Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Each week, newspaper makes an obit a feature; latest one is on famed Appalachian Trail hiker

The Valley News, a daily newspaper in the Upper Connecticut River Valley, publishes a weekly feature called "A Life," in which the paper turns an obituary of someone with local ties into a fuller portrait of that person. On Sunday it featured Leonard "Baltimore Jack" Tarlin (Mike Sisemore photo), a renowned hiker who walked the entire Appalachian Trail eight times. Tarlin died May 3 at the age of 57.

Josh Weinreb started the story this way: Mike Sisemore was heading north on the trail 17 years ago "and found himself on a slow-moving stretch up a hill in Virginia. About 100 yards ahead he saw a disheveled form. Another hiker, presumably, but this one was different. His backpack was crooked, with long straps hanging from its sides. His shoes were untied. He wore a bandana on his head. He wore black nylon shorts and a black T-shirt."

"As Sisemore put it, the hiker was 'bouncing' along the trail," Weinreb writes. "And then Sisemore saw him fall, slip on a mud patch and front flip into a bed of rocks. When Sisemore caught up, the hiker was sitting on the ground holding his broken glasses. 'You got any tape?' he asked Sisemore in a grizzled voice. It was, Sisemore knew immediately, Baltimore Jack, a legend along the Appalachian Trail."

Tarlin "was known for his gruff personality, his deep knowledge of history and his uncanny thoughtfulness,' Weinreb writes. "He also had strong roots in Hanover and thru-hiked the trail eight times. He “had no need for the finer things in life,” Sisemore told Weinreb,. “He was absolutely content sleeping in a sleeping bag in the middle of February under a tree in New Hampshire. Nobody could understand that about Jack. He just didn’t need a lot of things in his life. He was mobile. He carried his life in his backpack." (Read more)

The Valley News is based in Lebanon, N.H., just south of the trail's crossing of the river.

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