When I was almost back to my car on my hike to the Rich Mountain Fire Tower, I passed a gentleman wearing a “Geisinger Health” tee-shirt. Geisinger is a large health system based in Pennsylvania, so I stopped and asked him where he was from. He said Pennsylvania. I told him I was from Scranton. He told me he was from a town north of Scranton I’d probably never heard of. I told him I just say Scranton as a reference point, but I’m really from a small town north of Scranton most people have never heard of. He still didn’t seem convinced but reticently told me he was from Montrose, PA. I told him I’m from Forest City (another white lie…I’m actually from the neighboring town of Browndale, but Browndale’s an unincorporated community even people from like 10 miles away have never heard of). He responded, “I’ve heard of it but never been there.”
In all fairness, Montrose and Forest City are 30 miles and a 48-minute drive from one another. There’s no reason for someone living in one to ever go to the other (I’ve only been to Montrose because my brother worked there for a couple of years). Still, we were also two men from a Pennsylvania County of 43,000 meeting on the North Carolina Appalachain Trail, so I was expecting some more camaraderie. Maybe that’s on me. He also told me he’d only ever been to Scranton twice, which is wild if he’s telling the truth. He had taken eight months off work to hike from Georgia to Maine and was excited for some of the stops along the way. When I asked what stop he was most excited for, he replied simply, “well, gotta get going. Good luck out there.” His manners were odd at best, but at one point in our very stilted conversation, he said, “I wish I had 25-year old legs like yours,” and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.
I stopped in Marshall to grab some quick lunch and check out Marshall’s used bookstore, The French Broad Exchange, which I’ll have to add to my list of used book stores I like in Western North Carolina. I left with three books I’ll add to the growing “read” pile on my nightstand that I may or may not ever tackle. When I left the bookstore, I noticed a gentleman walking toward me wearing a Lancaster Brewing Company tee-shirt. I used to live across the street from the Lancaster Brewing Company in Lancaster, PA, and have several of their tee shirts in my closet (they, to me, have the gold standard of chocolate-milk stouts, if you’re a chocolate-milk stout fan and happen to ever be in southeastern PA). He’d found the tee shirt in a thrift shop outside of DC a couple of years ago. He lived in Virginia, was visiting, and had never actually been to Pennsylvania.
It’s weird, right, that I run into two people with tee-shirts I have connections to one day, yet neither of them ended up with us having anything in common? However, the Virginia gentleman with the Lancaster Brewing Company tee shirt was a better conversationalist than Geisinger. He not only agreed that it was weird that a guy from Virginia had never been to Pennsylvania but that my encounter with the guy on the trail was odd. He didn’t think it was weird that he was wearing a tee shirt from a brewery I used to live across the street from. He was a big vintage tee-shirt wearer and said he’d had things like this happen now and then.
I left Marshall soon after that. I had plans of taking one of my new books and reading at Marshall’s riverside park, but the wind off the river was pretty nasty. I want to go back, though. The Mad Co. Brew House deserves another visit, and I want to check out the riverside bar at the Old Marshall Jail Hotel (lookswise, I think it’d be a cool place to stay, but I don’t know about the old jail aspect—ghosts, ya know?).