“There is within every soul a search for happiness and meaning.”
Thomas Aquinas

July 1 – Day 129
I start to wonder this morning if it is time to call it quits, the van is not running too well and maybe it’s time for a plan B. I have been off the trail and serving for 3 months today and my funds are running low and so are my spirits. This ministry has proven to be very rewarding and I firmly believe the hikers appreciate and even need the service I provide. Early on it was more intense, dealing with injuries, picking up hikers on the verge of hypothermia, etc. These days it’s more of a coke, sandwich and a ride.
I have to remind myself that it’s not about the levels of extremity in my service to the hikers and it certainly isn’t about whether I’m having fun or not. It’s simply about serving through Christ. As my hiking friend Hoosier said when I first started, “You are giving them this cup of water in the name of Jesus.” It really is that simple.

After considering several scenarios throughout the afternoon, I realize it is better to stay near the trail and serve, and honestly that is where my heart is. Abby and Megan will be here on the 25th so I have 3 weeks to spend in this area. I have decided not to travel any further north and stay within the Massachusetts area. It would be cheaper to go home but I do want to serve hikers some more.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
Galatians 5:13

The next thing to decide is what part of the trail I want to serve on. I decide to just drive south and see what I find for starters. I head down into North Adams Massachusetts and as I’m searching for the trail crossing I see two hikers walking down the road. I pull over and ask if they need a ride, they are headed to the Chinese Buffet in town and hop in the van to save a 2 mile walk!

We visit in the restaurant and discuss the basic hiker stuff: when did you start, who have you seen, are you having fun. Their names are Hiccup and Forge and have just stopped in for the buffet, after they have wolfed down several plates of food I take them back to the trail.

I have decided to set up “home base” in a town called West Springfield. It has everything I need to survive in a van for a few weeks and I will purchase a gym membership for a month so I can grab a shower and workout. It also has several locations for me to have Internet access.

I get things set up, do a little shopping and then head over to Walmart to call it a night.

July 2 – Day 130

I head to the gym and get a workout and a shower in then I basically explore the town to see what I have around me. I get out my trail guide and make a plan for finding a spot on the trial and I head west.

I find a little spot outside a very small town and park the van. I see a hiker coming down the trail and I greet him and offer a soda. His name is Long Nose and is a southbounder from Austria. We chat for a little bit and he hits the trail. A little while later another hiker comes through and he is a nobo, I don’t recognize him at first and then he tells me his name, it is Meadow Flapjack who I met at Kincora Hostel outside of Hampton Tennessee. We visit for a while then he gets back on the trail. Next I see Cody Coyote, who I have not seen since just outside of Damascus Virginia, Cody is doing a yo-yo which is means he did a southbound hike and then turned around and started north again. He hangs out for a while drinking sodas and eating chips. The last hiker to come through is Doodle. We talk for awhile and he is a nice young man, I ask him where he will be for the 4th and he says Dalton. I tell him I will se him there and we will have hamburgers and hot dogs.

After Doodle leaves I head back to my new home of West Springfield, grab some dinner and call it a night.

July 3 – Day 131
Not much going on today, I get a workout and a shower in then I decided to make my plans for the 4th. I contact Tom Levardi, a local resident in Dalton who has lived on the trail for over 30 years and regularly serves hikers. He is planning the same thing as me and invites me to join forces with him on the 4th at his house.

With a plan in mind, I finish the day shopping for supplies and reading.

July 4 – Day 132
I head out to Dalton to meet Tom and the hikers that are hanging around for the 4th. I get there just before lunch and most of the hikers are lounging around just taking it easy and enjoying the day. I introduce myself to everyone and help with the preparations.

Fourth of July Spread


 

I meet a lot of new hikers, Calamity, Silver, Little Rock, Wild Blue, Rabbit, Amos, Gfunk, Ocean Spray, B-Rocket, Sklut, Hoops, and Grandpa. We hang around most of the day and eat more hamburgers and hotdogs…Tom brings out hot fudge sundays he has prepared and our Fourth of July celebration is complete as around us neighbors set off their own fireworks.

A Few Hikers Relaxing After Dinner


 

July 5 – Day 133
Some of the hikers want to run to the mall and see a movie. Shepherd has his truck so between him and me we get all of them to the mall. We have with us: Shadow Wolf, Amos, Crazy Legs, Rainbow Braid, Mainaic3, Gonzo (formally Moviestar), Z, and Frost.

After the movie we stop for some resupplies and head back to Tom’s. Frost and I take a walk and have a beer and a good chat. He is still working on his documentary but is ready to appreciate the last few hundred miles of his hike.

Most of the hikers are leaving in the morning so everyone heads to bed.

July 6 – Day 134

I slack pack Shadow Wolf, Crazy Legs and Rocky to Cheshire and while waiting to meet up with them I hang out with Heart Rock, Tracker and Tall Boy they have picked up a dog on the trail and named him Daglebee or Dag for short.

Dag


 

They decide to ride into town and have lunch with me as I wait for the slack packers to get to Cheshire. We have a good burger and the pub owner lets Dag inside and even gives him some dog bones and water.

I get a text from Crazy Legs and head over to the Post Office to give them their packs, they are hungry so decide to ride back to the burger place with me. After saying all of our good byes the 3 boys load up in the van and we head back to Dalton for the night.

I head back to West Springfield so I can make church the next day.

July 7 thru 10 – Days 135 thru 138
Most of the following 5 days are spent in West Springfield. The AC clutch and the fan clutch went out on the van about the same time and I need to get them no fixed. I have to order the AC clutch and just hang around for a day or two until it gets in. When I have the part I drive over to Firestone to have the repairs done, one of the belts breaks on the way over and I barely make it in! Another $500 spent on the van and I’m running out of funds…I remind myself that I’m here doing ministry and God will provide.

July 11 – Day 139
I head back out to Tom’s place to see what the hikers are up to…I meet three new hikers: Johnny Walker and I can’t remember the other two! Johnny tells me there is a hiker in Cheshire who needs a ride back to Dalton to get a root canal done. we head over to pick him up and while talking about God I find out that Johnny used to attend some friends of mine’s ministry in Charlotte called the South Town Riders. These are the guys that got me started in wakeboard ministry many years ago. Just goes to show what a small world it really is!

While driving to the church hostel in Cheshire we pass Firehands, Kat and another hiker. I have not seen them since McAfee Knob area in Virginia, and we give them a lift to the hostel. We catch up on all the latest hiker news, share some hugs and sodas then we pick up Misery and head back to Dalton.

Misery Not Looking So Miserable


 

July 12 – Day 140
Johnny Walker and his friends head out the next morning and I take Misery to the dentist for his root canal. I hang around with Tom for awhile and then another hiker comes walking up his name is Colins, a former Marine, and I give him a ride to the Outfitter at the mall and Misery comes along for the ride…you know what they say…Misery loves company!

We all have lunch together, spend a half hour at the outfitter and then head back to Tom’s place. Colin packs up and heads on out for the trail.

Misery has to be back in Dalton in 2 weeks to finish his root canal so decides to take a bus up to Lincoln New Hampshire and hike south back to Dalton. I plan to give him a ride to the bus station the next morning.

When we get back to Tom’s 4 more hikers have joined the fun: Grey Cloud, Road Runner, Hang Man and Wolfman.

July 13 – Day 141
The 4 new hikers want to go into to town for the breakfast buffet and I drive them in around 8:00am. I run a few errands while they eat, the last thing I need is to pig out at a buffet! We head back to Tom’s and I load Misery up to take him to the bus station as 3 of the 4 hikers wait in a friend to pick them up for a couple of days off the trail in Rhode Island.

After dropping Misery off I hang around Dalton for a few hours until everyone is gone then head back to West Springfield so I can attend church the next day.

July 14 – Day 142
I attend service at Crossroads Community Church for the last time and say good bye to the few guys I met there. I had attended a small group on Wednesday, while waiting for the van part to come in, so I knew a few of the guys.

I have decided to head closer to the Boston area to be ready when the girls arrive and to take the opportunity to scout the area out a little. I will leave the next day after getting in a workout.

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