Meet Michael. He’s an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker from PA. We found him walking along Hwy 64, west of Franklin, on his way to Winding Stair Gap. He had another 7 to 8 miles to go – uphill – before he even reached the trailhead.
Having some time on our hands – we were scouting locations to take prom photos of our kids – my wife and I turned around and offered Michael a ride.
Turns out he missed the earlier shuttle because he had gone to the local podiatrist to have his blisters looked after. He was relieved to get a ride.
Michael said he was hiking the AT because he lost a bet with his brother. Apparently they’re a betting bunch and the stakes are generally pretty high. All of their bets are blind wagers, meaning you don’t know what you’ll have to pay until the bet is lost and you pull it out of the wager box.
The last time Michael won a bet, his brother had to learn to speak Chinese. It took him two years to become fluent enough to pay off his debt. As Michael explained, there’s a betting moratorium during the time it takes to complete the payoff, giving everyone a chance to breathe a little easier.
Michael’s brother thru-hiked the AT about 20 years ago. He was balancing on a rock on top of Mt Katahdin when the rock shifted, exposing a 1939 nickel. He’s kept it ever since.
When Michael lost his last bet to his brother, he reached into the blind wager box and pulled out his wager; he had to replace the 1939 nickel to its original resting place on top of Mt. Katahdin.
So began Michael’s thru-hike.
People hike the AT for a multitude of reasons. This has got to be the most unique reason I’ve ever heard.
We dropped Michael off at the northbound trailhead at Winding Stair Gap and said goodbye. We watched him disappear into the woods.
I walked back to our car, humming, “My name is Michael. I’ve got a nickle. I’ve got a nickel, shiny and…old.”
Happy trails, Michael!
Why did you thru-hike the AT? Let us know in the comments below.
See ya’ on the trail,