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Angela Rhodes

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Literary Fiction

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Each spring thousands of outdoor-enthusiasts converge in Georgia with one common goal: to traverse the 2,170 mile Appalachian Trail all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Less than 20% ever reach this destination. Told through the eyes of four unique characters, Beyond Katahdin offers a rare glimpse into the magic of the journey.

All her life, HAL was the prisoner of overprotective parents. Now she hopes to lose herself on the Appalachian Trail, but first she must face a dark past. Overcoming a serious illness, Just John is hiking to prove that he’s alive, and it’s going to stay that way. As they journey toward Maine, HAL teaches him that being alive is a state of mind—and the darkness that surrounds her is shattered by John’s light.


July 4th
New York/Connecticut Border
Miles: 1436.0

She was waiting for him at the New York-Connecticut border, which was marked curiously by a set of Siamese-twin trees (joined at the roots).

The thinner, less assuming twin proudly sported the token white blaze that matched those they’d been following since Springer Mountain, Georgia. The thicker, stronger twin—no doubt a bully when it came to sunshine and nutrients from the soil—displayed two signs.

The top sign enthusiastically greeted them with, “Welcome to the CT Section of the Appalachian Trail.” The bottom sign sobered them up by stating, “Camping Permitted Only at Designated Sites.”

And there, sitting at the base of the trees where they reluctantly began to lean apart from one another, was HAL.

“Welcome to New England, Johnny,” she said with a smile, standing when she saw him approach. “You know—I never thought you’d make it this far.”

“Hello, HAL,” was John’s response.

Seeing her this time around made him nervous. He wanted to give himself a moment or two to evaluate her mood. Hot or cold? From her greeting, it was difficult to say.

They hadn’t parted on the best of terms in New York. The separation had seemed unwarranted, and it had taken him by surprise.

You know what, Johnny? she had told him after overhearing the phone call he’d made to his mother. You suck.

After that day, John half-believed he’d seen the last of HAL. He imagined her getting off the trail in the next town and hitchhiking north to Vermont—using her feminine wiles to get rides from overweight truck-drivers with greasy hair and names like “Buster.” Or perhaps she’d go the easy route and just call good old Dr. Brenneman to tell him how sorry she was about leaving Vermont in the first place. He could imagine it, alright, but he only half-believed it. The other half of him believed—hoped—she’d keep on walking all the way to Maine.

Now here she was, standing in the early morning sunshine and smiling at him as though he didn’t suck at all. As though walking off and leaving him at the Bear Mountain Zoo in a state of confused disarray was perfectly fine, and he should forgive her immediately just because she was HAL.

What arrogance.

How did a girl that seemed so broken ever become so full of herself?

Wasn’t there any man out there—not one—who had said “no” to her? Not even once?

And now she expected them to pick up where they left off without so much as a word being said to clear the air?

As if a smile was all it took.

God, was it good to see her.

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