By Rue McKenrick
I know realizing our 40’s can be like swallowing sawdust. I didn’t really care one way or the other. Not because I am “too cool for school” but rather because the spiritual path I have chosen requires an attempt at being here, now when possible. Oowww (sardonic). Anyway, I didn’t make any plans but The APT Community had a Zoom Birthday Party for me. I took a minute to soak in the gratitude of this tender gift. I have done every Holiday and Birthday alone over the last 2 years. Not because of the pandemic but something much more isolating. Solo Backpacking.
I don’t get star struck. I have met maybe three Celebrities. I even hung out with one in his home a couple times. I never felt like they were any different from anyone else. To me that is another Person, nothing more nothing less. Why? I do not know. I have tried to get star struck and it doesn’t work. I am not above it. I guess it’s because my mind separates their accomplishments from their beautiful Inner Being. I lied by omission or concealed my accomplishments for years so no one would act weird around me on trail. I hated the attention and would rather avert my hiking resume every chance I got. I didn’t want another Human Being or Celebrity feeling like we were not equal ground, one way or the other. None better or worse. Higher or lower.
I don’t want to be seperate from You or You, Me.
I do recall one time 20 years ago when I attended an appearance by a Man I felt was a personal Hero of mine. He had a long white beard and his arms raised in the air as he shared his adventures and poems. I thought he was a Ghost that would utter one last word and spin into a rising vapor, leaving the audience wondering how he had disappeared. He was what I would call a Man with a Crazy Heart and I loved him for it. I had read his book Ten Million Steps and felt like he had spoken into my heart more than any other Backpacker. It was Nimblewill Nomad.
The phone rang and I did not know the incoming number. Yes, I answer calls even if I don’t know who is calling. If it’s a Person telemarketing I thank them, which I admit is a bit disingenuous, and I hang up. I answered, “Rue McKenrick.” On the other end was the southern drawl of a poet and the voice of a past generation. “Rue, this Nimblewill Nomad.” A moment or two must have passed when I comprehended what was happening.
I said his name back to him, Nimblewill Nomad?”
We spoke for a spell and he said, “Oh, Greybeard just walked in.” Greybeard was the oldest known person to have thru-hiked The Appalachian Trail. Now, for a second I seriously thought I was tripping. The room got real small and then real big all of a sudden. Okay now this was just getting downright strange.
Nimblewill Nomad and I have stayed in touch and become Friends. Honestly, I felt like he was a good Friend even before we were Friends. That’s the effect a good writer and poet can have on you. Like you have known them for years through their work. Nimblewill told me they were announcing he was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail for yet a third time this year. This would make him the oldest Person to ever have thru-hiked the Trail. I felt very honored to be privy to this exciting pending announcement.
Our first conversation came to an end. We continue to message and talk from time to time. If I have a question about life I will ask Nomad. If I have a question about backpacking I will ask Nomad. Because for both of us Backpacking and Life are the same thing. Before we ended the call I said to Mr. Nimblewill Sir, what do I call you? He said, “Well my Friends call me Sunny.”
Nimblewill Nomad finished this Autumn and is now The oldest Person to have thru-hiked The Appalachian Trail. You amaze us. On behalf of The whole APT Community, we thank you Nimblewill Nomad for showing us what is possible!