As COVID-19 found a foothold across the US, plenty of young adults "expressed indignation at failing to convince their parents to stop running to the grocery store for milk, or to abandon vacation plans, a strange inversion of roles that has left many of us boomer-reared sons and daughters vexed and anxious," writes Leslie Pariseau in the New York Times. Pariseau had a bigger challenge: attempting to get her 66-year-old father to abandon his dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, already in progress. He had set out Feb. 10, before COVID-19 even had a name. Over the following weeks, as the spreading coronavirus became a pandemic, he continued his trek from Georgia's Springer Mountain. To tackle the 2,193 miles north to Maine was an adventure three years in the making. And he didn't want to call it quits.
"Despite my increasingly frantic phone calls, despite my offer to drive 11 hours to drop off his car so he could safely get home, even despite the Appalachian Trail Conservancy issuing a plea for all hikers to leave the trail, he continued on," Pariseau writes. It was very much in character for the retired engineer, who'd hitchhiked from Ohio to California as a teenager before enlisting in the Army. And because he was so isolated, the "seismic shift" the world was experiencing "never registered" with him. Yet the "the sense of security lent by an empty stretch of ridge or a stand of ancient, moss-covered oaks is a false one," Pariseau writes, noting that an injured hiker was rescued recently by six EMTs, who were badly needed elsewhere. Read her full column, which ends with a phone call from her father announcing his safe return home. (Read more opinion stories.)