AT Thru-Hike #56 – Blair Witch IV – The Abduction of Fob

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children or grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”     – Billy Graham

“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”     – Wicked Witch of the West

Day 94

Alicia filled me up with a delicious breakfast and then she and Darrell transported me back to Harpers Ferry to get back on the trail. I thanked them again for their generous hospitality and then headed northward. I entered Maryland, my 6th state, by crossing the Potomac River on the Byron Memorial Footbridge. Next up was the C&O Canal Towpath, a perfectly flat, 3.2 mile stretch that runs between the railroad and the Potomac River. During this stretch, I added one deer and fifty or so turtles to my wildlife total.

Great Friends!
Great Friends!
Bring on Maryland!
Bring on Maryland!

At mile 1029.4 I hiked past the Ed Garvey Shelter where, just last year, a dead tree fell on a 36-year-old hiker named Jason Parish, killing him. Jason was just about to leave the shelter at the end of a 3-day camping trip with two friends when strong winds brought the tree down on him. Like me, he was born in Dover, Delaware and had a love for the AT. It was another reminder that you just never know when your time is up, so make the most of the time God has given you.

John Brown Was Here
John Brown Was Here, Harpers Ferry

While the AT in Maryland has a reputation for being a tad boring, I actually found it pretty interesting. It has some terrific parks, campgrounds, and Civil War history. Today’s highlight was a visit to beautiful Gathland State Park, which sits on the former estate of war correspondent George Alfred Townsend. Townsend, who wrote under the name Gath during the Civil War, had the impressive War Correspondents Monument constructed in 1896. Still standing, it was the first monument in the world dedicated to journalists killed in combat.

Townsend's Mausoleum
Townsend’s Mausoleum

While the War Correspondents Monument is a fitting memorial and quite grand, I found my lesson for today at the nearby remnants of Townsend’s mausoleum. The sign outside says:

“During the 19th Century few people bought burial lots in public cemeteries as we do today. Instead, a small parcel of their own land was usually set aside as a private cemetery. If enough money was available, a mausoleum (tomb) was often built for certain family members. Gath, concerned with his own burial, built this lonely tomb about 20 years before his death, which came on April 15, 1914, in New York City. By this time his great wealth had dwindled and a near penniless Gath was buried in a Philadelphia, PA, cemetery instead of his own tomb as he had desired. Gath’s empty tomb mutely symbolizes the uncertainties of life, fame, and fortune and the certainty of death.”

The expensive, empty tomb of a once rich man who died nearly penniless reminded me of Matthew 6:19-21 which reads, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

As I headed for the Gathland State Park exit, I stumbled upon a pavilion with…Trail Magic! A gentleman in a wheelchair from a local veterans group was serving hot dogs, chips, drinks and other assorted goodies. Well done, sir.

Maryland Magic
Maryland Magic

I exited the park and continued my journey along South Mountain, an area rich in American Civil War history. The Battle of South Mountain is considered one of the most decisive events in the war, as it was the key battle in Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s failed first attempt to invade the Union. Had the Confederates won on northern soil, Great Britain and France may have intervened on the South’s behalf, and persuaded a war-weary north to negotiate a peace settlement.

General Garland Memorial
General Garland Memorial

So at Turner’s Gap, Fox’s Gap, and Crampton’s Gap (Gathland State Park), I was hiking on the hallowed ground where approximately 6,100 soldiers were killed, wounded, or went missing in a single day. This reality was brought home as I stood in front of the memorial marking the spot near where Confederate Brigadier General Samuel Garland fell mortally wounded while leading his men. It’s interesting that the military general who valiantly and selflessly led his men in battle ends up with a nice memorial tombstone for all to see. Meanwhile, the fancy tomb set aside by a man to honor himself is now in ruins and empty.

image

After a 17.2 mile day, I ended up camping near the Dahlgren Campground. A female camper about my age approached me and started watching me set up my tent.

Female: “I hope you don’t mind me watching you. I’m fairly new at this and I have a Big Agnes tent also.”

Fob: “No problem at all. I’ve set it up many times and I love it.”

Female: “So, you’re a thru-hiker?”

Fob: “I will be when I summit Katahdin. Right now I’m just an aspiring thru-hiker. You have to earn the title.”

Female: “My trail name is Ru. That’s 1/2 of Thru because I’m trying to hike half of the trail this year. There’s no way I can do the whole thing yet.”

Fob: “I’m Fob. My youngest son poops on trails.”

Ru: “Hmmm.”

Fob: “It’s a long story. So where are you from?”

Ru: “I’m a retired sheriff’s deputy from Riverview, Florida.”

Fob: “No way! My wife and I lived in Fishhawk for seven years, just down the road from you! You’ve probably given me a traffic ticket!”

Ru: “Wow! Small world.”

Fob: “And then you put in the final stake, at an angle, just like this.”

Ru: “I’m impressed. Your Big Agnes is so taut.”

Fob: “I get that a lot.”

As I laid there alone in my tent in the woods, I remembered that I was just west of Burkittsville, Maryland. Why does that matter? Well, it was in the woods near Burkittsville where they filmed parts of the original Blair Witch Project movie. Yes, folks, I was in the Blair Witch Woods! As it got dark, my initial inclination was to make a scary, Blair Witch Project-like video and post it on Facebook, so I did. For some reason the volume wasn’t on, so the video will mainly seem scary to those who read lips. I was a little spooked myself, and went to sleep that night wondering if any witches would bother me in the middle of the night.

That night I had the strangest dream…

Blair, a witch, hovered outside my tent, along with Sarah, her reluctant sister. How did I know she was a witch? Because she looked like one…she had a crooked nose. Sensing my fear and vulnerability, Blair ripped open my (tent) fly and snatched me. I was so scared. She and Sarah took me to their coven next to a Hogwarts looking castle owned by their rich father, Big Daddy Warlock. (These are the kind of dreams you have when there’s too much granola in your diet.).

Blair put me in a cage down the hall, gave me a handful of oats to eat, and left me alone with Sarah. “Watch out for my sister,” Sarah warned. “She’s gone, but she’ll be back, and she’s a man eater. Watch out, Fob, she’ll chew you up!” “Say it isn’t so,” I replied. “I can’t go for that. No can do. I need to get back on the trail.” Just then Blair, clearly out of touch, returned and hit me with a stick. One on one, I was no match for her. I said, “You’re a witch, girl, and you’ve gone too far, ’cause you know it don’t matter anyway.”

Blair left again to prepare her witches stew, which calls for the eye of a newt, a pinch of garlic, and a Fob. It’s a primitive recipe, but she’s never had any adult education. I looked at Sarah and said, “This is my last chance. Can you help me escape?”

{My dream was interrupted by an urgent need to pee in a bottle, so I did. I then returned to my dream.}

Sarah replied, “Helping you is risky. Even though Blair is gone, her private eyes are watching you. They watch your every move.” I said, “Help me escape, and you’ll make my dreams come true.” “But, Fob, I like having you around,” she admitted. “Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you.” “Don’t worry, Sarah,” I said softly. “Your kiss is on my list for the rest of my life.”

With tears in her eyes, Sarah reached out her warty hand and placed it on my shoulder…

Sarah: “If you feel like leaving, you know you can go…”

Fob: “I feel like leaving.”

Sarah: “But why don’t you stay until tomorrow?”

Fob: “Actually, now is fine. I just heard a newt scream.”

Sarah: “And if you wanna be free…”

Fob: “I really do. I hear Blair coming.”

Sarah: “All you have to do is say so.”

Fob: “So.”

Just then, Sarah unlocked my cage and I made a run for it. As I exited the coven towards safety, I looked back over my shoulder at a crying Sarah and said, “It’s you…and me…forever! Sarah, smile…oh won’t you smile awhile for me, Sarah.”

I awoke from my dream in cold sweat. It had been a memorable night in the Blair Witch Woods, but it was time to eat a granola bar, put on some more 80s music, and hike on.

Fob

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2 thoughts on “AT Thru-Hike #56 – Blair Witch IV – The Abduction of Fob”

  1. I think that you must have fallen asleep with your 80’s music playing. That will give anyone nightmares! No matter anyway.

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