We first met Grey Beard in Virginia. He is an 82 year old hiker with a goal to set the age record for a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Over the course of the last 2,000 miles, we have met him several times. He always has a smile and time to stop and talk. He taught us to recognize chestnut trees during one chat. Another day, he gave us his philosophy of life, distilled into one sentence, “Do something you love and be happy.”
This afternoon, just after we crossed a road, we saw a hiker approaching.
“Hey, how’s it going? Isn’t it a beautiful day?” Grey Beard greeted us with a wide smile.
“Wow! It’s great to see you!” I exclaimed. “It’s been a while. How is your hike going?”
“I’ve been doing a lot of slack packing. I made a date to finish the trail by October 26, which means I’ve got to get a move on. Yesterday I hiked 19 miles,” Grey Beard replied.
“Nineteen miles! That’s impressive! We only hiked 13 miles yesterday,” Jay laughed.
Grey Beard grinned and said, “You probably had more fun, though. I’m putting in long hours with this deadline looming.”
As we chatted, it began to rain. Grey Beard looked at the sky, then looked at his watch. “The weather forecast said the rain would come about now. I started hiking at 5:00 a.m., thinking I might finish before the rain. Did you see my van as you crossed that last road? I’ll be staying at a friend’s house tonight.”
I couldn’t help but be the tiniest bit envious. As we dug out rain gear, Grey Beard was headed to a warm van and a dry night at a friend’s house. We, on the other hand, hiked through off-and-on drizzle for another four miles to a campsite near Rattlesnake Spring. We ate dinner and set up the tent during a lull in the rain, brushed our teeth as the rain began again, then dove into our portable shelter. It’s evenings like this that have made me LOVE our dry tent! I reveled in the luxury of snuggling into a warm sleeping bag free of moisture, then falling asleep to a lullaby of pattering rain drops. Envy of Grey Beard’s dry night disappeared.
We probably won’t see Grey Beard again, since he is trying to finish by October 26. He won’t get any zero days, and he’ll do big miles. We’ll be slower, but hopefully healthier as we meander through Pennsylvania. We can live with getting out-hiked by an 82 year old!
Note: Grey Beard did finish his hike on October 26 at Harpers Ferry, WV, thus setting the age record for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike. You can read more about him on his website: http://www.greybeardadventurer.com/
Hi! After two decades in Nevada, we now live in Seattle. Sarah is a retired elementary school teacher, and Jay is a retired fish biologist. We are in our 50's, and have been married for 30+ years.
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