PATC North District Hoodlums Trail Crew, Pass Mountain, Shenandoah National Park, August 20, 2016 — Hanging out with the Hoodlums this weekend prompted a thought.
What is it about the Appalachian Trail that would cause people to commute hundreds of miles to maintain it; to hike it? Why do so many report deeply personal relationship with this trail?
There are as many answers as there are hikers. Here’s a possibility.
Some say the trail has the personality of a curvaceous vixen whose shapely turns first catch your eye on centerfolds in coffee table books. She holds your gaze.
At the same time you imagine the possibilities, her earthy voice whispers on the wind, “Come with me. We’ll be amazing together.” Smitten, you follow her irresistible come-hither with stars in your eyes and dreams of conquest.
Not so fast. Be careful of those sexy charms. This babe may have legs that run from here to there, but a walk in the woods with this little number can suck you dry and empty your will to keep on. Know that she turns from sultry to frigid ice virtually overnight. See her tears fall in torrents that become rivers in your path. Be aware that she may not leave you laughing when she goes.
Date this honey and you’re in a high maintenance love affair. It’s more than the constant stroking, the sweet nothings or minding the flowers. You’re in it with all of her friends including the bear who dug up my waterbar in search of a meal. The hurt is high with this one.
She likes her suitors looking good. Before you know it, you’ll own mix and match backpacks, tents and sleeping bags. Guess how many base layers, flash dry shirts and pairs of Smart Wool socks I have. I am ashamed to admit that my hiking boot closet would make Imelda Marcos jealous.
Heaven help you when you start owning your own personal trail tools – Pulaskis, MacLoeds – and Stihl brand anything is on your Christmas wish list. I hear that she’s impressed by bigger saws.
Words like Jet Boil and Pocket Rocket soon replace GE and Tappan in the kitchen. I mean who needs stainless steel when titanium is lighter. Hell, Mother Nature even throws in the granite for free.
She’s not a cheap date though. Betty needed a lot of polishing before she became but one more piece of jewelry decorating the trail. This expensive jewelry habit is essential. Keep it coming or Ms. AT’s beauty and charms quickly erode. Costume pieces may be okay from time to time, but this girl likes to receive big rocks, especially on special occasions. Forget one and she can get ugly.
In spite of all this, like a 1940s taxi dancer on a steamy Saturday night, the trail has no shortage of suitors. Even the guy with the halo had to stand in line for his turn to dance.
Oh yes. You probably guessed it. The Hoodlums had another great outing.