Of Men and Mountains

Thanks for an illuminating

article about Percival Baxter and Myron Avery (“Of Men and Mountains,” Summer 2017). I too am a graduate of Bowdoin College, and had the pleasure of visiting Maine’s greatest mountain in the ’60s and ’70s. Bowdoin’s Outing Club had the responsibility of maintaining a section of the A.T. back in those days. The highlight of our year was always an October trip up to Baxter State Park, just before things closed down for the winter. Until reading this article, I had no idea that Avery was also a Bowdoin graduate. And I was not aware that Governor Baxter lived until 1969. One year later, I was living in a large “frat house” on the Bowdoin campus. Years later, I learned that it had been built by the Baxter family. Bowdoin subsequently renamed it Baxter House, and it still stands today. The Baxters were very philanthropic. Without Governor Baxter’s land donation, the A.T. would have ended much farther south.

Eric Weis Wayne

New Jersey
Practical Magic

I am feeling conflicted after

reading “Practical Magic” (Summer 2017).You see for the last 22 years I have been doing Trail magic for thru-hikers. I had no idea that it was frowned upon. For the first 19 years I was set up in a parking lot in a nearly waterless section of New York (the Elk Pen in Harriman State Park). I gave away soda, water, candy bars, stove fuel, fruit, and a few other goodies. Over the years, I also brought chairs and since I worked for an outdoor retailer I managed to bring donated hiker food — I was also able to give away a free pair of socks to each [hiker] that came by. And in recent years, I have recharged many a phone. Even though I left no garbage, took garbage from the [hikers], and often picked up the garbage from the area I was parked, I did concentrate a few hikers in one area. I thought the only trace I left was the happy faces of the hikers I helped. I only started doing it because, on a long section hike, I received so much help, water, beer, pizza and more that I decided to give back. So I am sorry I have apparently contributed to the degradation of the A.T. experience.

Roger “Tentman” Williamson

West Milford, New Jersey
ATC’s Response:

Your thoughtful generosity to hikers is remarkable. It is the cumulative effect of ever-larger, more elaborate, and frequent hiker feeds and aid stations — which sometimes include alcohol, drugs, or a particular agenda — that begins to be problematic. In Georgia, during the peak of thru-hiker season, there is a hiker feed or aid station at nearly every road crossing. Other large, “Trail magic” events in the south attract hundreds and have been likened to “mini-Woodstocks.” We are still working to find the right balance between encouraging the culture of kindness and generosity that is the hallmark of Trail magic, while encouraging self-reliance and preserving the kind of experience the A.T. is designed to provide. For our latest guidance on Trail magic, visit: appalachiantrail.org/trailmagic.

When I decided to come off the

Trail and seek shelter from hurricane Irma, a remarkable “Trail angel” took me in. Actually, the story behind my good fortune goes back 24 years. In 1993, we hosted a pool party for some church friends of ours in Memphis. I was standing at one end of the pool grilling burgers and hot dogs when all of a sudden my wife shouted my name as only a spouse can who wants an immediate response. I turned to see what was up and there, at the bottom of our pool, was one of our guests, a two-year old! Without hesitation, I dove in and scooped him up before placing him on the side of the pool where others took care of him. He survived. Unbeknownst to me, that little guy grew up to love adventure, and in 2013 successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Also, it turns out his parents moved from Memphis to a spot about an hour west of the A.T. and were the Trail angels who gave me shelter from the storm. Call it karma, serendipity, divine intervention, or just good luck, I am in awe of how magnificent life is, especially out here on the Trail.

Keith Wingad

Omaha, Nebraska

CORRECTION: The byline to the Trail Story “When Sunday Smiled” in the Summer 2017 issue of A.T. Journeys was attributed incorrectly. The author was Andrew Davidson — we apologize for this mistake.

A.T. Journeys welcomes your comments.
The editors are committed to providing balanced and objective perspectives. Not all letters received may be published. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

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Letters to the Editor
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
P.O. Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425-0807

I do most of my hiking in the fall. Less humidity + less insects = happier Ken

What an amazing labor of love the Appalachian Trail is! Think of all the years of planning & physical labor that have gone into creating it. And the constant upkeep, much of which is done by wonderful volunteers! Happy Birthday to our American Treasure…OUR Appalachian Trail. – Linda Harney

The moment you embrace the rain, everything is perfect and almost more peaceful than without it.

I hiked on the Trail and I couldn’t agree more that it is an educational experience and something that makes memories the rest of your life. – Walter A Eshleman

Myron Avery was a determined force. So thankful for his efforts.

The best time of day…from day break till about 9 a.m. The world is alive in that light.