you reading?

RockDancer rockdancer97 at comcast.net
Thu Mar 15 09:55:59 CDT 2012

Got this one from eBay this week, a real page-turner:

Maret, Darrell The Philosopher's Guide (1990)

This one is the last edition printed by the ATC, unmarked, unused I was
thrilled to have it pop up on my regular eBay search. I've read the first 40
pages, the boilerplate, that discusses weather, trail access, gear
selection, attitude on the trail. Very thoughtfully written and in some ways
reminds me of my thinking when I headed out in '97 for my thruhike. The MSR
Whisperlite was just making its appearance on the trail, now it's been
passed by. Packs, sleeping bags, tents have all evolved. 

One neat feature of the book is a "season summary" for the previous 2 years.
Maybe 5-10 paragraphs saying what happened out there as reported by hikers
sending info to Maret. 

1988: It was a dry year, and the finding of flowing springs was an obsession
with hikers. The drought led to fires which closed section of the Trail and
forced hikers either onto roads or to "legitimately" skip sections.
A woman camper was murdered just off the AT in PA. A man who had been living
in the woods was given a life sentence in the case.
It was also a year when a very few rowdy and inconsiderate hikers put at
jeopardy many of the facilitates and much of the good-will that the numerous
responsible hikers in past years had spent making. Some of their antics:
staying in towns for several days on end looking shiftless and suspicious,
disregarding notices and disturbing the nesting of peregrine falcons,
disregarding rules in Shenandoah and getting picked up, getting arrested and
making national news for being dangerously drunk on the AT and causing a
search, urinating from the second story window of a hostel in plain sight of
neighbors having breakfast , getting drunk in a church hostel in spite of
rules against alcohol, disobeying a Katahdin park ranger's camping
instructions and getting picked up, being so loud and obnoxious as to scare
away a B & B's regular customers. One of these hikers was heard to say, "I
don't care, I'll never be back here again."

1989: In contrast to the drought years of 87, and 88, 89 was a monsoon, one
of the wettest years on record in some places along the Trail. One hiker
reported that it rained 69 of his first 100 days! With the rain came leaking
shelters, submerged Trail (Wataugua Lake), lightweight boots coming apart,
and hoards of merciless bugs.
An ice storm hit North Georgia on Feb. 17, resulting in thousands of
blow-downs. For those hikers starting in March, the Trail was an obstacle
course. By April, and after hundreds of people-hours, the GATC had most of
the way clear.
A late snowstorm dumped eight inches of snow in GA and NC on April 8,
driving many unprepared hikers out of the mountains and into towns and
hostels for the duration. Another 2 inches fell in the highland of NC and VA
on May 7.
On June 19, there was an attempted rape of a thruhiker between Don Nelan and
Moreland Gap Shelters. The suspect, who had been hanging around the shelters
for several weeks beforehand, was not prepared for the cool-headedness of
the thruhiker. She managed to escape. The thruhiker was unharmed, took a
couple of weeks off, then returned to the trail.
A frightening recount from Hank Lanman, "I was spending the night in West
Mountain Shelter in Bear Mtn SP with Stephen Harmelink (The Void) when
someone came into the shelter and shot him in the back while he lay in his
bag ..." It was a shoulder wound from a small-caliber bullet. The Void and
Hank walked back to the parkway and called police. No suspect was caught.

(It goes on to describe Hurricane Hugo and that all but 6 miles of trail
were open by end of year, that 1990 might have a lot of "leaners and
hangers" ready to come down on hikers.)

Business cards among thruhikers were big in 89, some very clever, some ended
up littering the trail or were found stuffed into tree bark. A check of
hostel owners found the 1989 hikers, as a group, were one of the most mature
and responsible ever.

(ME again) We don't often hear these kinds of yearly assessments, and almost
never hear of small assaults, thefts, conflicts on the trail unless they
merit the attention of the national media. As ALDHA is the group closest to
the trail, sort of "on the ground" each year, I think there should be a way
to record and then catalog the whole gamut of events, good and bad, that
occur and tabulate them yearly. Then a hiker heading out for his "big Year"
would have more facts at hand regarding the numbers and kinds of trail


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