It may take a while to post all of the pictures here but I will get them posted asap.
“Trail Angels” are the "unsung heroes" of different trails such as the Appalachian Trail , the Pacific Crest Trail, and others by helping hikers with food, water, rides, laundry, showers, and much more. During the dark times, when hikers waver between continuing on and giving up, the support, encouragement, and "magic" provided by a trail angel can make all the difference. Often anonymous, trail angels help thru-hikers for no other reason than, in the words of one angel, "the satisfaction of helping another human being . . . making their journey better and in the process becoming woven into that journey." Frequently, trail angels find spots where hikers are liable to run into trouble and then, like magic, solve the problem—for instance, by providing water in the desert. In this way they seem like guardian angels, appearing just when they are needed most.
So here it is, at long-last…a list of the amazing folks who lent me a hand and made this journey possible. I really hope that I do not leave anyone out. You have taught me so much about kindness and hospitality, and the success of my completion of the Original Blue Ridge Parkway walk is yours to share! Thank You with all of my heart.
Dave “Soujourner” Barlow
It all started only 3.5 miles from the start of my walk down the “Original Blue Ridge Parkway” – near McCormick Gap in Shenandoah National Park. I saw a vehicle pull out of an overlook and it looked as if the driver was going to head South, but instead the driver hesitated and turned North. Pulling over to the side of the road beside me the window was already rolled down. “Good Day Sir” How are you doing? The driver asked. He asked if I was doing “The Trail” and I replied with the first of thousands of explanations over the next 42 days that I was not, but instead was walking the “Original Blue Ridge Parkway”. Asking if I needed anything at all and finding out that I did not, the cheerful driver gave me a business card and added that if I did need anything to give him a call. His card had printed in Big Gold Letters across the top – “TRAIL ANGEL”.
Bill Gallagher of Rockfish Gap, Virginia had set in motion at least for me, the first of many, many, such encounters and random acts of kindness during my next 42 days on the Original Blue Ridge Parkway.
I would like to list the “Trail Angels“for my walk in the order that they presented themselves to me. I dearly hope that I do not leave anyone off of the list. If I do, please let me know so that I can rectify that error. Again, Thank You All!!!!
My First and foremost “Trail Angel” is My Wife Debbie, who when I first mentioned to her that I wished to undertake this endeavor not only agreed, but told me that she would do all she could to make it happen for me. She not only assisted, but put up with the month of packing and repacking, food drop planning, and more, and visited with me on the journey and actually claimed me at the end of the walk.
My son Brent for being there for me during the expedition in Boone, NC, Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, and again at the end in Cherokee, NC to claim me.
My daughter Katie at Craggy Gardens Picnic Area.
My son Glenn and his family for being there at Craggy Garden Picnic area and at the end in Cherokee, NC to claim me.
Derek Miller, My Trail Email Update Author and my resupplier in Roanoake, Fancy Gap, and Boone, and Reunion- met me at the end of the walk. Also helped me purchase a Tent in Roanoke.
Bill Gallagher of Rockfish Gap mentioned above.
3 unnamed Guys from Waynesboro who offered me a Coke in an overlook early in the trip.
Jeremy Sears, Park Ranger that I met at Love Gap. Followed my movements on the N. end of the Pky. and “had my back”.
Chet White- Photographer for the News Advance of Lynchburg, Va. finds me right after the Bluff Mtn. tunnel - the only tunnel in Va. He provided me with Bananas and Ice water after pictures.
Calvin Rice, the manager of the Otter Creek Restaurant. Held my resupply food and offered large helpings at Otter Creek restaurant.
Blair Edwards – Captain, Big Island Fire Department – Offered shower at the FD along with a tour.
Chris Dumond, reporter for the News Advance of Lynchburg, Va. Met me with Chet at S. side of James River and spent the night in one of the worst campsites and hiked with me half way up Apple Orchard Mountain.
Rod and Sue Dyers form Batavia, Ohio. Encountered me @ Petite Gap on my way up Apple Orchard Mountain. Ice cold Coke and Ice water. AT Folks.
Wild Raspberries all through the MP 74, 75, area. A gift from real Angels.
AT Trail worker with “Chicken Little Syndrome”, warns me of the impending Tropical storm Hannah. He was correct… I wrote in my Journal a couple of days later… what I call my Tempest Quote:
“High speed, horizontal, water control exercise in futility, while dodging flying acorns and dead limbs and trying to keep dry in the process.” No Fear – My God had it all in control.
Dan and Linda Brown took my pack at the Fallingwater Cascades parking area and let me hike “slackpack” the three miles to the Peaks of Otter Lodge. They also procured three copies of the News Advance newspaper from Lynchburg, Va. Dan is a former Superintendent of the BRP and Linda is the Chair of the Employee and Alumni Association.
Dena Amos - A white SUV pulls up and stops and the driver asks if I was the guy in the Sunday Paper? When I explained that I was, she gave me a Bible. She had driven up all the way from Bedford, Va. Just to give me the bible for my trip.
Harvey’s Knob overlook in morning – low on water and rain moving toward me in the distance. Cyclists gave me ice water and brownies. Awesome!!!
Maintenance Crew – Mr. Overstreet and his Giant Sweet Potatoes at the SPEC Mine Trail overlook. Just talking with him reassured me that the true spirit of working the land “is not a lost art”.
Walking in rain – peaceful and warm. Got to MP 100 Deer antler – Gift.
Vinton Ranger Station Maintenance Crew provided Shelter from rain, Candy Bars, fresh water, great conversation. Met with Roy Jones, Peter Givens, C. Overstreet.
Called a couple of friends from AO 2007 today and found out that with their new teaching jobs, there is a connection between the supervising teacher and my Mom. Apparently they went to Mexico together to distribute Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. Really made my day.
Met Eddie Blankenship at the Roanoke River Gorge overlook. He shared with me his favorite Bible Verse. Proverbs 3, 5-6 and “The Serenity Prayer”.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference.Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things rightif I surrender to His Will;That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with HimForever in the next.Amen.--Reinhold Niebuhr
Kyle Underwood Age - 81 walking along the Parkway @ Mason’s Knob. Chatted about the parkway’s history and changes.
Derek Miller – Roanoke Resupply.
Water Worries next day. Cahas Knob MP 139 Local Cyclist and then VMI Cross Country Team – Susan is their Coach. The team topped my bottles off. God and his Trail Angels are good- very good.
Devils Backbone. Fire down below and later chimes from the Abbey. Called Pastor Bev and mention my craving for Grape juice.
Smart view area met Dwayne and Carol Thompson while searching for a campsite beside the Scion Abbey. Offered side yard for me to camp in. Also cold water at well beside rodeo circle. Dwayne checked on me the next day around noon. He also offered his parents yard to stay in @ MP 155. Harmon and Adalee Williams.
Harmon and Adalee Williams were 6 years old when the Parkway was being built. Adalee has concerns for me about bears. They are just about the same age as my parents.
Tuggle’s Gap Restaurant Rocky Knob Blueberry Pie and Mtn. Dew with Leanne Womack singing “I Hope You Will Dance” on the radio.
Pete Schula District Ranger - Rocky Knob. Shower at the Maintenance Area. Great conversation and encouragement. The BRP and the NPS are definitely receiving my Trail Emails.
Roger and Linda Smith, Campground Hosts - Campsite at Rocky Knob Campground. Campsite.
Barbara West, Rocky Knob Visitors Center Eastern National Parks and Monuments Seasonal. She showed me a book that I did not know about. "Visual Character of the Blue Ridge Parkway". Apparently it is an internal document. I will check when I get to Headquarters.
That evening shortly after passing through the Meadows of Dan area, I came to MP 180 and a truck stopped and Rees Woody hops out a tells me that it looks like rain and that he figures I will need a place to stay tonight. He lives a quarter mile down the road and has a horse farm on Mayberry Creek. He has a picnic shelter with two tables, rocking chairs, marble topped end tables and ceiling fans. The horses are friendly and there is a grape arbor and a well with fresh, cold water. His daughter is a VP with IBM and that is how they came to have what they do. “If no one is using it then it is going to waste.” Ask and ye shall receive! I had my grapes and grape juice that I had been craving.
Eldon Painter - Pumpkin Farmer – Cabbage too. He offered cabbage for me to take with me.
Stewart Childress - Pastor Bluemont Presbyterian Church also Mayberry Presbyterian Church. Allowed me to stay in the Church Picnic Shelter adjacent to the BRP. Great time talking about the walk and my walk with the Lord.
Phillip Hale - “Worlds Best Schwanns Man” - Gift of ice cream to Preacher Childress and myself in exchange for the story about my walk.
Dick Hinton - Photographer Drives a TJ Jeep at Puckett cabin, Fancy Gap, and several more times. Checking in on me and gave me apples and candy bars at Fancy Gap crossing.
Ricky and Judy Smith and Wanda Winesett and kids. Fancy Gap Country Store. Tomato, Apples, Chow Chow, Pepsi.
Harvey Ward - Galax, Va. Stayed in yard. Dad was a sawyer for the CCC. Passed away at 96 in 2007. Brought me 2 bottles of ice water before turning in for the night.
Whit and Gelene Sizemore, Whit picked me up on BRP after morning start. He sold some of his land to the Parkway to keep it from becoming developed. Showed me Horse Knob where the Baptist Air Care helicopter Crashed several years ago, where he grew up, the town center, and his Fiddle Workshop. Took me home to meet his wife and have Breakfast. He is a Fiddle Maker and Player, Played for Randy Kendrick at the Knoxville World’s Fair.
Carl Deaton- father of Jenny and Spencer Brown - Hiking the ATsouthbound. They became good friends with Tim “Footnote” Pegram. “The Happy Couple”'
Kristin Johnson (The Bride) from Huntersville, NC Wedding pictures at millpond.
Air Bellows Gap – I looked out and saw Grandfather Mountain ~50 mi. away. I also saw Table Rock and Hawksbill – What a Cathedral!
Ralph and Frank Levering - brothers. Ralph is a Davidson College Professor. Frank is a well known author and has a TV show – Simple Living TV.net on WUNCTV.
Timber Rattler on Road. He and I were both totally calm and relaxed. No Fear. This is his home.
Grapes at the Mt. Jefferson Overlook. The Grapes smell so good when walking past them. Turkeys led me to them at the side of the road. Ate a whole hat full.
Amanda Watson At Benge Gap. Park Vista Motel and Restaurant. I smelled the kitchen as I walked down toward the gap. Bill Watson's Country Store. Meal and place to camp was provided. We traded stories. Amazing Hospitality! Also offered meal in the morning as well. Mt. Jefferson Overlook is where Amanda Watson got engaged. Wedding is scheduled for 2009.
Samaritan’s Purse Day. Valerie Davis came out to meet me along with the photographer. Photo shoot, Lunch and Interview. Brief tour of Operations of OCC with Rachael Fugate. Met Randy Riddle – Director of Domestic Operations. Offered to provide me with Hotel room. Took me to meet Lisa Hash at ASU. Invited me back for next mornings Devotions so I could be introduced to all of Samaritan’s Purse at their morning devotions. I met Joey Turner of Samaritan’s Purse and OCC the star of many OCC Youth Videos. Sam McGinn - Senior Ministry Representative gave me the tour of the whole campus @ Samaritan’s Purse. Rachael took me to Cone Manor House to spend the day – Intense Rain.
Ladies at Cone Manor House let me camp out in the Kitchen. Raining like mad. I caught up on my journal and did the Charlotte Observer Interview with Joe Marusek.
David Dutton drove up in the rain from Mooresville to see me in the driving rain. He gave me a small air horn to assist me with protection on the rest of my trip. He also let me use his cell phone and he interviewed with Joe Marusek as well.
Derek Miller, Lisa Hash joined me and we went out to dinner in Boone. Still raining. Stayed another night with Lisa. 4am Geoff Swanstrom jumps on me while I am sleeping. He shows up in some of the darndest places. We have a reunion that lasts until Sat. afternoon. Debbie and Brent join us. Geoff and Derek leave, Lisa goes to Cookout. My family does the resupply and then take me to dinner before returning home.
Lisa Hash takes me to church and then sets me back out on the Parkway.
I open package from FUMC Landis and I have Grape Juice and Brownies as well as written good wishes from my Church Family. Whoo Hooo!!
When Lisa left, I was able to quickly get back on track and was approaching my home area on the Parkway (Sub District). I had a chance to tell my story at least 20 times today to youth and adults as well as cyclists that needed to know about the detour around Craggy Gardens. I knew what was around each corner. As I made my way around Grandfather Mountain and on toward Grandmother Mountain, it became dark. I was pushing to reach the road to Wilson Creek and planned on camping off the side of it. God had other plans. He showed me where to camp. It was a Beautiful site. The next day it was almost 6 miles before I found the road I had planned to camp off of. I would never have made that the night before.
Called Gerry and Trappy Cook from Flat Rock Trail. They weren’t home and couldn’t believe the message I left. Gerry said he played it at least 20 times.
Christa and Sam Poore, also, Janine Hughes of Christa’s Country Store. Like Family to me. They let me know that Grandfather Mountain had been sold to the State of NC that morning by the Morton Estate.
A Couple from Linville Falls area gave me a Caffeine Free coke after they had driven home on their motorcycle and then got into their truck and found me again on the parkway.
Kirk Gordon from Ontario, Canada on BMW Motorcycle. Ifirst met him at Linville Falls Campground. Again at Chestoa View Overlook the next day. Peanuts and Bananas.
Gerry Cook came out to meet me at Bear Den. Took me home and got to meet Trappy, Lucille, Kim, and her daughter Abbey. Snacks and Sandwich as well as Soda, and fresh water. Lucille remembered me exceptionally well despite her Alzheimer’s. He put me back out on the Parkway later that evening.
Bill and Judy Carson - Altapass Orchard. Place to stay, Apples, Tour. I got to meet Richard Broadwell and others folks from the Land Conservation Trust of NC. Got to learn more history than I ever knew about the Overmountain Victory Trail and what they are trying to do to preserve the Parkway and history. “Saving The Good Stuff”. I will be back and I would like to hike from the Altapass Hotel site all the way down through the Loops of the Railroad and through the tunnels.
Jay Shields, Pisgah District Ranger, Mike and Bea Hensley, Museum of NC Minerals Staff. I am really home. Mike mentioned lots of bear evidence near the old Victor place and told me to be careful. Bea is the same age as Harley Jolley my Supervisor on the Parkway when I started.
Lots of wind and very cool as I head towards Crabtree Meadows. Lots of Bear evidence from Gooch Gap all the way to camp. At 3 Knobs Overlook my hiking poles were blowing violently sideways. Cold front has moved in and the wind is from the N-NW. Fall was definitely in the air and I was in for a cold night. The days are beginning to be noticeably shorter. Fall is coming to the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge, The Black Mountains, and the Craggies.
Met Herman Zephaniah Young and his wife at Licklog Ridge Overlook. One of the Best views on the Parkway. Herman is 6 generations removed from Thomas Young of the Mt. Mitchell and Young’s Knob area. 9 Generations back in the Micaville area were the 1st Methodists in this area. Thomas was a circuit rider with a number of churches.
“NEVER TRY TO OUTGUESS THE LORD”. This is the 2nd night I tried to predict where my campsite would be. This was the Black Mountain Gap Bear Night. A motorist warned me that 2 very large Black Bears were hanging out at the turnoff to Mt. Mitchell and had been there for several hours. I backtracked about a half mile and made a campsite off of the Parkway and about 30 feet below the road grade. I was less than a mile from the bears.
The next morning while passing the turnoff to Mount Mitchell there are no cars and much evidence of the Bears from the night before. The sound of silence from the vehicles is deafening. This 15 mile stretch of the BRP is closed and is all mine to enjoy. The only sounds are rustling of leaves, an occasional insect buzzing by, woodpeckers, dripping water from rocks in the road cuts, the crunching of leaves, twigs, and P’corns (Rebecka – my Granddaughter’s name for acorns). The Sun is warm – the shade is cool. The views are stunning.
A little past MP 363 I realized I could see Mt. Pisgah and The Smokies. I can almost see the end of the BRP from here. Very Emotional.
Family Reunion and Feast at Craggy Gardens Picnic area. Wonderful meal with the whole family. Gave girls Chestnuts and showed them how to find them. Also gave them a tour of where I spent the night last night.
Andrew Johnson student at UNCA and a former student of mine and Alaskan Odyssey participant in 2005. Stayed with him for 2 nights on campus while waiting for Headquarters to open on Monday am. Took me to Skyland UMC for Sunday Service.
Kaci Campbell – Former student at Mooresville High School and currently at UNCA took me to Headquarters and met with Harley Jolley and Parkway Superintendant Phil Francis. She returned me to the Parkway to resume my walk after Headquarters visit.
Harley Jolley and Phil Francis. Just great to visit with them at Headquarters. First time I had been in the new facility. Harley walked in and greeted everyone as if he owned the place. He does! He is one of the original CCC boys that built the BRP and he has worked with the Parkway for over 50 years. He turned 88 this year as did Bea Hensley. Remember, I dedicated part of this walk to him and to the CCC Boys. Phil Francis receives us as if we are heroes. Kaci Campbell is amazed. She later tells me that “Harley is “Precious” and that she was very humbled to watch history being made.” She thanked me for including her in my walk in such a personal way.
HQ Staff, Jayme Miller, Pansy Clark, Steve Stinnett – Chief Protection Ranger and others… All made me very welcome. I was given a copy of the book “Visual Character of the Blue Ridge Parkway”. Kaci will keep it for me for now – It is too large to pack.
Raptors – “Because they Can”. Soaring, Gliding, Hanging, Tilted, Veering, Hovering as the thermal lifts, holds. Feathers like hooks on the ends of their wings cling and hold as the mighty birds wheel in the azure blue, thin mountain air. “Because they Can” Glorious Day!! Silence is loud. Not many cars. The click of Grasshoppers on the heated roadway, High Cirrus Clouds are signaling a weather change. Sundogs in the afternoon. The rustle of leaves – the beginning color change. “The Fall of Summer”. Seasons changing on the Parkway. My walk is nearing its end.
Leaving the Mill’s River area. Looking back to the Asheville Airport watching a jet take off, it circles overhead and as the turbines whine, the sound disturbs a Pack of Coyotes just off of the Parkway. The chorus of yelps and howling that ensues can be heard for several miles. Only on foot is one treated to such pleasures of the Parkway.
All other travel is missing the mark. Bicycles, Motorcycles, Cars, Buses, Trucks, are all “Time Machines”. John Muir was right. “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”
Monarch Migration. Saw a few in the Cherry Gap area.
Graveyard Fields was on Fire with color.
School Group from Florida 8-9th grade. Shared my Journey with them.
David Lowery and Sonny Bates told me about the “Goat Man” at Overlook before Richland Balsam.
Richland Balsam Cyclist took my pictures and shared my story with his crew. They each shouted “You Go Dave” to me as they sped downhill from Richland Balsam – the highest point on the BRP. This cyclist also shared with me the news that there had been a rock fall in Yosemite National Park that hit Camp Curry the day before. Small World – only three more days left.
Marcia Bowers, Balsam District Ranger met near Ranger Station at Balsam Gap. She had been receiving my Trail Emails and offered to let me inside to look at Soco House the next day while she was on patrol. It has been 34 years since I had last seen it and stayed there when going through NPS Orientation.
Group of Motorcyclists at Apple Orchard Overlook asked me about my story and my walk. They made comments such as “What A Legacy”, “More of a Man than I Am” I really thought it intriguing.
While Climbing Mt. Edith Cavel – MAMA aeromedical helicopter flies through the Gap four different times. This reminds me of Bald Mtn. area earlier in the trip when Jeremy Sears had to medivac a motorcycle crash victim with the Virginia State Police helicopter. How things have changed from the 70's when I was a Park Ranger.
Jim and Cindy Barrett in the Red Mazda Convertible at next to the last overlook before Water Rock Knob. Gave me Beef Jerky and circled up with me and offered Prayer for safe Travels and the Lord’s Blessings to Share the Story when finished.
Unknown Couple at the last overlook before Water Rock Knob. Gave me some Vitamin Water – Orange Energy. We also spoke about how we were supposed to be at that overlook at that exact moment in time and not on top. The light was awesome with slanted rays and more. Incredible Pictures.
Marcia Bowers picked me up at Hornbuckle Valley Overlook. Takes me to Soco House for a tour. Then asks if I would ride with her to Cherokee before she brings me back on patrol. In Cherokee she treats me to breakfast. Shares with me her family history in this area. Jenkins Ridge Overlook. Harley mentions her family some in his book.
“Leaves, swirling, flying, making little tornadoes, crackling, crunching, there is a coolness to the air, golden, red, brown, green. These are the colors of Fall. This is a quite different season than when I began six weeks ago. It is quite a different Parkway than when I began. Older, wiser, more heavily travelled, many, many, more motorcycles, bicycles, cars. Less financial support and more demand and use. People are Loving the Parkway to Death. But in a different way. Not hikers, not historians, just people wanting to get away from their hectic, frenetic, noisy, hasty, harried lives to escape easily to the tonic of wilderness. Thoreau was sooo right. However, the people want it easy, fast, right now. So many times I’ve found during this time that drivers are so involved in their narcissism that they would rather almost hit me – a pedestrian than possibly scrape another vehicle or Slow Down or Brake and Stop if necessary. There are Racers, Buzz cars, Grannies and Buicks, SUV’s that will never see anything more extremes than this, Campers, Great White Waste (Motorhomes), Fishermen, Bicycles, Motorcycles of all types and numbers. There are all different types and in Roanoke there are the Commuters. All enjoy the Parkway. Who cannot? Harley Jolley was right: “Why wouldn’t Everyone want to enjoy the Parkway?” Where Else Would You Rather Be?”
Big Witch Gap – A Memorial to Joe Kolodoski. Killed in the Line of Duty June 21, 1998. We will always remember. Rest in Peace Brother!
Things to remember and Things I will Miss:
LGM’s - The Mile Markers - "Little Gray Men"
My morning shadow
Turkey’s calling but unseen
Katydids, salamanders, tree frogs, crickets, Owls, night sounds
Wind in the Trees
Quiet Weekdays – The road is Mine
The play of light
Clouds skittering across the sky
The sound of Trekking Poles working the Parkway
My Little Buddy - "My Shadow"
The Heel Pressure of the downhill stretches
“Feet Dancing” in the Sleeping Bag at night after the boots and socks come off.
Falling Acorns (P-Corns)
Telling My Story
Moonlight on the Tent
The Woofing of Deer
Lack of Hub Bub – Busyness
Bird Songs – Night Hawk Calls
The Simple Life. No Cares. This is what I do.
Sounds of Bear Dogs trailing Bears
Looking at the little things of God’s Creation and really enjoying them because I have time to. Because I Can.
Changing of the seasons and the change of the light as the days grow shorter.
Walking with the Lord in his Cathedral - But he is right here and he was with me on this Journey. We had quite a time together. I can't wait to get back.
Remember, It is His Kingdom, His Power, His Glory! And when we join him in Heaven – I can Only Imagine!!!!