I worked with publisher Larry Luxenberg and designer Margy Schmidt while attending the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association meeting in PA a few days back. We are working to get the e-book version of THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story ready for purchase sometime before Thanksgiving with the print version following shortly thereafter. Just for fun, I am placing an excerpt below to give folks a flavor of what to expect. Because my friends at the AT Museum are publishing the book (and receiving all proceeds), I am placing a journal entry of one of my characters — Brave Phillie, a 63-year-old Viet Nam vet and thru-hiker — detailing his solitary visit to the museum.
June 7, Journal entry of Brave Phillie at the Appalachian Trail Museum
I stole away from the Bly Gappers after the ice cream craziness for a solitary stroll around the Appalachian Trail Museum. Trail folk created this place in an old stone grist mill, a labor of love for people who revere the endless trail, a resting place for a thousand odds and ends of many, many decades of A.T. memories and the people and places of the trail.
I wandered from one display to another, recalling bigger-than-life personalities such as Gene Espy, Grandma Gatewood and Ed Garvey. I first started doing trail work before I was in the service. Over the years — aside from hiking — I’ve swung pulaskis, cut blowdowns with crosscut saws, dug out water bars, and worked on countless reroutes, never regretting a bit of it. This place is a sanctuary for all of us who love the miracle of it all.
I came across an old Mt. Katahdin summit sign, the one telling mileages to places near and far — including impossibly distant Springer Mountain. My God, what memories that sign triggered! Like a movie montage racing through my mind, I summoned mental pictures of all the characters and gorgeous locations between Springer and Katahdin. I stood there and wept for so much — Marina, my sweet, unappreciated wife, gone forever. Earl Shaffer. My new friends, who I try to deserve. The half of the trail unhiked on this trip with a new Katahdin summit sign waiting at the end. How can such a self-absorbed soul as myself sustain all the good this footpath has showered on me?
I walked out of that place feeling that good kind of exhaustion a man feels at the end of a hot day’s hike. Ready for water and food and sleep. Ready to gear up for the second half of the last great American adventure.
Hope you enjoyed this snippet. Soon, I will fill you in on some observations of my trip to the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association annual conference. Remember: Stay vertical and keep walking!