Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Barefoot Sisters Southbound

I have enjoyed several books by people who have through-hiked the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). But Isis and jackrabbit (their trail names) set off barefoot from Mount Katahdin in Maine on their way to Springer Mountain in Georgia (They used boots after the snow started falling on them in Virginia.).

They take turns telling the story, and that sets this book apart from others I have read. I got to see things through both their eyes. So they reignited my hope to hike the A.T. Okay, not barefoot. And I'd probably start in Georgia and hike north, but still. There's a community of through hikers there every year. To be part of that community! A lot are unable to finish for one reason or another. But still...

A beat-up green Dodge ground to a halt on the gravel beside us, and the driver rolled down the window and shouted over to us, "thru-hikers?" We smiled and nodded. "Hop in!"

We loaded two packs into the trunk. Isis and Blade clambered into the backseat with the third. The powerful reek of week-old sweat filled up the hot interior of the car, but the driver seemed not to mind.

"I hiked northbound in '88," he said. As we sped down the two-lane road to Gorham, New Hampshire, we exchanged names and hiking stories. He stopped in the driveway of a large B&B at the edge of town. The gray building just ahead of us, an old hay barn, had an A.T. sign by the door, and a crowd of familiar people longed on the strip of lawn beside the driveway.

"Welcome to The Barn," the driver said. A look of nostalgia stole over his face, a bemused mixture of joy and regret that we would see on the faces of many ex-hikers when they talked about the Trail. "Make the most of your hike. It doesn't last forever."

We thanked him and the battered station wagon pulled out of the drive and was lost in the stream of traffic.

Inside the Barn, the accommodations were fairly basic: a common room downstairs with a TV and VCR, board games, magazines, and fuzzy plaid-upholstered armchairs that had seen better days...

At a bookstore just down the street from the hostel, we shelled out the money for a copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Hardcover. We had debated endlessly with ourselves and each other: is it worth the weight? In the end, the prospect of truly entertaining trail reading had won out...

Matt, Blue Skies, and Tenbrooks caught a shuttle out of town in the early afternoon. The rest of us, a motley crew of southbounders and a few northbounders, convened at Mr. Pizza at 6:30...

They proceeded to pig out - a frequent occurrence for thru-hikers when they hit town. Two of them each ate "The Stomper," a pizza that measured one hundred and ninety-two square inches! Long-distance hiking burns a lot of calories.

If you enjoy The Barefoot Sisters Southbound, you're in luck. Because Isis and jackrabbit (Lucy and Susan Letcher) "yoyoed," turning around and hiking back to Maine. And they wrote a book about that, too: The Barefoot Sisters Walking Home. I enjoyed that one too.

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