In the summer of 92, I worked at Skyland Lodge back in the kitchen. A night hike early that summer kinda put a distaste for the local Rangers on patrol. I'd headed out for a night hike and I got stopped walking to the trailhead. The Ranger insisted I'd been drinking or fighting. When I registered.the complaint there wasn't any record of the stop though I saw him taking notes. With this I chose not to hang my thumb out and hitch like I had the summers before at another park. In the summer of 92, I didn't see much of the park I now lay stretched out in.
I got an easy hitch out of Waynesboro and up to Rockfish Gap. I was late getting on the trail. I took advantage of someone's offer to buy lunch for a bunch of hikers. He said in his intro, 'I don't care who you are, what you call yourself, or anything else. I enjoy doing this and have done it for 13 years since being approached by the local chamber of commerce to do it.' He seemed to be always on the go even pausing to answer a call to help out a stranded hiker. He's helped close to a thousand hikers over the years without any interest in hiking himself.
As I shouldered the ruck from the back of my ride's pick up truck, I paused thinking back to the summer of 92. I didn't know it then but, the next summer I'd be in Poland. I'd be in England. I'd be in a long list of places many only dream of going. Today we all can cyber-visit those places. My life that summer was simple, get up, hike, go to work, and repeat. I got to know many of the trails intimately much like I know the Wasatch.
As I hiked this afternoon I couldn't help but ponder where my friends of that summer were today. I've only been in touch with one and she found me via MySpace (social media). Who are they now? Will I run into any of the locals from Luray? Will I recognize Skyland as I get there?
I'm back in the park the last park of my youth I want to visit. I've looked forward to this part of the hike long before hiking the AT was considered. Where will I be next summer? Will I be back overseas, on another long trail, or working a job that lets me stretch my legs?
Hike on. Let's go places...