Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

June 5

June 5th, 2016

June 5
Altdorf (Eggeberge) to Wassen 27 km

Although the walk up the river valley today was glorious, it was hard to cast off a melancholic pall. It was difficult to say goodbye to Bennett. After breakfast (his last Swiss buffet of cold meat, cheese and bread) we rode the gondola down together, parting at the street where he turned back north to his train station and I turned south to work my way back to the trail and then on to Wassen. Much to think about–how my youngest son has become an adult and a friend. At the same time, I kept thinking about the relatively sudden death of an old hometown friend, Ricky Wilkins. Ricky was diagnosed with lung cancer which progressed rapidly, and he died yesterday. He was my brother’s age, so he was two years older than I am, but he always was a character in my youth. Growing up in a very conservative, rural community in the middle of the Vietnam war, it was difficult to get a clear understanding of world politics– particularly one that fit what we were learning as true American values. The news did not seem to line up with the ideal. Ricky was a musician but also was someone with a strong political conscience– something that was difficult to formulate and hold in that time in the Shenandoah valley. I remember well the universal condemnation there of Muhammed Ali (then Cassius Clay) when he refused draft induction. It is telling that they died on the same day. I learned from Ricky as a young man what was at stake when you took a view contrary to the political consensus, even if it was clearly the correct one from any moral stance. I left Woodstock Virginia in 1974, pretty much never to return, and so lost track of Ricky and his musical peregrinations which included a long stint in Nashville. We reconnected a few years ago through social media where I found he was still fighting the good fight against social injustice and bigotry, and he was still a musician, bringing people together through a medium that has the real strength to do that. In the summer of 2012, when Bennett and I were hiking the Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail, Ricky and I were in contact trying to see if we could coordinate a time for us to come off the trail to hear him and Amanda perform. It is hard to project times well when you are hiking distance and, by the time we got to Shenandoah county, he was playing elsewhere, so I missed my chance for that reunion. Now it seems I’ve missed it completely. My thoughts are with Amanda and their children today.

T. Hugh Crawford