A name that makes babies coo, and criminals run for the hills. A man of amazing strength, intelligence and persuasion. The only man who could take down Chuck Norris. The man with all the answers.
And I was going to meet him.
"He's 65, wears hearing aids, hails from Boston originally, did his time in the military, and now devotes his life to taking care of the Appalachian Trail and the people who hike it. Bob Peoples, owner of the Kincora Hikers Hostel in Hampton, Tennessee, is one person that every thru-hiker should shake hands with."
--"Bob Peoples: Trail Magician," from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine
We had been hearing about Bob since Maine. Declarations to him were on the shelter walls and every northbounder had their story to tell about how Bob Peoples changed their life. Needless to say I was very nervous to meet this man. I had no idea what to expect, but I'm pretty sure I thought he looked like a cross between the Grizzly Adams and the Hulk.
Curse and I hiked into Kincora after a leisurely 10-mile day--we weren't about to miss Bob Peoples, even if it meant loosing some time. The hostel was splendid, warm, complete with washer, dryer, shower, kitchen, living room and a pet raccoon. We pampered and stayed awake long past hiker's midnight to catch Bob who was on his way back from an ALDHA conference out of state.
When Bob finally arrived I was star struck. Everyone took their turns introducing themselves, and then Bob came around to me.
In one breath I quickly said: "Hello, my name is HappyDipper. I'm so little to meet you." Fortunately Bob's hearing aid needed new batteries. He smiled, patted the top of my hand lovingly, and probably didn't hear a word I said. But everyone else did!
Bob talked the next hour away with tales of his recent thru hike of the Camino trail in Spain. I could listen to that man talk for hours. He's so inherently good and persuasive, that I'd do anything Bob asked me to. Many hikers take a few days off from hiking and head out with him to maintain the trail--dirty, hard work, but most of all, rewarding. You get the chance to see the work that goes into building and maintaining a stretch of trail. Impressive to say the least. At the end, Bob lets each hiker paint a white blaze. And you might think that its silly, but the idea of painting my own very white blaze makes so happy I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. How can I refuse?
And so, every year after Trail Days in Damascus, Bob leads a trail maintenance marathon called "Hardcore." He takes 50 current thru hikers and 50 alumni hikers out for 2 days. I'm going to try my darnedest to be a part of it next year. One of our jobs will be to switchback the south-side of Roan Mountain. Do you know how high that mountain is? And that just one of the jobs. I can't wait!
In closing I would like to I deny any claim that I have a crush on Bob. Although, he did live up to all the hype.