Healing In Nature


Remembering Joey

There was one hiker I kept overlapping with while on the trail; his name was Joey, and his trail name was Kanga. I remember walking up to Elk Wallow Wayside, and he was sitting at a picnic table, smiling at me, holding a thumbs up. I saw this person multiple times during my journey, at hostels, waysides, and different shelters along the AT. As we all sat on the side of John Mosby Highway, Joey asked if I would want to come with him and his friend, Jane. When his friend arrived, he asked if he could bring a friend and she graciously invited me to join. "Take care of my friends," the other woman, sitting to the left, called out. Joey and I then drove to Jane's house, where she provided us with a hot shower and a delicious dinner of stuffed peppers. We signed the guest book Jane welcomed AT hikers to sign when visiting her home. There was a movie playing, but we talked with each other instead. Jane's brother had thru hiked the AT years ago, but had recently passed away from cancer. She spoke about how she wanted to aid people while they backpacked the trail. Older individuals, and solo female hikers, she felt called to help, and she told Joey once he reached 1,000 miles to call her and she would pick him up. It was then that Joey told me his reasoning behind wanting to hike the AT, which was a question I often asked other hikers to connect on a deeper level. Joey told me how when his dad talked about hiking the AT for years, he collected all the gear along the way to do so. However, he was diagnosed with stage four cancer and died in July, 2022. Joey told me he was hiking the AT in memory of his father and his last request to spread his ashes on Springer Mountain, which was the beginning of the AT. Joey took his father's ashes with him, leaving behind a piece of his father in each state he hiked. I felt moved by Joey's story and asked if I could include him in the autoethnography I was writing for my graduate program and he thankfully permitted me to do so.

Joey had been documenting his time on the AT and sharing videos through the social media platform Tik Tok. The first video, pinned at the top of his profile, answers the question he often receives, "Why are you doing this?" My father talked about doing this for years, and collected a lot of gear along the way for an attempt, but he got sick, diagnosed with stage four cancer. He passed away this past July. In a couple weeks before he passed, we were sitting on the front porch, and he looks over at me, and said hey Joey I want y'all to put my ashes on Springer Mountain, the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. So, all his gear, and his last request, put me at the start of the Appalachian Trail. So, I might as well walk it. This one's for you Pop. - Joey Harvey

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