When I went home to Bloomsburg, PA with 6 of my trail friends I had unknowingly disappointed a thru-hiker behind us. Sisyphus, and his dog Icarus had started hiking the trail on June 17th (11 days after I started) and since Hanover, VT had been hiking alone. After two weeks of hiking solitude, Sisyphus decided to try and catch the hikers ahead of him (our group) and had been steadily gaining on us for the last two weeks, making for 1 month of hiking alone. He was closing in on us as he approached Duncannon.
We left the trail from Duncannon, PA (location of the Doyle Hotel - great place, highly recommended) and Sisyphus came in a day later. He approached the owners of the Doyle, Pat and Vickey Kelly, and asked about us. They told him that the whole group had come back to my house. Disappointed I'm sure, he told the Kellys to let us know he had passed through. He then left a note for us in one of the next shelters, challenging us to the half gallon challenge--half a gallon of ice cream, in half an hour at the halfway point of the AT.
I was excited, ask the guys--they'll tell you. I was once caught saying, "I'm so excited to meet SYPHILIS!" to which Curse replied, "..and his dog the Clap?" Oops. However, when we made it toPine Grove Furnace General Store, the location of the half gallon challenge, we were greeted with a "closed" sign.
But more importantly, Sisyphus and his beautiful dog Icarus were there waiting.
Our meeting was brief, maybe an hour. As quickly as we had met, we parted ways. We weren't planning to hike as far as he was that day and so he passed us and went on ahead. Hey, "hike your own hike." He is a fast man. I've never seen a thru-hiker go his speed consistently before or since.
Not to let a challenge pass, we arranged to have our own half gallon challenge at a grocery store over the border into Maryland a few days later. Sisyphus was going to slow up and join us there, but had a difficult time getting a hitch from town back to the store. We didn't get to meet up. A side trip into Frederick, MD with Yeti (see the post about my spider bite), left Sisyphus and Icarus consistently ahead of us on the trail. Now as we went south, we'd read his entries and try to catch him. He'd always sign, "Frantic like Sisyphus, Desperate like Icarus."
It was from these entries that we learned some painful news. Near Catawba, VA, while trying to cross Rt 311 on a bad curve, Icarus was hit and killed. A few days later when Curse, Todd and I were trying to cross the same road , we were nearly hit. The driver swerved, probably swore, and continued.
Though shook up (to say the least), Sisyphus continued hiking and carried Icarus' ashes to Springer and left them at the top. When we made it to Springer, we gave Sisyphus a call and came to stay at his house in Atlanta. At this point we had only known him for an hour--that one hour at Pine Grove Furnace State Park--but we were welcome, just the same. He, his family and his girlfriend Crissy were awesome hosts. We spent a few days in their company and explored Atlanta the best we could. In addition to taking in us stray hikers, Sisyphus had taken in two stray dogs since he left the trail. It seemed fitting.