Easter on the trail
This Easter marked an important milestone for Jerry Parker, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who completed the 2,160-mile trail before it was cool.
March 27 was the 25th anniversary of Parker’s Easter Sunday tradition of mornings on the trail, an annual event that he organizes with the help of about a dozen other people, feeding more than 100 thru-hikers a hefty breakfast. Parker, 65, did the trail in 1979, when lass than 200 people reached the 2,000-mile mark — much fewer than the nearly 900 who did so in 2013.
“You would not believe the impact you make on people’s lives,” said Parker, who lives in Cullowhee. “I have more stories than you probably have time to listen to about why people come back.”
Parker recalls feeding a husband and wife about seven or eight years ago. A few years later, the woman reappeared at the tent on Easter.
“She started crying,” Parker said. “She was scattering her husband’s ashes. He had passed away from cancer.”
Many years, the feedees become the feeders, with Parker vouching for the fact that people have returned from as far as Alabama, Louisiana and Kentucky to take part in the Easter tradition. Typically, the crew will set up camp Saturday evening at Deep Gap, in the Standing Indian area of the A.T. near Franklin, and wake up Sunday to start cooking.
“Write your order and don’t be shy!” read the instructions on the paper menu handed out to passing thru-hikers. Choices include multiple choices of bread, drinks, omelets with a plethora of topping choices, and sandwiches for takeout.
They call themselves the omelet angels.
Over the years, Parker has taken hundreds and hundreds of photos, just as he did during his 1979 thru-hike with the 1975 Canon EF that still works 40 years later.
“Most of the images are imprinted in my mind to this day,” Parker said. “The trail becomes forever part of one’s fiber, soul and being. Perhaps that is why I do it year after year.”
— By Holly Kays, staff writer