this really long Washington Post piece about this con-man/thru-hiker
who stole a bunch of stuff along the Appalachian Trail and generally exploited
the innate decency and goodness of everybody he came upon. Enjoyed a few
quotes revealing that the reporter made at least an attempt to understand
what it’s like on the trail.
Today, most of the 3 to 4 million people who use the AT
annually aren’t planning an escape from reality. They are dog walkers,
day hikers or Boy Scouts who want to hike a small stretch — like the
sections of the AT that run through outer Loudoun, Fauquier and Frederick
counties — and then return to the Starbucks-and-Wal-Mart world they left.
Then there are the “thru-hikers.” Every year, 1,500 to 2,000 people get
on the trail intending to walk it all at one go. Some years, more than
20 percent actually make it. During their five- to seven-month journeys,
thru-hikers typically subsist on 4,000 calories a day of gorp, Powerbars
and pasta. They drink filtered water they pump out of natural springs.
They walk 14 miles or more a day and become so conscious of the weight
in their 30-pound packs that they will cut the handle off a toothbrush
to save a few ounces. They also, after hiking day upon showerless day,
develop a smell that would turn heads in a sewage plant. When a thru-hiker
comes by on the trail, the heads of passing day hikers jerk like Frenchmen
in a Pepe Le Pew cartoon.
I have to wonder about the stench… I met a Pacific Crest thru-hiker
in Yosemite and didn’t notice any untoward odors. Of course I might’ve
been upwind of him.
The story goes on in excruciating detail about the petty crimes this
guy perpetrated. The first guy he hoaxed was a God-fearing Christian who
tried to bring him to Jesus. Well, the guy may well have found religion,
but he also found it caused already-trusting people to be even more trusting
when they heard his conversion tale, told over and over. Read the whole
thing if you’ve got the time. Seems like an awful lot of space devoted
to a petty burglar/scammer, but it’s a fascinating read for hiker types.