Augie Buchheit travels light. In fact, he carries everything he needs to survive in his 22-pound backpack. As a “ridgerunner” employed by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, he is in charge of hiking 112 miles of trail through Shenandoah National Park from May to September. While the park’s traditional rangers serve as law enforcement or nature “interpreters,” Augie actually lives in the backcountry woods for week-long stretches. He sleeps in a one-man tent, cooks dinner on the world’s tiniest camp stove and has a nodding acquaintance with the black bears he regularly passes as he hikes his rocky, winding path.
Dressed in a green PATC uniform, Augie, 45, treks 10-plus miles each day and greets each hiker he encounters. He provides lessons on backwoods bear-proofing. He consults with Scout leaders. He teases those who watch too many survival shows and pack for every emergency. Including snowstorms. In July. But mostly, Augie is charged with tending to the Appalachian Trail “thru-hikers,” those roughly 1,700 hardy souls who set out to hike the 2,180-mile length of the AT from Georgia to Maine each year.
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