As the season advances each weekend brings a new crop of “Section Hikers”(people just hiking a portion of the trail) onto the Appalachain Trail. The diversity of the people you run into keeps the experience novel, and mitigates boredom. This past weekend I ran into a party of four young hikers from Malden, Massachusetts. However, two of the party, Grizzly and Bubbles, were much faster hikers than the other two, Blackfoot and Ms. Walden. Later in the day when reaching Seth Warner Shelter, Grizzly and Bubbles were there just before me eating a snack. We passed the time a bit discussing how hard it was going to rain the next day, and how slippery the tree roots get when they are wet. When I proffered that slippery roots slow a person down considerably, Bubbles jumped up and declared he was tired of waiting for Blackfoot and Ms. Walden and was going on ahead. Grizzly jumped up and said I’m going with you. They departed saying “Tell the two behind us we’ve gone on to the next shelter.” I said “OK, I’ll let them know.”
Shortly thereafter while I was cooking my standard supper of instant potatoes, butter, and tuna, I heard Blackfoot and Ms. Walden huffing up to the shelter. When I delivered the message that the other two had gone on ahead it threw Ms. Walden into a rage. She kept approaching the shelter like a dog his dinner. Upon gaining the fire pit a couple yards in front of the shelter she reared up like an angry bear, hiking poles poised like harpoons, and flung both with all her might inside the shelter. Then she shrieked “I’m done! I’m done! I’m so effing done! Why can’t those bastards wait for us a few effing minutes?!” Taken aback by such a tirade of invective and wanting to console her I interjected that “They only just left, and would probably be easy to catch up to.” A stalwart woman, she plainly stated “If I catch that effing Bubbles he’ll never walk again! He never waits for anyone!” While she was inhaling a couple granola bars I asked her if her ‘Ms. Walden’ name derived from Henry David Thoreau’s book ‘Walden’? She said “Yes, how did you know?” I replied “I guessed because Walden Pond where Thoreau wrote the book is in Concord next to Malden where you come from.” Then added “You know one of Thoreau’s greatest conclusions from his social experiment at Walden Pond was “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears the beat of a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.” She said “I’ve heard that before and I think it’s chauvinistic!” Then she retrieved her hiking poles and stormed off with Blackfoot in tow. I never saw any of them again, but I feared for Bubbles.
The following night I shared a shelter with a father son duo from Dartmouth, Mass. The father was 57 and a graduate of Brown University in Computer Science, and the son worked at Brown in the Department of Architecture. I asked the father what he used his degree in Computer Science for and he replied that he worked on sonar systems for Raytheon in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. I said “You must be familiar with the King’s Bay Trident Submarine Base in Georgia.” He said “Yes, I’m going there next week.” Then he started scolding his son for not getting enough water for supper. I thought he might be a bit curious about how I would know about the Trident Submarine Base in Georgia, but he never asked. Perhaps he assumed it’s just common knowledge.
My next spiritual encounter began when I landed at the “Hikers Hostel at the Yellow Deli” in Rutland, Vermont. It is run by a “Twelve Tribes Spiritual Community”. There was a shuttle bus from the trail into town. Never having heard of the Twelve Tribes before I didn’t know what to expect. Steeling myself against what proselytizing ploys the urbanite proprietors might present, I entered the Yellow Deli with a touch of disquiet. As it happened “Aysh” the brother in charge of admitting hikers into the hostel was running errands. So, Latitsia and Lev bade me sit to a bowl of organic Cream of Broccoli soup and hummus salad while I waited. Famished from my constant hiking it went down quickly, and I asked if I might have some bread to round things out. Lev delivered a freshly baked loaf of rye bread with a bowl of whipped butter and a glass of Yerba Maté tea. Everything was incredibly good and satiating. The Yellow Deli looked plain and proper blending seamlessly into the Rutland streetscape from the outside. However, the inside was a genuine treat to behold. Twelve foot ceilings covered with filigree stamped metal tiles painted black provided a backdrop for ornate light fixtures hung variously from hand made wrought iron vines. The tables, chairs, and dining booths were custom constructed from various bits of hardwood left natural with some bark stripped off. Leather work was tacked tastefully to the chairs and booths in the way of upholstery. The whole was entirely unique and most pleasing to the eye.
When Aysh returned he introduced me to the hostel upstairs. I did a wash, showered, and shopped for resupply at the organic grocery store nearby. I kept waiting for the attempt to get me to join up the Twelve Tribes Community to begin, but it never came. I even asked Aysh what their major distinguishing beliefs were and his response was “Give love to God and thy neighbour”. I thought perhaps that might be construed in the way of the “Free Love Movement” of the Hippie 60’s Flower Children. But, apparently nothing could be farther from the case. Marital fidelity and chastity are strictly enforced. I was further convinced by the women’s attire. Plain, natural cotton, loose fitting blouses on top, and a dark brown homespun jodhpur like affair on the bottom. From the waist down the woman universally looked like weathered fish barrels. The men generally look like clones of John Lennon with a braided hempen headband, pony tail, round wire rim glasses, and Sally-Ann attire.
Further inquiry gave me to find that they seem to believe that God has forsaken his chosen people and adopted them. Curiously, once a full blown Twelve Tribe Member you get your own Hebrew name. They believe in Jesus but they call him “Yashua”. Other than that, they are just normal folks.
In a large room of half a dozen bunk beds I could take my pick. Aside from two sheepish, longhair, stray cat sort of fellows I was the only one there.
Next morning breakfast was at 7:00 in the Deli. Scrambled eggs with fried rice, red bell peppers, fresh strawberries, blueberries, and coffee were most appreciated. Although they said I didn’t need to, I gave them 20 dollars. For all the food and fabulous accommodation it was an amazingly good place to spend a night.
Then, back to the bush.
Till next time,