What’s Missing in this Photo?

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Two of my best hiking pals made it up Mt. Katahdin today. Steve Skinner (trail name Pressure Free) looks wistful in his sporty yellow jacket. I’ve known him since second grade, and despite the fact that he went to Georgia Tech, I count him among my best friends. Eric Graves (Hike Inn Dude) is wearing his customary fishing shirt and looking a bit grubby after two weeks battling the 100-mile wilderness and slogging up Katahdin. I’ve been up the Big K three times. First in 1973 to begin my thru-hike. Then, I hiked twice more to see my kids off on their SOBO thru-hikes. Each time the weather was postcard perfect. Katahdin has a rich history, particularly considering that when you climb it, you follow the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau and Benton MacKaye, among many other nature luminaries. I also consider it to be the hardest climb on the trail, more than 4,000 vertical feet from Katahdin Stream Campground and up and over the Hunt Spur Trail. The view is awesome, and I use that word sparingly. When I wrote my novel, THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story, I must confess that I shed tears when I took my characters up Katahdin. (You’ll have to read the book to see how that plays out). I just love the mountain and all it has meant to me, my family and my friends. So, you must have wondered what my headline implies. When Steve and Eric began hiking about 12 days ago, another member was in their crew. Tom LeVert is nearing the end of his multi-year section hike of the AT, and he really needed that mileage. Sadly, he took ill on the second day and found a valiant trail angel to get him back out to civilization. He ended up in the hospital and feeling sick as a bullwhipped dog. He is ok now, but sorry he didn’t finish. My guess is he’ll try again next year, and I predict success. I can’t wait to see the photo of Tortilla Tosser staring down the camera with his customary grim expression when he takes his place next to the Katahdin sign.

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