Clinic Stories


While hiking the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, at one point I continued for about two hours after dark to reach a shelter. Two hikers sat at the picnic table in front of the shelter playing cards by headlamps. When I asked if a side trail was the way to the water they said, yes it was, but I should wait until the morning because there was a bear around and he had stolen one of the hiker's back packs. I crawled into the shelter and went to sleep.

In the morning I met the crew. Sampson, about six and a half feet tall, was a through hiker heading South with over 1800 miles under his pack. Two young women were from Georgia included the one who lost her backpack to the thieving bear. While they were unpacking, the bear ran in, grabbed her pack and took off. She had already removed her food but was now missing her car keys and driver's licenses. People joked that the bear may make off with the car and impersonate her. She wasn't laughing. I helped in the search for the pack but it was never found.

Then there were five hikers from Florida. One talked and talked, always about himself and his superior hiking skills. He turned to a story of meeting a young women being dropped off at a trail head by her very worried mother. He assured the mother that they would watch out for her. A novice hiker, she hiked through the day with his friends and realized that rather than sunshine, idyllic meadows and babbling brooks, hiking involves mud, sweat, bugs and a certain amount of pain. After a fitful first night she decided to turn around and head home. The talker briefly basked in the glory of his outdoor savvy. Then Sampson, with a far away look, spoke up. “That's how I felt on the first day. The only thing that kept me going was that I told everybody back home that I was going to do this and I was too embarrassed to go home.” His honesty and humility silenced the talker, making him look small in more ways than one.

At the end of the year I saw in the trail magazine that Sampson had returned to his home in Ohio after completing his 2183 mile Appalachian Trail hike.

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