Jeff Marr eased his car off onto the shoulder of the road where the Appalachian Trail crossed the highway and twisted around to look at his two young sons in the back seat. “Well guys, we’re here,” he said.
The two boys, Bobby seven and Mickey five, cheered excitedly. They had been looking forward to this camping trip with their father for weeks. The boys lived in North Carolina with their mother and her parents and spent little time with their father, who lived in Texas with his new wife. He was in every sense a stranger to them who they saw only a few weeks out of the year. When he had proposed the camping trip, their mother had been doubtful. She was a city girl, like her parents, who believed that nature was confined to the neat parks and playgrounds of her home town. Their father had been born and raised in east Tennessee where his father had taken him hunting and fishing from the time he was Mickey’s age. Her sons’ eagerness for the adventure had surprised and hurt her a little. She tried not to show it but it felt like a betrayal of all that she stood for—order, security, civilization. She agreed to the excursion reluctantly. For Jeff it was an opportunity to re-connect with his sons and to introduce them to the world of his childhood, to the forests and lakes that he had visited as a boy, enchanted places that he remembered with nostalgia even though it had been many years since he had been back.