Lonesome Tom

On my way in to town this morning I saw a man walking up the road with a large pack. “He looks like a thru hiker,” I thought. So I turned around at McDonald’s and stopped in his path on the other side of the Sleep Inn. “Are you going to the trail?” He points up the road and responds “Yes, I go to N. O. C.” He’s not from around here. I pop my trunk and he throws his pack inside. There’s a pile of trash in my floor, oh well, a ride is a ride. He opens the door and gets in my little Jetta. “What’s your name?” I say. “Thomas” he responds.

“Are you a thru hiker?”
“Where are you from?”

I tell him that I thru hiked last year. I’m not trying to brag just trying find a small piece of common ground. “All the way?” “Yes, and it was amazing!” I don’t give many details, they aren’t important. Just that I hiked the trail and this excites him. “Much respect” he says. We have become friends in just a few moments. I’m no longer just a man giving him a ride. I’m a fellow hiker.

As we drive towards NOC I ask him questions about the trail. I can tell he has a hard time understanding. When I get excited I talk fast and that doesn’t help. “There is so much awesomeness ahead! It’s an amazing experience! What’s your trail name?” He understands “trail name” and assumes correctly that I’m asking for his. “Lonesome Tom” he says. “How did you get it?” He’s starting to figure out my speech a little better and I’m trying to slow down. “A girl gave it to me at a hostel.” Tom is about 45,  I guess. He is out here by himself. Hence the name. I dig a little deeper to find out more about him. He’s retired and has nothing but time. He spent the last 25 years of his life as a military officer. That’s pretty fascinating. There are lots of retired military on the trail. We don’t talk much about it but from what I can gather he was required to enlist as a young man.

We arrive at NOC and he’s exceedingly grateful. Perhaps just grateful to get away from the question box prying into his life. No, he’s thankful for the ride and I can tell. “You saved me 4 hours of walking!” he says excited to hit the trail with fresh legs. I’m not particularly blessed with the gift of gab but there is something so rewarding about helping another. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been there. I’ve been the one waiting on the road with my thumb out watching people wave as they drive by. When someone stops to pick you up, you feel like it’s your birthday. I doubt it was his, but that would have made for a cool story. Anyways, I wished “Lonesome Tom” the best. He’ll make it to Katahdin.


  1. Sounds like an interesting experience. Im sure your enthusiasm for the trails helped motivate him to push on. I stayed the night at that Sleep Inn on my trip up there, just about 5 weeks ago. It was my first time in Bryson, not even 10mins into being in town I fell in love. What an amazing city that contains every aspect of an outdoor lovers dreams. Cant wait to get back and do some day hikes and ride on the Tsali and maybe even get my rec kayak in the water for a day float.

    1. Awesome glad you’ve been to Bryson City!!! There is so much to do outside here. You’ll have to come see us at Bryson City Outdoors next time your in town. :)

      1. It was in my plans but I didn’t think the store was open yet, I will definitely be back at some point this summer and that’s #1 on my list to do. Im actually wanting to open a similar business in my city here in North Alabama so I want to see how things are done and priced with rentals and such!

  2. Met him many times on the trail. Great guy. Bought me a Beer at the Fontana Hilton. He loved to drink, maybe a little bit too much. Last I heard he was thrown out of a bar in Front Royal. Sadly that’s the last story I heard about him, I last saw him with my own eyes at Gatlinburg.

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