Hiker Superhighway

Hiker Superhighway

Sometimes dark clouds do have a silver lining.

Yesterday fog smothered Shenandoah National Park. Mist and light rain took our trail maintenance project of moving ginormous rocks off the docket. That might have meant a long climb for a short slide given the wasted driving time.

But instead, Eureka! It turned into a gift of time to hike. Knowing a number of thru-hikers I’ve been following were in the park, I took a three-and-a-half hour southbound stroll on the hiker superhighway in hopes I might make a connection. No luck, but it was a great 14-mile hike. It also reinforced the need to keep upping my level of fitness.

I did stumble upon a ghost hiker though. You couldn’t have made this guy up – except Coleridge already did. His gaunt, frightening looks actually startled me as he materialized silently out of the fog. When I finally realized he was there, my first thought was that he was a lost crew member from the Flying Dutchman.

He looked more than spooky, featuring beady, burned-out eyes that peered out from the dark depths of his edgy anorexic cheek bones.

He was definitely a thru-hiker sporting the traditional grubby, sun-faded uniform. His standout fashion item was a badly distressed Nantucket red pair of hiking pants that were richly accented by crusty salt stains. Drying socks and shirts decorated his pack.

This tall and thin, cleanly shaven, gray-haired apparition really did look like death warmed over.

As a purely defensive move, I said, “Hi! How’s it going? Silence. “You okay?” In return he frowned, “Yes, thank you.” End of conversation.

We each kept walking in opposite directions. I didn’t see him on the return leg.