Sunday, July 29, 2007

~:TBD Appalachian Trail Journal: 9.19.87 - 9.20.87:~


I sit here in this cozy little cabin, which has a stove, (the first shelter I've come to with a stove). I am warm and full.

A Prairie Home Companion just came on the radio. What could be better?

This is the second night on this trip that I've had the pleasure of listening to PHC. as I sit here I think back to when I heard the show last. It was in Virginia. A lot has happened since then. It seems long ago.

I listened to the show, loving every second of it. It lasted till 8:00 pm. I wanted it to go on all night.

I was so warm. I had that stove crankin'. It must have been 80 degreed in there. It was cold and drizzly outside and inside I slept on top of my sleeping bag.


I made a real short day today, only 7 miles.

I didn't leave the cabin till about 10:30 am.

Tomorrow I'll probably stop after 13.5 miles. There's supposed to be a lodge with good prices.

A lot has happened since I wrote anything in my journal. I'll try and fill in a little bit.

I left Rainbow Springs Campground after spending 8 days there, trying to heal 2 infected heel blisters.

I was a little worried at first about being lonely. The first night I spent alone. It seemed so tough. That was the night I was awakened by a skunk.

The next night it seemed as though I'd be alone again, and then about 8:30 pm (when I was just about asleep) in walked 3 hikers, 2 girls and a guy. It was dark so I couldn't see them that night.

It turned out, from there we hit the same shelters all the way to Wesser, NC. we partied together (along with another girl who caught up to us) that night. Their names were, Nancy Tremblay (Marshmallow), Linda Bennett (Gal Youngan), Lauri Peele (Mountain Laurel Springer Chicken) and John Vincent (Happy Grapefruit).

My pack weighed toooo much so I sent back a bunch of stuff including my journal and my new $309.00 Northface Westwind tent (it weighed 6 lbs.)

All together, I had dropped 10 lbs. "Northbound" I said as we all left together - our next goal, Fontana Dam. We seemed to be somewhat of a team. We didn't always hike together but we'd meet up at the shelters at night.

We made it to Fontana Dam, the foothills of the Smokey Mountains and partied again. This time we crowded, (all five of us) into one small motel room. It was sooooo much fun, and great to get clean again.

Next it was off into the Smokey Mountains. John and Lauri left a day ahead of us, (Nancy, Linda and I). So now I was hiking with 2 girls. It was great fun. They sure kept me moving. It was kind of like tying a carrot to a stick and putting it in front of a horses nose to make him go. It worked and I hiked over 600 miles with these girls.

In the Smokeys, we saw many deer and yes a bear, who ate my breakfast.

After the Smokeys was Damascus, VA. The first town in Virginia.

Since then I had met 6 other people, (thru hikers). I made friends with 5 of them. The first couple were Tom and Lynn (Thing 1 and Thing 2), Russ and Elizabeth (just Russ and Elizabeth) and Emily (Cheshire Cat). And let's not leave out George the Jerk. We spent too much energy trying to keep away from him.

We had great fun in Damascus, VA. Our next stop, Pearisburg, VA. We stayed at a Catholic church youth hostile. My beard was really long by then.

Weeks before I had thought of getting my ear pierced again. this time I had a purpose. it would symbolize my AT experience. I purchased a gold earring in town. That night we had a big ceremony, followed by nancy piercing my ear. we then ate dinner followed by the Passing of the Peace Pipe.

Next big step was Waynesburough, VA. The foothills of the Shenandoah NP. A lot happened in that stretch from Pearisburg to the Shenandoahs. My trail name got changed from Pig Pen to Darling Boy because of a little song my mother used to sing me: "Tommy Dusenberry, he's my darling boy, he's my sugar, he's my sweetie, he's my good sweet darling boy!"

Thing 1 and Thing 2 got off the trail. And I was getting tired of hiking with Nancy and Linda.

We started hiking alone and just meeting up together at night. One day while hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway I missed a water spot. I was out of water and had about 10 miles to go before the next sure water. It was sunday and I decided to get out and hike on the parkway itself and maybe someone would give me some water or something. It worked. I even got some juice and cookies.

The next day I decided to be a non-purist again since I was so well treated the day before. Sure enough, this time a lady stopped and asked me if I wanted to go to D.C. for the weekend. Yesssssssssssssss, I said.

When I got to the shelter that night I told the girls what had happened. They weren't too thrilled that I hiked the parkway instead of the AT. I wasn't too thrilled that they were coming down on me for hiking the Parkway.

So off I went to DC and had a BLAST only now I was at least a week behind Nancy, John, Linda and Lauri.

Off into the Shenandoah's I went ALONE. I wasn't alone for long, I soon met up with sunshine and Daydream, a newlywed couple from Conn.

We hiked together all the way through the Shenandoah's along with Russ and Elizabeth and Emily. It was oooo hot, in the high 90's with the humidity. A 10-miler felt like a 20. I started to consider a flip-flop.

We arrived in Harper's Ferry, noon in late July. Another stifling hot day. Russ and Elizabeth made the decision to quit the trail there. I made the decision to do a flip-flop. I didn't really know why, I just knew it was right.

Luckily Russ and Elizabeth live in Main and offered to drive me there. I accepted.

A week later I found myself at the base of Mt. Katahdin in baxter State Park. It was breathtaking. It almost felt alien. This was truly wilderness and I was totally alone. The wilderness head rush lasted about 2 weeks.

I started to become very lonely.

A week later I got off the trail with the intention of not returning.

I talked to my father on the phone and for the first time ever he spoke up, like he has never done before. It was such a shock that I listened.

He said, "You can't quit now, you must see this through."

I had never seen him this serious.

You know, he was right.
I have to finish.
That's what I came out here for.

A week later I made the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That gave me a good push.

I made it through the wilderness of maine and into the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The Whites were tough but boy, were they beautiful. I began to see NBs (Northbounders). I met up with Low Gear (the guy I started with) and Sunshine and Daydream. We worked together at Misba Hut for our stay. We had great fun seeing each other again.

The Whites of New Hampshire are now over as with the wet soft mountains of Vermont. Massachusetts and Connecticut went by quickly.

The weather is colder now. The day's shorter. All the Northbounders are ahead of me, north. All the Southbounders are ahead of me south. I am truly alone. This is my test. This is what I came out here for. To do it myself. To be totally independent.

I have discovered I am strong. Stronger than most. I am smart. With these two elements, I can do anything. Dealing with the loneliness is difficult, but I am doing it.

"Darling Boy"

Appalachian Trail Journal


Tom B. Dusenberry
2340 Leisure Lane
Atlanta, Georgia 30338


Anonymous said...


Just to let you know we are really enjoying the Journals-- Kinda makes us feel he's still just out hiking somewhere--
Thank you, Uncle Jack

Anne Elser said...

Thanks Uncle Jack. I feel like he's still out there every day - at peace, in the element where he was his most happiest. That's what I think heaven is.


Anonymous said...

We are really enjoying the Journal by Thomas. The pictures are wonderful! I'm making copies so I can reread in the future. Love, Aunt Joan

Anne Elser said...

I am so happy to hear that!
I think he was a good writer, no?

Anonymous said...

He was a good writer and a wonderful person!!!! Aunt Joan

minus five said...

i appreciate you sharing all of this. i'm glad you got to look at his journal. all of my journals will probably help fill in a lot of blanks for my family when i leave, too. the experience of that hike must have been amazing and i admire anyone who could have seen something like that through.

Anne Elser said...

Oh thank you Sarah. It is very satisfying, typing it in again and reliving the experience with him. suicide leaves such a adark stain on a person's life which can obliterate any good memories if you let it. This journal flies in the face of any logic that says it's purely a selfish act. You just can't judge a person's life on one act itself, even if it's a permanent one, ya know? He was much bigger, more grand and more selfless than his manner of death.

minus five said...

sometimes i think it's the people who see and feel the most who commit suicide. i think it becomes too hard and it very literally hurts them to be here. it becomes a physical pain.

i think they see and feel things most people don't. things that most people aren't capable of.

people often don't understand their life anymore than they do their death. you can't just glance at people like your brother, you have to look closer. you have to have your eyes right up to them and look closer still.

they will never be understood completely. i don't think it's humanly possible. they're the kids who were born without as many layers. the ones who feel things from the inside out. and i think those people have seen everything there is to see. they've seen more than anyone else.

i think they feel good and bad to the nth degree. i think if everyone was capable of that degree of feeling, none of us would choose to stay.