Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail: Chapter 13

Day 76, Trail Mile 995

We sat in the shade at the edge of a highway-side scenic parking area. A warm breeze rushed out of the valley below, evaporating the sweat on my shirt. Dylan eyed the passengers of a car as it parked and said, “I can always tell, trust me.” He stood up. “Excuse me, fellas,” approaching two strangers, “got any grass?”

A frail man with a curly mop and khaki shorts stopped to face Dylan: “Why? You a cop?” His friend, a stout and furry older man with a gnarled ponytail, hung out in the background, leery of the unsolicited interaction at the edge of Pennsylvania Highway 501.

Ben Hankes and Officer Dylan in Duncannon, PA

“Do I look like a cop?” Dylan grinned at the question. If the tattered pants and sweat-stained pearl-snap shirt hadn’t been enough of a sign, the massive beard and Willie Nelson ponytails surely helped. He’d pass for a railroad hobo before an undercover agent.

“Me and my buddies are thru-hiking the trail, man.”

“No shit!?” the mop-headed stranger replied, scanning Ben and me. “I’ve always wanted to hike the AT.” His face softened, and he glanced back at his partner. He paused as if he wasn’t yet sure of us. “Where’d you start at?” he asked, giving us one last question to test our authenticity.

N. B. Hankes

N. B. Hankes

Founder and best selling author of "Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail."
Humboldt County, California