Encounter

When I drove down to Alabama I made a stop to take some pictures on Roan Mountain Tennessee. At the foot of the trail that ascended the peak from where this photo was taken from, I met a family resting having just hiked that section of the Appalachian trail. There was a tall middle aged bearded man, very thin, almost gaunt with what looked to be years of experience already lining his face. With him was a young boy, maybe eight years old looking quiet tired and solemn. His wife was somewhat more rounded out with long brown hair. All were dressed in well worn trail clothing with several layers as it was quiet chilly that day. I stopped to speak with him. He had quite a story to tell.

He is a former Marine who served as an explosive ordinance technician. He shared that during a training evolution he had to jump off a bridge to avoid the concussion of an ill timed explosion and injured his back. He was told he would never walk again, but his spirit undaunted, he began a long road back that was now seeing him walking the AT. However, his spinal column is damaged and leaking fluid which he said will claim his life within the next few years. When he shared the news with his family, they asked what he wanted to do, and he said he would like to hike the entire AT before he died. His family joined him. He had completed the hike shortly before I saw him. They were redoing the TN/NC section as it was his favorite section.

There are those people you meet and forget. And then there are those you will remember forever.