Baltimore Jack Tarlin Hits the End of His Trail
- Hiker Stories
- Baltimore Jack Tarlin Hits the End of His Trail
Baltimore Jack Tarlin ~~ Photo by Robert Sutherland
Baltimore Jack Tarlin -- the man, the Appalachian Trail legend -- reached the end of his trail on May 4, 2016.
He was the King of Hiker Trash. On the single occasion that our paths crossed at Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Springs, NC, he appeared to me to be a worthy ambassador for life on the Trail.
He thru-hiked the AT nine times, after failing in his initial attempt.
As with most legends, I have no idea where Baltimore Jack was born or when. Friends say Jack loved The New York Times, bourbon, hiking, and helping hikers. He was kind to me and wisely humble.
One trustworthy source says Baltimore Jack passed away at Angel Medical Center at 6 AM, May 4, 2016, in the Appalachian Trail Town of Franklin, North Carolina. Fitting.
The best way to learn more is by listening to two episodes of The Pox and Puss Podcast featuring The Legend ... in his own words.
Then miss him or mourn him, along with the entire subculture that is the Appalachian Trail.
Episode #16, Part 1 - Baltimore Jack Consumes An Entire Chicken
Jack sits down to speak with us in the historic Mountain Crossings outfitter at Neels Gap along the Appalachian Trail. Jack tells us about his life on the Trail since his first attempt at a Thru-Hike in 1995...and his 9 completed thru-hikes since then.
Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Community, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Hikers, appalachian trail hikers, and baltimore jack tarlin appalachian trail
About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
PaterTemporalis on May 9, 2016
So, there are two stories we can tell about the life of Baltimore Jack. If I want to make a moral choice about how I remember him, I am DAMN SURE going to think first of what story Jack would have WANTED us to tell.
I won't question for a moment the stories that Sharon G Miller tells us about this "Adam Tarlin" person. That person was CERTAINLY not Baltimore Jack's preferred identity. Anyone, like me, who knew the Trail Tarlin, knew that he had demons, that he was a raging alcoholic, that he was escaping some life in consensus reality. We knew it; we didn't need anyone to tell us the details or act like we are shitty people for celebrating the identity that Baltimore Jack built over DECADES of hard work, of selfless care for those in need, and countless thousands of miles hiked and services rendered.
If you wish to try to turn this man whom we loved, faults and all, into an object lesson about how people should feel shame about alcoholism, or poverty, or even mental illness, then you certainly have the right of free speech to indicate that that is your position. But I am also entitled to ask you a question:
How fucking DARE you?
Here is a man who was very much trapped in a miserable life in consensus reality: a job he hated, a head full of demons, and a serious alcohol problem. The magic of the trail, which you obviously have not experienced, is that it is a place of acceptance, a place for people to find a community that loves and allows and supports, and most importantly, a place of self-re-invention. And the person that your "Adam Tarlin" built, out of whole cloth, based on a Boston Red Sox hat and a Bruce Springsteen song? That person was a triumph, a glorious, bombastic, fiery phoenix born from the ashes of a life too strait, too constricted, to hold the greatness of his soul.
And lady, I KNEW Baltimore Jack. I washed dishes with him. I drank beer with him. He saved my life, in an act of magnanimity, and I watched him save and serve and help others with every ounce of his being. The identity he built as Baltimore Jack was a beautiful thing, and if we wish to honor his actual wishes, why don't we look at the life he CHOSE to live, not the one that was deterministically thrust upon him by his birth and circumstances?
Maybe you think you're speaking for the people in the tiny world of town, of consensus, who wished he had merely stayed "Adam Tarlin", and had "sought help" for his alcoholism, mended fences with friends and family, and lived a longer and healthier life. In a house. With a job. And responsibilities. And in what you people call "sanity". If that's what you want to preach, then go to the people from town, and they'll commiserate with you. Preach to your own choir.
But don't you dare come to this Appalachian Trail community of thousands of people who DO idolize Jack as a Trail Divinity with that moralizing garbage, because he represents one of the grandest and most sacred mysteries of our beloved trail: that even the worst person can join our loving community and receive a sacred Trail Name, and make themselves anew, to re-create themselves in their own image. This is the heart of magic, and the Appalachian Trail is one of the last sanctuaries in the world for this kind of alchemy. The rejected stone, the troubled, homeless drunk that the world of consensus would mock and throw away, and hold up as some object of shame can literally take a new name and become a veritable King of Kindness, a paragon of radical freedom, and the cornerstone of what we all aspire to become as Appalachian Trail Hikers. I was in AWE of the identity that your "Adam Tarlin" chose to build around the name Baltimore Jack, and I choose to remember him as he WISHED to be remembered: as Baltimore Jack, the whisky-fueled, caring, bombastic, pain in the ass, with the head full of encyclopedic knowledge of the trail, kept ONLY so he could help others, who made himself into a famous name that shall not be forgotten for a long, long time. I've already forgotten whatever dumb name he had in your little world. For me, and for my trail community, there is and shall only ever be the one, the only BALTIMORE JACK.
Here's to him and the identity he chose to create!