Reading newspaper articles about a hostel denial, I can see why residents would be concerned. They see shaggy people with long hair smelling like bums. They are not bums -- they are people from all over the world and every state.
The reason they are in that condition is because the've been hiking the Appalachian Trail for months. The trail starts in Georgia and hikers already have hiked some 500 miles before they get to Virginia. It took my wife and me 92 days from Amicola Falls, Ga. - the start of the trail - to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway.
My wife and I hiked most of the trail in 1998. We have hiked many times in the surrounding area and feel safer walking the trail than walking down some streets in surrounding towns.
People hike for different reasons. We hiked two or three months on and off with Earl Shaffer, who was the first person to ever hike the trail. He was hiking it again in '98 for his 50-year reunion hike.
While hiking with him, a violent storm occurred one night as we were resting in a shelter. Shaffer, who has now passed, told us about some of his World War II memories and experiences. Shaffer, who served in communications, talked about being on an island and being bombed by Japan. He talked about how they couldn't get supplies and how they only had a few ounces of food to ration among solders. He also mentioned his longtime friend and how he saw him killed by artillery rounds.
So you see, there are many types of people who hike the trail. There are several churches up north that offer places for hikers to stay and rest while hiking it. My wife and I have hiked trails in England where you were allowed to go behind neighborhoods and rest and cook yourself a meal. These types of trails are called footpaths and often go through other peoples' land and also neighborhoods.
We believe a reconsideration should be heard in regards to the hostel denial.
Herschel and Shirley Blevins, Chester Gap