AN APPALACHIAN TALE (a true story)



©2009 Robert C Burnham.


In dedication of my brother's Thru-Hike from Georgia to Maine March 1999 – July 1999 (2,150 miles) and based on his hiking journalWritten for my daughter, Jen.


Come all children

And you will hear

The Appalachian Tale

And the hike of old Teddy dear

Up the back of Katahdin

And around the bend

This tale of woe

Never seems to end

I thought it so simple

I knew it was right

To hike all of Appalachia

In only eight fortnights

A box of food

Waiting each 100 miles

Just a skip and hop

And plenty of smiles

Leaving Springer Mountain

In the spring of '99

A life-long dream

Now on the line

The Smoky Mountains

My goal for the first week

That is until I discovered

I was really quite weak

You see on my back

I carried it all

Kitchen sink, Coleman cooler

At the trailhead I stood tall

But by the first night

Things began to disappear

It never felt so good

To fling a can of Spam

Deep marks of red

Around my shoulders and neck

Just thirty miles in

I was already a wreck

By the time I made Virginia

And old Rockfish Gap

A full night's sleep

Was more a twenty minute nap

And my hiking partner

No longer to be seen

He went looking for a Denny's

Said he knew one in Texas; Abilene

I should have went with him

But kept to dodging logs

Spent four days in Shenandoah

Treed by a pack of wild dogs

Finally, I have reached halfway

Walking into Harper's Ferry

Looking half past dead

Living on nuts and wild berries

The last few boxes of food

Weren't anywhere to be found

Two have been given to others

The third, mailed to the wrong town

After two days at 'The Ferry'

I almost grabbed a bus

But because I love to swear

I went back into the brush

As I climbed the next hill

This now looked all the same

I met a deranged husband

Who had somehow lost his dame

"I reckon she stopped

While I just kept on walking

Weren't paying much attention

Didn't notice she stopped talking,

Please tell her when you meet her

She's really slow as hell

But I'll wait for her at Harper's

At the Number 6 Motel".

By the time I overtook

The Delaware Water Gap

I bared little resemblance

To my own former chap

Awashed in mud

Eyes bloodshot red

An 80 year old corpse

Would have looked less dead

But still I trudged on

Thinking 'No pain, no gain'

Had plenty time to think

Stuck in six days of rain

By the time I reached Williamstown

Up in Old New York

I was so well saturated

I was feeling like a cork

My pack was in tatters

My bedroll?  Who knew?

A song stuck in my head

About a 'Boy named Sue'

By hook or by crook

I had forgot what I read

I ate a poisonous berry

Putting my bowels to dread

But descending Mt Washington

I could smell my home-state

Surely a Maine homecoming

My bad luck, would dissipate

So I crossed the state-line

Gleefully in haste

But awoke the next morning

A bobcat in my face

He had stolen my last morsel

Even nipped me on the nose

You don't want to know

His final repose

Then, onward through thickets

And picking up thorns

That last 100 miles

I really did scorn

I marched into Baxter

Just one hill remained

Reach the top of Katahdin

And once again be sane

I summitted the top

And there I looked around

My hiking partner had come to meet me

Flying in from Boston town

I could have simply killed him

And buried him there

No judge would convict me

No jury would dare

But letting him live

I planted my sign

"Dear Appalachian Trail

You are now all mine!"

Sometimes late at night

I think of doing it again

Then I slap myself in the forehead

And pick up my bottle of gin.








 Author's Epilogue:  How my brother did a direct thru-hike on a shoestring budget:

Most of his hiking/camping gear was accumulated over the years with only the tent being bought new for the trip.  He was out of work so no employment conflict.  He spent six months packing up 16 boxes each with food and a $20 bill.  He addressed all the boxes to "Ted Burnham, AT Hiker, General Delivery  –  If Not Picked Up by (a certain date, please give to any other AT Hiker".

The boxes were mailed to post offices along the trail.  He mailed the first three boxes himself and then gave the rest to our dad for mailing at the appropriate times.  Of the 16 boxes, my brother collected 12 of them.  My brother weighed aproximately 175 lbs when he set out from the south.  When he finished and arrived at our Aunt Marlene's in Maine, he weighed aproximately 95 lbs.   A sucessful 'diet' but not one that he would readily recommend.






About the Author ()

My trade and I parted ways... I am now a Geography Major at UNC. And I am still a Christian Cowboy Werewolf Writer, Poet & Photographer.

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