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Hikers cross couple's path

April 24, 2001

Hikers cross couple's path



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Dick and Jeannine GaylorPhoto: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

BOONSBORO - Dick and Jeannine Gaylor enjoy it when strangers stalk across their property.

They like it so much that they're asking their uninvited guests to sign in.

The Appalachian Trail cuts through the back yard of the Gaylors' home on the edge of Greenbrier State Park near Boonsboro. To help keep track of the countless hikers who traipse through his yard, Dick Gaylor is installing an outdoor guest register.

"I'm just curious as to where the people are coming from and going to," said Gaylor, 54.

Hundreds of hikers have crossed the trail's footbridge over Interstate 70 and trudged up the dirt path behind the Gaylors' back door since Dick Gaylor bought the land in 1990, he said.

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Walkers have skirted the couple's vegetable garden en route to such nearby trail landmarks as the Washington Monument south of the Gaylor home or Annapolis Rock north of the couple's residence.

Most of the hikers pass with a wave.

A few stop to chat.

Others pause to inquire about distances to trail destinations, make bathroom requests, and ask for water bottle refills.

"I can't even count the number of times we've given water," said Dick Gaylor, a supervisor for Verizon.

He's loaned his flashlight to hikers stuck between stopping points at nightfall.

"I tell you one thing, when it gets dark up here, it gets dark," Jeannine Gaylor said.

The flashlight is always on the couple's deck at daybreak, they said.

The Gaylors have awakened to the surprise sight of tents in their yard, but most campers ask first, they said.

An entire troop of Boy Scouts once camped in the yard. A group of middle school hikers once took shelter from a thunderstorm in the Gaylor's garage. Two Marines stranded on I-70 during a snowstorm climbed an embankment to the trail and knocked on the Gaylors' door for help, they said.

The couple has listened to many hikers' trail tales about critters, and the Gaylors have warned passersby about the big black bear that periodically raids their bird feeders.

The thru-hikers, or people walking the entire 2,160 miles from Georgia to Maine, are rarely fazed by the bear stories. But the daytrippers are, Jeannine Gaylor said.

Her husband has kept the trail clear for hikers by chopping weeds, spraying poison ivy and cutting back the underbrush that sometimes tries to take over.

Gaylor said he was skeptical about buying the property because of the heavy foot traffic on the trail. After neighborhood residents assured him that trail hikers respected the land, Gaylor said, he bought the acre plot dissected by the popular path.

He has never regretted it.

"It's really neat to have," he said. "I think the only time it gets on your nerves is on a Saturday night at 11."

That's when the local kids gather at the footbridge to party and urge passing truckers to blow their air-horns.

The hikers have never been a problem, the Gaylors said.

"You meet the nicest people," Jeannine Gaylor said. "You just don't find people like that everywhere."

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