01Jun

Lightening the Burden of Thru-Hikers on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian TrailI’m going to share a story about something that happened to me earlier this week.  In my jurisdiction, flea markets are a pretty big deal on Mondays. When a holiday falls on a Monday, the crowd can be five times as large as usual. I had to work on Memorial Day, and part of the job was to stop in and patrol the grounds. On the last time through the grounds that day, I saw one of my off-duty coworkers who frequently sells at these events.  I noticed that he had approximately 100 MRE entrees that he was selling for about a dollar a piece.  I asked how many he had sold, and he told me that he hadn’t had much luck with them. I asked him to talk to me later in the week if he could cut me a deal on them if they didn’t sell.

The next morning, my coworker saw me in the office and told me he had the entrees in the car if I wanted to look at them. Long story short, my sergeant and I pretty much bought all the entrees and sides that he had.  I ended up with 59 pieces of MREs in a large duffel bag in the trunk of my car. I like the idea of having a few entrees in each of my bags in case of an emergency.  Twice during the month of May, I ended up in the woods with an Ar-15 strapped to me for long periods of time.  On one of those occasions I got pretty hungry as well.

After my vehicle was loaded down with MRE entrees, I got a call in the most rural part of our county. The Appalachian Trail runs through this part of the county. The call had the potential to end with a fight and someone going to jail, so my Sgt decided that he would join me. After the call was over, we started discussing hiking the trail, and we decided to go quickly patrol that area where the trail is located.  Sure enough, there beside the roadway were two worn out thru-hikers.

At first they seem concerned that there was an issue with them hanging out by the road, but they quickly warmed up when they realized that we were just wanted to make sure everything was okay (and we wanted to hear their story).  The two hikers were named “Lucky One” and “Alaska”.  Lucky One was called that because while overseas in Iraq, he took a bullet to the side of his face and it exited the other side. “Alaska” got his name because he was originally from Honolulu.   Just kidding, he was a 20 year army retiree from Alaska.  While we spoke to them, they mentioned that they were 40miles from where they needed to by on Friday.  If they walked 10 miles a day, they would be there easily by that time.  Here is the kicker though: Lucky One and Alaska didn’t have enough food to make it to Friday.  When they told us this, My Sgt and I looked at each other and said, “What are the chances?” We went to our cruisers and brought two large duffel bags of MREs for them to look through.

To be honest, in all my years of doing police work in a pretty large county, I have never been to this one spot where the Appalachian Trail crosses through.  I couldn’t believe how this chain of events had occurred. How often do you have a bag of MREs in your car? For crying out loud, the Appalachian trail is well over 2000 miles long and we just happened to cross paths on this particular day when they were in need and we had the means to help them.   Before we left, Alaska gave my trainee a pocket knife, which made his day. Lucky One actually said that when he woke up this morning, he had prayed to God for some food to find its way to them.   When he said that, it reminded me about how vulnerable these people are on the trail. There isn’t a store in the woods to buy food, after all. Most importantly, it reminded me how powerful a simple prayer can be.

Be diligent,

James

Photo courtesy Dodsone via Wikimedia Commons

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