I have a little fm radio that I sometimes listen to while I’m hiking. One of the nice things about the radio is that I get some updates about the news and weather, though I’m usually paying more attention to the woods and the trail than the background noise from the radio. Today, however, the news got my full attention, “A trip along the Appalachian Trail turned tragic on Wednesday when a Delaware man hiking with his brother died after plunging 35 feet.”
I stopped in my tracks. I’d hiked through that section of the trail (race brook falls) on Tuesday, less than 24 hours before the tragedy. I was overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions.
I know a couple of sets of brothers hiking the AT that are about a day behind me. I tried to remember if any of them were from Delaware… I wasn’t sure. I’ve heard rumor that the brothers were on a backpacking trip, but weren’t thru-hikers. Regardless, chances are pretty good that I met/saw them on Tuesday since I hiked 20 miles that day, pretty much centered around Race Brook Falls. I may have even met them while I was hiking with my brother.
Day hikers, section hikers, and other thru-hikers all have at least one thing in common: a love of the trail and of the woods. This binds us all together and makes us like a family, whether we just share a smile, a conversation, a meal, a view, or a day in one of the shelters watching the rain. The day hikers and section hikers fade into and out of my days, often anonymously, but their words and smiles stay with me and help me through the hardest miles.
I may never know if I met and talked to the brothers from Delaware, but tonight I mourn the loss of a fellow hiker.