It’s hard to tell how long someone will be in your life when you first meet them. This is especially true on the trail. There are some people who you say goodbye to as if you’ll never see them again, who you then see an hour later, and people whose last words to you were “catch ya later man!” back in Maine. There are, however, the special few people that become the ones who you know you’ll see again because they are your trail family, and this one is mine.
First, there is Gringo, a mechanical engineer from Austin, Texas. He is arguably the most photogenic man on the face of the Earth. He is also one of the sweetest and most fun to hike with—oh, and he only eats Fricano’s sandwiches (his official sponsor). Cats can’t even resist the charm of this Yosemite Sam look-a-like.
Then, there is Mr. Long John Silver: friend, hiker, pirate, and leader in the consumption of ice cream.
Long John, named after the very real and not at all made up Long John Silver, acquires a pirate artifact in every state to carry with him on his journey. These artifacts include, but are not limited to, a parrot, cannon, pirate flag, tricorn hat, and eye patch. His other talents include musical theatre, witty one liners, and knowing all the words to “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel.
The most recent regular member of our group is a man who calls himself BFG, a.k.a. The Big Friendly German. This name obviously comes from him being a rather large friendly German man.
BFG is the fastest paced hiker among us. His speed and concentration hiking over any terrain has earned him the nickname “The Machine”. This man is simply exquisite. The more we get to know him, the more his hidden talents and personality traits reveal themselves. Sadly, his 90-day visa makes it so he won’t be finishing the trail with us.
No story of our clan would be complete without an in-depth profile on the legend himself, Mr. Benjamin Corr. He uses the trail name “Ben” and comes from the part of England where they invented that sauce (Worcester or something like that). Ben has quite a bit more trail experience than the rest of us and significantly better taste in most things including beer, food, and eyewear.
His shapely ankles make all the ladies swoon and the mustache scares small children, but on the inside, he’s a harmless, grumpy old Brit. I met Ben in Shaw’s Hostel in Monson Maine and have hiked with him more than anyone else on the trail.
And then, of course, there is Miss Woody, my fellow lady on this journey. We obviously aren’t the only two chicks on the trail, but we are the only two SOBO girls hiking at this pace at this point on the trail which has made us very close. There is never a dull moment with any of these people, but especially not with Woody.
Woody’s hidden talents include being a champion bowler, mending packs with floss, cleaning pants on picnic tables, knowing EXACTLY where the next water source is, and getting extremely dirty.
The final member of the group actually hasn’t been with us since Lincoln, New Hampshire, but he still deserves a mention as he is still a part of our lives. Tea Time finished the AT this year by hiking southbound from Katahdin to Lincoln, NH, where he had to get off last year during his Northbound thru-hike. Tea Time is our very own home schooled jungle freak and King of the Smoothie King, hailing from scenic Daytona Florida. He has come to visit us in Harpers Ferry (where I am writing from now) to say goodbye before he leaves the USA to teach English in Vietnam. He can leave the country and get as far away from us as he wants but he will never be able to vacate the special place in our hearts and in the hearts of his other very close acquaintances.
As much as I love my trail friends the most important of my people are the ones off-trail. I would never be able to do this without amazing parents and other loved ones who support me through my travels. When I call my parents or meet up with an old friend for the day it keeps me grounded and strengthens the ties to who I was before the trail. The importance of these connections becomes clearer the farther I walk from home. Thank you to everyone who has ever sent me a message of support, given me a ride to town, hiked for a day with me, or even wished me luck after waiting in line at the post office behind me. All of your encouragement and support makes a big difference in the life of a hiker.
There are countless people to mention on and off the trail. The things people say about the support for the hiker community are all true, and I’m sure I’ll continue to meet more amazing people on the way to Georgia. Maybe enough for a part two.
My advice: always keep in touch with your old friends, and remember, nature is f*****g stupid.