Sunday–November 7, 2021
Remaining Miles–0.00 (Appalachian Trail) and 0.8 (Pinhoti)
Location–West Branch Road (1561.0) to Tom Levardi’s Home in Dalton (1571.9), then to home of Mike & Carol Whalen and son, Chris, Otis, Massachusetts
A restless night; understandable I suppose! Barry has hot coffee and breakfast prepared for me shortly after five, and by six we’re back to the trailhead at West Branch Road–where Barry sends us on our way.
Here, and hiking with me this final day, so many dear friends: Slim Jim, Kitchen Sink, Pooter Scooter, Mayor, Slider & Neighbor Dave. It’s another blue-perfect hiking day, crispy-cold and clear.
This is an average-mile day, over moderately level and friendly terrain, some rocks and roots, some mud, a bit of climbing to a fine vantage, then a short roadwalk through Dalton to Tom Levardi’s home on Depot Street–where folks have gathered to welcome and congratulate me. A firm hug from Tom, then from Grey Beard (current AT thru-hike AT record holder).
On the front steps of Tom’s lovely old home, Grey Beard presents me with a beautifully engraved hiking stick, a symbolic transfer of the age record from himself to me. An incredibly emotional time, as I again break down in tears.
Grey Beard then performs his famous “Victory Dance” for me, and all present lift a congratulatory cup of champagne.
Then the unavoidable sad goodbyes–to Tom, Grey Beard, Slim Jim, Slider, Neighbor Dave, Dan Morton & Barbie Howland, and later to: Pooter Scooter & Mayor.
Evening, Barry, Kitchen Sink and I return to the Whalen’s home to rest the night before heading back south–and home.
Finally, to all who’ve supported me, to the legions who’ve encouraged me, and to my generous sponsors, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for this amazing journey!
Odyssey 2021 – Bama to Baxter – Hike On
O Lord that lends me life,
lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
Saturday–November 6, 2021
Location–Goose Pond Road (1548.7) to West Branch Road (1561.0), then to home of Mike & Carol Whalen and son, Craig, Otis, Massachusetts
Trying to wrap my head around the thought–one more day, just one more day and this long journey will come to an end.
Thankfully, on trail today and hiking with me: Slim Jim, Kitchen Sink & Pooter Scooter. They watch over me, help and support me with compassion and understanding–as I struggle uphill and downhill through the mud and leaf-covered rocks and roots. I fall a lot and whine a lot. Ahh, but does not their patience and good humor carry me through–this long, tiring day…
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
(Christina Georgina Rossetti)
Friday–November 5, 2021
Location–Beartown Mountain Road (1538.3) to Goose Pond Road (1548.7), then to home of Mike & Carol Whalen and son, Chris, Otis, Massachusetts
Another great night’s rest at the Whalen home. Carol prepared a delicious and nourishing supper for us (me, Barry, Slim Jim, Kitchen Sink & Pooter Scooter). Upstairs in my room I tried working my journal entry but promptly fell asleep!
This morning we’re greeted by another cold (30 degree), clear morning. It’s a short distance, a half-hour drive, back to Beartown Mountain Road. Hiking with me today are Mayor, Slim Jim, Kitchen Sink & Pooter Scooter. Barry has us out and moving a bit after seven-thirty.
As with recent days, we’ve what seems enormous elevation changes, ascents and descents at or in excess of 5,000 feet. Today is little different. The grades are gradual though, the tread friendly, with a few cobby sections thrown in. Progress of 1.5 mph is relatively easy, making for reasonable total trail hours of around eight.
The red and orange autumn colors are all gone now, but the golds and russets remain, bringing an unusual and startlingly pleasant brightness to the otherwise customary darkness of the deep woods. The vistas, from our high vantages may not appear as striking, yet autumn lingers, a pleasant maturity that marks its near end. Late fall with the chill of shorter days–this is my favorite time of year!
An amazing thing happened to me today, one of the most intense emotional moments I’ve experienced in my memory–hiking along in my rhythmic hypnotic-like pace I look up to see this backpacker sitting a large blowdown beside the trail. Passing, I nod, but notice he’s got his phone camera running. His cap is pulled down, a sock is over his face, so all I can see are his eyes. Hesitating, I’m thinking: I know this fellow! I turn to take another look. OMG, it’s who I think it is; it’s Grey Beard, current AT thru-hike age record holder. He’s driven two days, all the way from Memphis, to be with me. I break into an uncontrollable sob unable to contain my emotions of the moment. Barry had hiked in, reaching us just moments before. And there he and Grey Beard stand, the most gleeful looks on their faces. Open arms now, the old Grey Beard & Nimblewill exchange hugs. What a moment, what an intense emotional moment. Grey Beard is such a dear friend; he encouraged me to attempt this long, difficult journey. And here he is. He’s come to join me and to share the joy at the end of this quest…
You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream a new dream.
(C. S. Lewis)