On Friday morning, June 5, 18-year-old Simon Vittitow stepped off the Appalachian Trail where it crosses the top of Chester Gap. His parents’ house is roughly three miles more from that point — a paltry number after 965.6 miles on the trail (as he proudly informed me, his older brother).
His journey began two months ago in Georgia — the start of the AT — and his intention is to finish it in Maine, its northern terminus, which he hopes to reach in August.
Simon’s trail name is “Retro,” a name he was given because of his backpack. It’s a Coleman Peak 1 from the ’80s — it sports a now-rare composite plastic external frame. With a gleam in his eye, Simon told me that he acquired this backpack from the Flatwood Mall (officially known as Flatwood Refuse and Recycling).
A Rappahannock resident for most of his life, Simon chose his rural stomping grounds for his first big break from the trail; he would spend a week before marching on.
“It’s been great to refuel, and catch up with family and friends,” he said.
As a part of his refuel, Simon wasted no time in visiting one of the county’s gems, Central Coffee Roasters of Sperryville.
“Yeah,” Simon replied with a smile, “…after Sunday errands we visited [Central]. I was very generously given a bag of Espresso 101.”
Kenny and Maggie Rogers, Central’s owners, are no strangers to this type of generosity. They regularly donate a large percentage of Central’s coffee bar sales to the Appalachian Trail Club. (The shop, open 10 to 5 Friday-Sunday, also has a certified wildlife habitat on the premises.)
When asked if he would have to guard his coffee from fellow hikers, Simon said, “No … but I’m sure there will be a lot of jealous gazes.”
Of his journey so far, he says he has “benefited a lot already — spiritually, physically and also just figuring out what to do with my life. A general plan is starting to form, and I feel at peace; I think the trail has a lot to do with that. Yeah, there have been some very hard days, but there have also been some serendipitous days that have evened it out. Yeah, it’s been a positive experience so far.”
After some well-deserved R&R, and armed with some dark-roast coffee, Simon embarked for Maine on June 12.
— Dominic Vittitow