Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ghosts from the past

Tuesday, October 16, 2012:

Paul 'Parkside' Bernhardt (the thru-hiker who passed away at Pierce Pond, ME on 6/15/12) laughingly said of me when he took my picture posing with one hiking stick: "whoa, shades of John Muir!"

Today, Paul's memory and my past mingled once again - quite unexpectedly.  Please indulge me as I unfold this personal story:

On September 7, 2010 I visited Manassas Gap Shelter and found no log book, but a single sheet of paper left by photographer-artist 'Mark', who was hiking with 'Someday', both headed south (both would complete the entire trail, and 'Someday' received her 2000 miler patch from ATC).  I signed Mark's paper, lamenting the lack of a register book, and then went home for the night.

At home I got to thinking - I had an old hard-bound Record Book -  500 pages thick - that I had kept among my books for 30 years or more and had barely used.  Hey - why not donate it to PATC, take it to the shelter.  I was going back tomorrow anyway, to take up the trail where I had left off.  So I labeled the cover, wrote an introductory entry on page 1, and left the book at Manassas Gap Shelter on 9-8-2010.  Here's how it looked, with my page 1 entry and the page 2 addition, with Mark's single page inserted at right:

Well, today I returned to Manassas Gap Shelter for the first time since that day.  OMG!  Look at this:

It's still there!!!  I had been thinking about that book - I gave it ZERO chance of still being there!  Shelter log books rarely last six months, except in places with caretakers.  Wow!  Sadly, pages 1 and 2 were missing.  The first surviving entry (using the pen I left), appears on page 3, part of which you can see at right:

What was originally a 500 page book, had been whittled down to about 320 pages, thanks to the typical practice of people 'borrowing' blank pages from the back.

But what's most special to me is that Paul signed 'my' book, as he apparently stopped in for water on 4-15-2012, exactly two months before his tragic drowning at Pierce Pond, and just 20 days before he and I met for the second time near High Point State Park in NJ and he took my pic and made the 'Muir' comment.

A lot of memories flooded back as I sat there at the picnic table gazing at that log book.  I lingered there, paging through it.  Lots of other familiar names in those pages as well:  'Bomber', 'Patches', 'Pretzel' ... I could go on and on ...

But I need to go on!  On to describing the rest of today's wonderful hike.  Manassas Gap Shelter was the southern end of the 9.5 miles of trail I covered today.  Ashby Gap (US 50) was the north end.  In between I traversed the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area and was hiking mostly in woods.  I got to visit the peculiar little structure known as Dick's Dome shelter:

And in the afternoon I strolled Sky Meadows State Park, where the ghostly image up top was taken.  The high meadows and open woodlands, all kept mowed by the park, were a real pleasure to walk on this crystal clear day:

So it was a special day, and one that materially connects this year's AT hiking adventure with the section hiking I did in 2010.  I think if I ever come back to hike one piece of trail in the future, this will be it.


Here's the map and photo link for today's hike:

AT Day 258 - Sky Meadows St Park at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Virginia

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