Mile 31.1: Trail Faces

The faces of the trail is what struck me the most in these first few days on the Appalachian Trail.

Nobody looks the same, we all have a different story to tell and we’re here for many different reasons.

This trail is Kevin, the first guy I met on this journey. From Florida, 27 years-old with four kids. He came to the trail with an overweight pack and $100 in his pocket. He didn’t do any research whatsoever.

“I’ll figure it out along the way,” he kept repeating.

But the A.T. is also Chris, who just finished a three-week hiking trip in Chile, and now he’s here sharing a shelter at Gooch Gap with me.

He left his accounting job in New Jersey planning on traveling for the next three years. He went to South America, Italy, maybe he’ll go to Spain next.

He likes to travel light. No stove, no tent and very little clothes. He just carries what he believes is necessary, meaning beer, cigarettes and weed.

“I’m glad I drank this beer while hiking! Now my pack is definitely lighter,” was the first thing he said when we first met.

I also had the luck to meet a veteran of the AT. White long hair, wrinkly and burned skin from the many years in the sun, John is a retired soldier who’s spending all his pension on different trails around the U.S.

They call him Wet Dog because he enjoys soaking his feet in cold water at the end of the day (a Dogface is also a Army foot soldier serving in the infantry). It’s his fourth time on the trail and he takes the trail as he takes his life: “slow and steady.”

But the story that so far hit me the most came a little unexpected.

Raymond reached the shelter when the sun was already gone, panting and in dire need of water.

“How are you feeling man?” I asked him just to sound nice since I could already imagine the answer. “Fat,” he replied. I laughed, we all did at the shelter.

Yes, Raymond is a lot overweight. He knows it and that’s why he’s here. He left high school with the dream of joining the Air Force, but to do so he needs to lose weight.

He used to be an Eagle Scout so he thought the Appalachian Trail was the best way to reach his goal.

I respect Raymond for his brave decision, like I respect any individual that I came across along this first few miles on the trail. No matter the size, social status or grade of experience, it takes a huge deal of bravery to embark on a journey like this.

The sun sets over the mountains while I’m sitting at a table outside Mountain Crossings hostel at Neel Gap. After three days I had the chance to shower and eat something decent.

“I hope Raymond makes it, I really do,” I think, while devouring a double cheese-pepperoni-sausage and peppers frozen pizza.

“What a meal.”

In Walk We Trust,

The Walking Fed

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