The text message I received on July 8 said:
“Good morning Lucky!”
“Welcome back to Pennsylvania. Where do you think you will be on Monday or Tuesday evening. It would be nice to see you again. Iceman”
My trail name is Lucky. And, earlier this month, Viking [AKA Nate Harrington] and I were on the second day of six-day, 100-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, headed south to Pen Mar, MD. This message was good news. Iceman, who has hiked all of the A.T. himself, section by section, is a trail angel I met on my A.T. thru-hike two years ago. Or, I should say: he met me.
* * *
On May 8, 2015, I hiked 24.1 miles into Port Clinton, PA, where I first laid eyes on Iceman, AKA David Martin of Lancaster, PA.
[How did he get his trail name? He brought ice to a young girl who had fallen and injured her leg. She named him.]
I blogged my 2015 hike from Georgia to Maine on Trailjournals.com. This is what I wrote about that first encounter:
“There to meet me as I came off the mountain was Iceman – he had read my blog, knew I might arrive this afternoon, and drove to Port Clinton to offer me some trail magic, beginning with an ice cold Coke and a ride to the pavilion where Crockman, Umbrella Man, Temper and I planned to spend the night.”
“He invited me to his home and took me to the Cracker Barrel for supper. What an end to an already good day…thanks to Iceman, a trail angel who came right out of the blue, here I am in Lancaster, Pennsylvania: full, clean, and with clean clothes to wear tomorrow.”
Next day he drove me back to Port Clinton, took all of us to an outfitter where we could buy equipment we needed and to a grocery store to resupply –a huge help– and then back to the trailhead.
Almost two months later, on July 5, 2015, in Maine, nine days from Mt. Katahdin, the end of the hike, I blogged that I had run out of food.
“I had instant potatoes for breakfast and no lunch. And there was no chance for me to buy more food until noon tomorrow in Caratunk, ME. And then along came Iceman bearing gifts for me and all the other thru-hikers [more than a dozen] gathered at Pierce Pond, waiting for morning to be ferried across the Kennebec River. Iceman had messaged me earlier asking where I’d be and then he showed up with soft drinks and lots of high calorie junk food that hikers crave.”
[He gave me extra food which allowed me to skip a time consuming resupply at Caratunk and reach Monson, 40 miles away, in two days instead of three, cutting a full day off of my trip.]
* * *
And now, here he was again, texting, asking where I’d be in a couple of days. I knew what that meant and so did Viking.
We were right.
Iceman arrived at Quarry Gap Shelters with three large pizzas, cookies, and soft drinks, enough not only for Viking and me, but, as usual, other hikers at the shelter.
Iceman reads hiker blogs, picks out hikers he wants to help, and then helps them and everyone around them. He knew Viking and I were doing a section hike in Pennsylvania because he had seen the video Viking had posted about our upcoming trip.
So how was our hike?
Good hikes start with the people you’re with.
I had hiked, off and on, with the Hiking Vikings [Nate and his wife, Sharon] for, I’m guessing, more than 1,500 miles two years ago, and they were good company. Sharon [Hiking], who is going to have a child in the fall, their second, did not get to come on this trip.
Viking and I averaged 16.67 miles a day, a little more than we had planned. We finished the hike a half a day little early because this section was so easy, even for someone who is not in good shape.
I had hiked 154 miles around my neighborhood to prepare, but I’m not in hiker shape. Far from it. I’m way too fat.
There were a couple of [to me] hard climbs, including a really difficult climb coming south out of Duncannon, PA. But this section also has what I think it the easiest 14 miles on entire A.T. [mile 1119.7 – 1133.6] around Boiling Springs, PA.
Our hike was a tiny bit like my thru-hike:
–There was Iceman, of course.
–We got rained on several times.
–One of my feet blistered, and I’m going to lose three toenails.
My boots are too small. They are size 11s; I used to be a size 10 and your boots should be a size to a size and a half larger than your foot, to allow for swelling. But my feet expanded on the thru-hike to a permanent size 11 so I need a bigger boot. Yes, yes, I finished the thru-hike in these boots and I hiked almost 200 miles in them last year. I thought they had stretched enough for me to keep wearing them, but I was wrong.
–We ran into a lot of friendly NoBos –northbound thru-hikers– and a nutcake or two.
–We started with a plan, and then altered it several times take advantage of conditions, like the morning we went through Duncannon and the trail ran within a few feet of a restaurant. Backpacks were lined up against the wall outside. That’s was a clue. We had already eaten a trail breakfast [Pop-Tarts and hot chocolate for me] but, naturally, we ate again.
Viking is 40-some years younger than me, but I wore him out. Oh, yea! Most of the time he was eating my dust.
That’s not the truth, but it is a fact.
He would stop and talk to almost everybody we met, gathering Hiker Tales. I would keep trudging along. And when he finished talking Viking would come after me, double time, until he caught up. Sometimes all that running with a pack on his back wore him out.
And that’s a fact.
Coming Friday: Salvation, Part I