August 10, 2014

A story from my return to the Appalachian Trail in 2000 to finish my hike
after losing my son to suicide nine months before. It was my way of telling Stevie, everything will be okay, we forgive you my darling son.

I had just entered Vermont and was less than two miles from highway 9, which would take me the five miles into Bennington. I chose a small overgrown meadow just off the trail to pitch my tarp. I was using a very thin, light weight tarp for shelter instead of the much heavier tent. I had sacrificed comfort for a lighter load on my back. About 10:00 pm I awoke from a dream in which I was being charged by a bull moose! It had been so real like I could still hear his hooves hitting the ground! Then it dawned on me, “Holy shit, I’m awake and I still hear the sounds of hooves, and they’re getting louder!” It became obvious that a large bull moose was charging toward me and would over run my tarp! I just knew I was about to die! I could hear him snorting and panting as he charged by within a few feet of my tarp. I never did see him. I wasn’t about to look death in the face. I heard him galloping off into the woods. I was told later by some locals that it was mating season and I was probably in “Bullwinkle’s” (trail name) territory and he was challenging a possible threat. I had not been in the woods that long.

After “Bullwinkle,” I was awakened again at about 11:30 pm; this time it was a storm. One of the fiercest lightning storms I ever witnessed, even in Florida. The night was lit up as if I were under flood lights. I could actually see the lightening coming up from the ground. Or so it appeared. The rain was in torrents. The only thing keeping me safe was the fact my tarp was pitched in vegetation much higher than it was. I had smashed out a place to pitch it and so was protected from the wind, somewhat. The lightening was constant and never let up all through the night. And so I prayed. “Dear Lord, could you please let at least one bolt of lightning kill that #@^*in’ moose!”