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A Man Called Screamer: A True Story From the Appalachian Trail

Deb thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and is a Search & Rescue volunteer and writer living in Flagstaff, AZ.

screamer

Standing 30 feet away or 30 inches, he spoke in the same loud voice.

That's why we called him Screamer. "We" were hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

Each year, millions of people use those 2,174 miles of footpath extending from Georgia to Maine for recreation. They come from all states and countries, ages and backgrounds. Some people walk short distances within a day's time, while others enjoy longer treks of a week or more. On April 1st, 2000, I became one of a growing minority of A.T. hikers who cover the entire distance in a single, continuous journey.

Hiking northbound on that white-blazed footpath, I occasionally spent time in the presence of a young man eventually dubbed Screamer. The sum of those encounters left a lasting impression and, when asked about the trail on which I spent six months of my thirty-second year, I always think of that particular, somewhat mysterious character.

A First Encounter

I first encountered him soon after entering Smoky Mountain National Park. My eyes on the ground ahead of my feet, where I'd become accustomed to looking after more than 170 miles of watching for rocks and roots, I didn't see the disheveled man who sat against a boulder at the side of the trail until I nearly stepped on his outstretched legs. Startled, I glanced at his dark eyes and uttered a quick hello.

Most of his face was concealed by a thick, black beard, and the long hair pressed around his cheeks and forehead by a knit cap. He pulled his legs to his chest, clearing the way for me to pass but didn't respond to my half-hearted greeting.

A second brief look sufficiently sized up the young man's gear. He wore tennis sneakers but no socks, a gray, hooded sweatshirt zipped to his neck, and red gym pants. Lashed together and to his back with rope were various articles of clothing, a silver tarp, and a heavy black blanket. I noticed two bulging grocery bags at his sides. But there was no backpack, no Gortex or Polypropylene in sight.

Having halted my forward motion for only a moment, I continued trudging, giving no more thought to the man who clearly wasn't a typical hiker. When, an hour or so later, I saw that man again, the differences between "us" and him became even more apparent.

My two hiking companions caught up with me just before we arrived at the day's first shelter and as my empty stomach began to complain that lunch had been too long in coming. Digger sat beside me on a fallen log, while Joker dug through his backpack and removed a large Zip-Loc baggie full of trail mix.

"Did you see that guy back there?" Digger asked as she began unwrapping a bagel. Though we'd encountered several other hikers that morning, all but one had been familiar to us.

Joker and I nodded.

"Have you seen him before?" was my question.

Two heads shook.

And that was the end of the subject. Filling our hungry hiker bellies was a much more pressing issue.

Ten minutes later, the man in the red pants shuffled in. As we three watched, silently chewing, he went about his business. Despite what appeared to be nothing but damp wood all around, the stranger soon had a fire crackling in the open pit in front of the dingy, three-sided shelter. In the flames he placed a blackened soup can filled with water from a nearby spring, and into that water went a handful of spaghetti he'd pulled from one of his plastic grocery bags. The man proceeded with other chores I couldn't figure out and spoke more than loud enough for the three of us on the log to hear. The monologue was disjointed, nonsensical. And not once did he look our way. Truth be told, I was glad.

A hiker shelter in the Smokey Mountains

A hiker shelter in the Smokey Mountains

As the water came to a boil, the man reached into the flames and shoved the spaghetti further into the can. He quickly withdrew his hand, and that's when I noticed the burns; he'd cooked this way before. No compact backpacker stove, titanium pot or handy gripper.

Lunch eaten and miles to go before we'd stop for the night, my friends and I again hoisted our packs and moved on, leaving the strange stranger behind, sitting alone, eating plain spaghetti with his soot- and sore-covered fingers.

Several hours later, I lay warm in my synthetic sleeping bag on the upper tier of a crowded shelter, satisfied after another day of fresh air and adventure. The sun was setting and the temperature dropping rapidly, a storm approaching with the increasing wind. How glad I was to be under that metal roof as I looked out through bear-proof chainlink fencing across the front of the shelter. And then I saw the red pants again. They stood out amongst the leafless trees.

He'd passed the side of the shelter and stopped maybe a dozen yards up the trail. At first, he looked ahead with his back to the rest of us, who stopped chatting and watched. The hood of his sweatshirt was now pulled up over the knit cap, his arms crossed tightly on his chest. Toasty in my sleeping bag, I tried to imagine being cold. He certainly was.

The stranger looked back at twenty hikers in a shelter intended for twelve. There was silence on both ends of the stare. Should we try to squeeze in one more, I wondered. But still I said nothing. Didn't really matter, I supposed, for no sooner had the man looked back than he turned again and disappeared into the darkening forest. That night, as the lightning flashed and the rain made quite a din on that metal roof over my head, I wondered what it was like to be him.

screamer

The Mystery Continues

Dawn brought with it colder air and more precipitation.I took a deep breath, removed my jacket and fleece pullover, stepped from beneath the eave of the shelter, and lowered my head against the rain as I continued northward. As long as I kept moving, the exertion and my long-sleeved, Capilene shirt would keep me warm.

Fog descended, and I hiked alone for hours, no one in sight ahead or behind. I drank and ate as I walked, grabbing my water bottle, candy bars and handfuls of trail mix out of my hip pouch, while the dampness worked its way into my leather boots.

Suddenly, I stopped and listened. I heard only the pattering of raindrops and a distant bird call. Must have been the leaves crunching beneath my own feet, I decided and resumed my steps. After no more than ten paces, however, I stopped again. This time, the sound I thought I'd heard before paused, but not at the same instant I had.

Turning around, I could just barely see him. He stood motionless in the trail, maybe thirty feet behind, those red pants of his bright enough to penetrate the white mist. Without a word or wave, I moved on.

Then minutes later, I again stopped and turned my head. And he stopped. So I continued. Repeating this scenario a fourth time, I chose to step off the trail and wait for him to pass. He'd been closer than before. As he walked by, we looked at one another but still said nothing.

Alone once more, I hiked a couple of miles with my own thoughts. Immersed in a daydream and the now heavy rain overtaking most other sounds, I didn't hear footsteps approaching from behind. I must have sensed the presence though, because I looked back yet again.

All I could figure was that he'd stepped off the trail to rest or relieve himself perhaps, when I must have passed in the fog. And yet again, those red pants glowed in the whiteness. This time, I kept moving.

An hour later, soaked through to my numbed skin, I was still going at a good clip. No longer was the hiking enough to keep me warm. My thoughts were now focused on the dry clothes at the bottom of my backpack, and the hot meal I'd eat after changing into them. That is, the hot meal I'd eat in the presence of other hikers. That strange man was still behind me -- how far back, I didn't know -- but I kept my gaze on the trail ahead.

Within minutes, I was safely amongst friends in a full shelter, with wet clothing, backpacks, footwear and miscellaneous gear hanging from from the ceiling, walls and nylon cords, as if a pressure cooker full of hiker paraphernalia had exploded. All occupants were asleep by sundown. But no sign of the man in the red pants.

Muddy trail in the Smokies

Muddy trail in the Smokies

He Has A Name

Digger, Joker and I succumbed to the allure of town -- an unplanned visit to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Days of cold rain and the previous night's ice storm, though beautiful in its aftermath, had rendered us vulnerable to visions of hot showers, cheeseburgers and soft beds.

When we emerged from the woods at Indian Gap, the first of only two road-crossings on the Appalachian Trail within Smoky Mountain National Park, we couldn't resist the opportunity to pay five dollars apiece for the 15-mile ride to town.

Before climbing into the entrepreneur's van, we had our next sighting of the red pants. The top half of the man wearing them was inside a garbage can. As I lifted my pack into the vehicle and proceeded to climb in, I heard a gleeful exclamation. From my passenger window, I watched a very thin, smiling man in a hooded sweatshirt and gym pants hold up a baggie full of dried somethingorother. Before we'd pulled out of the parking area, there was again just a red torso and two sneakered feet hanging out of the trash.

Twenty-four hours later, after spending more time and money in Gatlinburg than I'd expected, I was back on the trail. A late start for a day of hiking. My two companions and I didn't travel far.

After just a few easy miles, we arrived at the newly remodeled Icewater Spring Shelter, with skylights and a covered patio but no chain link between the occupants and the view. Fourteen people were already there, but the new shelter was roomier than most I'd seen thus far in the Smokies. Plenty of space for more. By dusk, thick clouds were moving in. More rain was imminent.

That evening, all but one of those present sat under the shelter overhang, cooking and eating dinner. I took a seat next to Mike, as he fired up his stove. That's when he called to the man in the red pants, who was huddled on the ground thirty feet or so in front of the shelter, his knees pulled to his chest as he rocked.

"Hey, Brandon! Want some hot water?"

Until that moment, there hadn't been much conversation going on in the shelter. But there had been looks, both at the man on the ground and one another. All activity had ceased when Mike had spoken.

He knew the stranger's name; that made me smile. The man in the red pants had a friend among us. And he would soon have more.

"Only if it's extra, man!" Brandon called back.

"Come on," Mike told him. "Come get some hot water. You need some coffee? Here, have some."

Brandon stood and took a few steps towards those who were watching him. "Hey, man, only if it's extra! I don't want it if it ain't extra!"

And that's pretty much how the dialogue went for the next few minutes, until Brandon was finally sipping coffee out of his blackened can, with the cuffs of his sweatshirt pulled over his hands. He sat back down on the ground, but this time right in front of the shelter. And now he was talking -- shouting -- non-stop.

Me in the Smokies after an ice storm

Me in the Smokies after an ice storm

By nightfall, Brandon was no longer sitting apart from the group, and the group was no longer quiet. After our new friend had accepted the coffee from Mike, others began offering their "extras." Two children, with their parents for an overnight in the mountains, begged Mom and Dad in hushed voices for something to feed Brandon. They were given more from the family food bag than they could carry.

That night, Brandon ate enough to satisfy three hungry hikers, and he did so under the metal roof. He was even told he would be sleeping in the shelter that night, all other occupants enthusiastically agreeing and quickly shifting gear to make room. Thanks to Mike, the ice at Icewater Spring Shelter had been broken.

"Are you sure there's room?" Brandon asked for a third time. "Someone else needs that space a lot more than me!"

Again the group insisted, and Brandon at last conceded with a smile. "Don't worry!" he shouted. "I'm real skinny! I'll only take up one plank, maybe two! But if I sleep on my side, only one!" Then, before he rolled himself up in his silver tarp and black blanket cocoon, he screamed louder than ever. "This is the best Easter I've ever had!"

But We Called Him "Screamer"

From that point on, Brandon was no longer stared at in silence....

And few tried to avoid looking at him. Now and then, I would see someone who'd never met the man in the red pants look at him with what appeared to be a mix of critical surprise and a bit of fear -- being out in the woods with this odd person -- but that reaction would usually give way to some measure of acceptance once he or she heard another hiker call him Screamer. Brandon now had a trail name.

Over the next several weeks, I saw Screamer sporadically, at shelters, in passing on the trail, and a few times in towns where most long-distance A.T. hikers resupply, shower, do their laundry, and eat as much as their shrinking stomachs can hold -- all sorts of goodies that can't reasonably or possibly be carried in a backpack. Ah, the ice cream!

But Screamer was always in that sweaty, hooded sweatshirt and those dirty, red pants, dumpster-diving or collecting cans. On several occasions, I overheard him asking motel and restaurant owners if he might work for lodging or a meal. Then I usually heard a very adamant, "No."

Despite his circumstances, however, Screamer always had a smile to share. At least, he did with me. Every time he saw me, he'd shout, "Debraaaa!" How did he know my real name? Everyone else on the trail called me Ramkitten. I'd always respond, "Brandoooon!"

And Brandon ... Screamer found other things to share, as well. A travel mug, for instance. He'd found one in a trash can. Though he had no other cup, Screamer gave his lucky find to another hiker who also had few belongings and nowhere off the trail to hang his floppy hat.

Perhaps it was the combination of Screamer's reluctance to take and eagerness to give what someone else might need more than he, along with the inspiration of trail life ... or maybe it was simply the doings of kind hearts ... but I witnessed a number of people on and involved with the Appalachian Trail give of themselves and what they had to the man who, at one time, most of us didn't speak to.

"I couldn't believe it!" he exclaimed one night, as several of us sat around a campfire at Flint Mountain Shelter. "A whole thing of mountain butter! And pasta, man! It was like Christmas! You wouldn't believe what people throw away! Not even opened, man!"

Screamer smiled and so, then, did the rest of us. But I wondered if anyone else was feeling a little awkward. I was thinking of a leftover pasta meal I'd thrown away at the last town -- food I could have held onto long enough to find a hiker (donation) box to leave it in. I'd never do that again.

As Screamer continued to describe the many wonders of a garbage can, I wasn't the only one who noticed his feet. He'd taken off his soaked and beaten sneakers, and was wandering around the shelter area in his even more tattered bare feet. I could hardly stand to look at the open, bleeding sores.

Sailboat was quick to react. Out of his own pack, he pulled a pair of brand new socks. Thick socks. The fifteen-dollar-a-pair kind of thick socks. He held them out to Screamer, who looked from those socks to Sailboat with wide eyes.

"Oh, no, I can't take those, man! They're too nice! And they're yours, man!"

An exchange much like the one about Mike's coffee followed, resulting in a pair of socks more appreciated and held in higher esteem than any pair of socks may ever have been. Screamer blessed both Sailboat and those socks time and again. "And they'll keep your feet warm even when they get wet," said their previous owner. "They have wool in them."

"Oh, no, man, I won't get them wet! They're too nice! I won't wear them unless it's dry!"

That night, Brandon slept on the ground next to the fire pit -- his choice -- with his new, priceless possessions (the socks) rolled up in the black blanket and silver tarp with him. He wasn't the only one who fell asleep with a smile.

Homeless on the Appalachian Trail

Homeless on the Appalachian Trail

The next afternoon, as Sailboat and I hiked together in silence following two hours of logic-problem-solving to occupy our minds, we came upon Screamer doing his usual, slow shuffle. As I'd seen him do numerous times, he picked up a piece of trash at the side of the trail and put it in one of his grocery bags.

"This stuff belongs in a garbage can!" he shouted, though I was standing only inches away.

And that's where the stuff went to if Screamer packed it out. My friend in the red pants toted many more pounds of trash off the Appalachian Trail than any single hiker I've ever known.

For the next few hours, Sailboat and I walked and talked with Screamer, who more than once commented on how much he was enjoying our company. He was very low on supplies, he said as he picked up another candy wrapper, and was therefore pressing on to Erwin, Tennessee to look or work for some food. At that point, I had none to share.

And that would be the only time I'd hike with Screamer and the last day I would see him on the trail. I did hear, "Debraaaa!" once in Damascus, Virginia, and looked across the busy street to see the still-disheveled man in those same dirty, red pants and sweaty, hooded sweatshirt smile through all that thick, black facial hair. I waved back, but that had been the extent of our final exchange.

As often happens on the Appalachian Trail, you can hike with someone for weeks or months even, and suddenly that person is gone; you may not see your hiking buddy again. A half-mile behind or a quarter-mile ahead may as well be a thousand miles if one doesn't catch up or slow down long enough to meet the other. Which is what happened with Screamer and me; I got ahead, and that, as they say, was that.

During the remaining four months of my hike and occasionally afterward at trail-related gatherings or when e-mailing with another hiker I'd met on my journey, I inquired about Screamer. Had anyone seen him after that day in Damascus? Did anyone know how far north he'd gone? And what about after that?

I got only dribs and drabs of information, some of which didn't jive. But between the little I heard from others and that one day I hiked and spoke with Screamer at length, I was able to glean a bit of history about the man I'd nearly tripped over in the Smokies on April 18, 2000.

I heard, for instance, about the hundreds of miles he'd walked on Florida and Georgia highways, before a cop had picked him up and said, "If you wanna walk, see those white paint marks on those trees? Follow those, not the ones on the road."

At first, Screamer hadn't known the name of the trail he was on. He didn't know how far that trail went or where it went. He'd never walked on a trail before, he'd said, but he had lived on the streets for years. Also said something about being a bike messenger in New York City. And he mentioned an accident, too.

Whatever the case may have been, Screamer was certainly not a typical hiker. He was, however, most definitely one of us.

A True Story from the Appalachian Trail

A True Story from the Appalachian Trail

More About Screamer

The following are portions of e-mails I received from other A.T. hikers after finishing the trail, about their interactions with and knowledge of the man in the red pants....

I first met Screamer in NC and saw him on and off till Damascus, VA. He stayed at Kincora Hostel when I was there and I talked with him at length about music theory. He really knew a lot about music. He also treated me to some of his nettle tea. He said, "Hey man, try this, it's loaded with IRON!!"

Bob People's was kind enough to donate an old backpack to Screamer, which he accepted only after a half hour of coaxing. I tried taking his picture a couple times when I first met him, and he was adamantly opposed to that. I think he was afraid people thought of him as a sideshow. Somewhere in TN, I let him use the shower in my motel room, and he let me take his picture.

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About 25 miles from the Gap, Screamer went by like I was standing still. It was raining and the trail was very muddy. Back in Waynesboro, someone had left a $50.00 bill on Screamer's tarp while he was sleeping. He went to town and bought a nice pair of sneakers. As he was leaving, he had a couple of dollars change and he literally threw it on the ground where everyone was camping and walked off. When questioned, he said he didn't need any money. Anyhow, the rocks of PA were not kind to Screamer's new sneakers and, while they got him out of VA and through MD, they were looking pretty ragged by the time we got to Port Clinton.

On this particular day, someone had told Screamer the Church of The Mountain was going to put on a huge dinner for thru-hikers. Though it was raining, the trail was muddy and The Gap was 25 miles away, Screamer wasn't going to miss the dinner that night. He screamed as he was hiking as he always did in the rain, so I knew he was coming up behind me. Fairly early in the day, he passed me and I told him no way could he make 25 miles in tattered sneakers with the conditions we had. About 6 miles later, I found the remains of one sneaker, completely destroyed. And for the rest of the day, I followed the footprints of a hiker barefoot on one side with a sneaker on the other foot. That night, I stayed at the Kittridge Shelter and there was no sign of Screamer. The next morning, I did find a second sneaker, completely shredded in another mud hole, and then followed the tracks of a barefoot hiker. When I got to The Church of The Mountain hostel, Screamer's pants were hanging on the door but there was no sign of him. He'd come in just ahead of me and had missed the free dinner. No one knew where he was except he was barefoot, had abandoned his only pair of pants and had made a phone call.

I'd rubbed my shoulders raw carrying a 50-pound pack with wet straps, so I asked the Pastor of the church if I could take a zero-day to recover at the hostel. On day two, Screamer showed up. He was clean, had new pants but was still barefoot. Seems he had a cousin in Stroudsburg, and he'd called and the cousin picked him up. For the first time, I saw Screamer clean, well fed, and he actually had a few dollars in his pocket. I guess his principles allowed him to accept money from relatives. I had grabbed a pair of boots in good condition that someone had left in the hiker box and saved them for Screamer. He put them on, said they fit even though I doubt they did.

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I encountered Brandon early in the hike, at a campsite where a section-hiker was offering hotdogs to hikers. When I first saw him walking past my tent, he had that wild-man look about him. The thing that stuck in my mind about his appearance was his very black beard and long hair, which stuck straight out. The ends of the hair had grown in raggedy fashion as if it had never met a pair of scissors. He had a silver, plastic tarp rolled up under his arm with what I assume were his belongings inside. The only thing I remember about his clothes is that they were cotton and didn't look very substantial. Especially for spending a lot of time in the woods that time of year.

At the shelter, the section-hiker was offering hotdogs to all takers. When Brandon arrived, he was offered some from the next batch, but he insisted he didn't want to trouble anyone to cook for him. Instead, he accepted two raw dogs and retraced his steps to a spot out of site of the shelter. He told someone that he just rolls up in the tarp at night in a bunch of leaves to keep warm and dry.

Over the next few months, I met him on the trail several times. At one campsite, he was collecting bottles left by rude hikers. They were Tabasco bottles that held enough for one serving. I asked him what he was going to do with the bottles. He said he used them to carry gas to help light wood fires for cooking. I guess he got white stove gas from hikers like he did food.

A female hiker told me a story about meeting her parents at a trail crossing in the Smokies. They took her to town for the night and brought her back to the trail in the morning. Near the trail was a dumpster where Brandon was practicing his diving skills, looking for food. The parents took one look at this wild man and insisted [their daughter] come back to town for another night. The next day, she convinced them she would be ok and got them to take her back to the trail to continue her hike.

As time went by, I lost track of Brandon. Occasionally the trail gossip would include Screamer sitings. The last one I can recall was that he had made it to New England. People had been giving him food and gear along the way.

I'd also heard the story about him having worked as a bicycle messenger in New York City and figured he might get off the trail there. Part of the Brandon lore was that a fellow messenger had been killed on the streets of NY and the experience had traumatized him.

Sure wish I knew how far he got. I finished my trek at the end of the hiking season. At best, he was several weeks or more behind. The way he was dressed, it's hard to image he could deal with ice and snow to finish the trip.

*****************************************

I don't know if you stayed at the "secret hostel" on the NY-NJ line, but a huge group of us did. An 85-acre farm with showers, clothes dryer, bunk house, the works, and word of mouth is powerful as about 20 north- and southbounders were there. There was a hammock and Screamer slept in it. By now, Screamer trusted me and I was one of the few he would accept anything from.

A trail angel took a bunch of us to a local store and we bought cases of soda, beer, pizzas and sandwiches. There was a mild party, but Screamer fell asleep and afterward a trail angel picked up all the trash and bottles and put them in a trash bag. When I saw what he'd done I told him to please put all of the trash back on the ground. I knew Screamer would want to pick up the area as his way to pay the hostel. Also, the store we had bought all our drinks from was in NY and that was the first state with a 5-cent bottle deposit, and Screamer could make a few bucks. When Screamer woke up the next morning, the trail angel had left a $10 bill on his pack with a note saying he wanted to "hire him" to clean up the mess. When Screamer left, the area was spotless. He even found a mower and mowed the lawn, and he had directions to a bottle redemption center where he got about eight more bucks. Screamer was now at a point where he'd actually accept money for work. When I first started hiking with him in Virginia, he actually threw away any money he had when he left a town.

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I was at Mohegan Outdoor Center where they always allow one thru-hiker to stay free in exchange for work in the kitchen. You may have stopped there, but in case you didn't there is one large bunk house where they put the thru-hikers and it was full that night. Otto was already working in the kitchen. Screamer showed up about dark and of course didn't have the $15.00 fee. The hostel manager was away for a few days, so we hid Screamer in the manager's room so they couldn't catch him. As it turned out, no one checked on who was staying there. The next morning, Screamer got up and before he left, unplugged, defrosted and cleaned the refrigerator. Moved all the bunks to the middle of the floor, washed and waxed the floor and did all the dishes in the cupboard that were clean but dusty. Then he left and management never knew he was there, but must have wondered what happened to their hostel.

*****************************************

In NJ, I stopped at Worthington's Bakery as all hikers do. Screamer had gotten to town ahead of me to go dumpster diving. A huge gang of thru-hikers were at the bakery making phone calls, drinking Coke, and hanging out when Screamer came back from town, screaming that he'd just seen Stevie Ray Vaughn. Screamer swore he saw Stevie riding around Culver's Gap in a convertible, and Stevie waved at him. He said no one had seen Stevie's body and Screamer was positive he was living in Culvers Gap. Of course, Screamer was yelling about Stevie near the phone booth so everyone the hikers talked to at home got to hear the great man. Later, Screamer confided in me that he was caught up in the moment and it probably wasn't Stevie but it sure did look like him.

A 2010 Screamer Sighting

On June 11, 2010, I received an email from a man I met early in my thru-hike ten years earlier. He said he'd returned to the trail for an anniversary hike with his father, the thru-hiker known as "Pa." Near Bland, Virginia, he ran into none other than the infamous Screamer who, he said, hadn't changed in his mannerisms, his speech, his dress, or his habits.

Here, check out this photo of Screamer taken in front of the lean-to.

I've written the man back to see if he knows anything more about Screamer. If I get any further information, I'll post it here.

Another Screamer Sighting

Screamer is back on the Appalachian Trail

Screamer is back on the Appalachian Trail

Thank you to Dan (Smokey) Scheboth for sending me this photo of Screamer. (He's on the right-hand side, above.)

Smokey writes, "This is a group dinner shared by all who stayed at The Place, in Damascus Va. I was riding my bike cross country on the Trans Am trail that also goes through town. I hiked the AT from Maine to New York/New jersey border in '09. Rode the Trans Am in 2010. I met Screamer on my bike trip, he told me about New York and doing the bike messenger thing. We ended up doing a zero there together, my first I'm not sure how many for him since it was a few days after Trail Days. I will say this, I am really glad to have met Screamer, He had an old army style backpack held together by lots of duct tape. No fancy sleeping bag, just a few blankets. Regardless of his gear, he had an abundance of stories to share and always seemed to have a smile beneath that long beard."

Please Share Your Thoughts About Screamer....

....or anything else you'd like to say, in the guestbook below.

© 2008 Deb Kingsbury

Have You Seen Screamer? Report your Screamer sightings, or just leave a comment on the story, here.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on July 17, 2020:

My son thru hiked the ATa couple of years ago. The stories never end. Thanks for sharing this interesting and encouraging story.

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on May 12, 2020:

Thanks, Carrie!

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on May 08, 2020:

Such a wonderful experience :) He is such a survivalist and inspiration :) I am touched to hear all of the generousity offered to this gentle soul :) I hope he finds his way and finds peace :) Thank you for sharing :)

Nuckledragger on April 25, 2020:

Screamer was seen on the pct

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on December 29, 2019:

That's a cool coincidence!

Nowhere Man from U.S. on December 29, 2019:

Oh my god. The last picture is when I was there and met him. So glad you wrote this. Hahahah! His volume level is spot on. Good read.

Matthew Winslow on February 26, 2019:

Though we consider this homeless, maybe he's living life. Home is where and how you make it. Never has to be in one place, and never has to be more than a lean to. Society makes mind of how we show look, live and now behave in manner to walk on glass. I envy his kindness and willingness to put others first. I believe many could learn a serious life lesson through this kind stranger. God bless him!

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on November 20, 2018:

Thank you so much. That's a great compliment and means a lot. :-)

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on November 19, 2018:

Hi, Ramkitten,

I've worked with the homeless and those trying to find their way back from it. Screamer reminds me of some of my clients, many of whom also faced psychological and physical disabilities. It's this way: Many people don't know about the homeless and many turn their heads, until it is them who need help.

That's not preaching or anything; it's just a blatant reality of our lives.

I like the fact that you really underscored all of the good qualities of the man. That's why I revisited your article. Its full of wisdom and the willingness you demonstrated to observe, help if possible, and not be condescending in any way.

Very admirable, Ramkitten,

Much respect to a talented, non-biased, and thoughtful writer,

Tim

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on November 16, 2018:

Thank you so much for your comment and for reading about Screamer. I still think of him from time to time and wonder what became of him.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on November 15, 2018:

Hi, Deb,

Your story is interesting and touching. I suspect Screamer probably was dealing with many issues, and he probably found peace of mind on the trail.

You told this story with compassion and understanding. Thanks for sharing such a warm and tearful true tale.

We walked part of the trail when I was a Boy Scout, and I've had occasion to visit it as an adult. When we head out near those mighty mountains of N.C., TN, VA, or ga, we will look out for Screamer.

Much respect and admiration,

Tim

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on October 20, 2017:

Thank you! :)

Jennifer Motse on October 20, 2017:

What an amazing story

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on January 24, 2017:

Thank you! :-)

JReddick on January 24, 2017:

I had just intended to give this story a glance, but couldn't stop reading. I'm glad there are good people on the trail - including

Screamer and those that help him along the way.

anonymous on July 16, 2013:

In July 2000 a friend and I had the pleasure of being in screamer's company for about a week.

We where at the monistary in around Bear mountain NY when we first meet him

And had ate with him a few times on the way to Massachusetts, he was a character to say the least :-)

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on April 15, 2013:

I love the story of Screamer and also your style of writing. A great lens. If ever a lens teaches us not to judge by appearances, this one does.

suepogson on January 19, 2013:

What a great story. I love warm recollections like this -I hope Screamer's still out there having fun

walkingstick on January 16, 2013:

What a Trail memory! Thanks for your heart grabbing story of Screamer. The only memorable character I came across hiking the Trail in the Smokies was a bear. Screamer evokes more consideration.

cmadden on December 28, 2012:

This is the lens that stays with me most from 2012 - once again, I hope Screamer is okay wherever he is. I wonder if he knows about this, about how many people have "met" him and wish him well.

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on December 20, 2012:

@anonymous: Thanks so much for sharing your Screamer story!

anonymous on December 20, 2012:

I met Screamer many times on the trail in 2000 and again in 2001. In 2001 I ran in to him one weekend at the Church Pavilion in Port Clinton , PA . I was surprised to see him there. We had a long talk about his hike in 2000. That following weekend on a sweltering hot and humid summer day I was riding with a friend out PA route 895 towards route 309. About a mile from that intersection we noticed a person walking on the side of the road with a black tarp draped over them. I looked at my friend and told her to slow down, as we got next to them I saw it was Screamer so I told her to pull over and I hollered his name. He looked out from under the tarp and saw me sitting in the passenger seat. My friend who does not hike was wondering what I was doing and more so, who was this man? I asked Screamer what in the hell he was doing out on this hot blacktop road with a black tarp draped over him. He said he was tired of the rocks on the trail and decided to walk the road and that the tarp was for shade. He was sweating profusely and I asked him where he was headed, he told me "Palmerton". I told him to get in and we'd take him there. I had to beg him three times before he said, "I usually don't accept rides but since I know you I will". He told me while getting in the car that he had only yellow blazed a few other times because that's not his style. We put him and his pack in the back seat. My friend looked in her rearview mirror and whispered to me, "he has the most beautiful blue eyes, but my God does he stink", I just smiled at her. We drove Screamer to Palmerton and dropped him off at the Jailhouse Hostel and that's the last I have seen or heard from or about him. He a nice guy and a good friend and he sure hated those PA rocks. Nice to see pictures of him from 2010. Hope he is doing well and out there still.., where we all should be.

cmadden on December 10, 2012:

Still a favorite of mine. I hope Screamer's okay, wherever he is.

jamesdesalvo lm on December 08, 2012:

What a great story!

grannysage on November 17, 2012:

Still one of my favorites. I'm glad I came back to catch up on all the e-mails from others that have met Screamer.

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on November 02, 2012:

Fascinating story...and I wonder if Screamer is still okay. It's kind of sad that he lives like that, but at the same time, he is kind of liberated too. Thanks for sharing an engrossing story.

anonymous on October 22, 2012:

Amazing Story. You have a way with words. Excellent lens

RuralFloridaLiving on July 17, 2012:

Great stories. What a fun read!

Tracie-Fisher on June 10, 2012:

I've loved following your story. What an amazing journey for you.

cmadden on May 23, 2012:

Love this lens - back for a visit, and I am once again entranced by this story!

InfernalCombust on March 31, 2012:

What an awesome story of an extraordinary man.

anonymous on February 27, 2012:

What an amazing lens. He sounds like quite the interesting character. Thank you for sharing.

puppyprints on February 25, 2012:

Awesome story. I have hiked through some of those areas so I could totally relate.

I am glad people were nice to Screamer - he sounds like a very giving person

julieannbrady on February 24, 2012:

Holy Smokes! What an incredible mesmerizing story ... you have such a brilliant way of weaving a story. Wow, a Screamer!!

JZinoBodyArt on January 31, 2012:

Now that was a really good story! Thank you so much for sharing it!

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on January 30, 2012:

I visited this wonderful tale a while ago but stopped back to refresh the blessing it so richly deserves.

Julia Morais on January 07, 2012:

Screamer sounds like an eccentric amazing person. Awesome lens.

iWriteaLot on January 06, 2012:

I love your Appalachian Trail lenses and Screamer sounds like one of the best people you'd ever want to meet. The world needs more 'Screamers!' Blessed.

cmadden on November 28, 2011:

Poetry in both the prose and the man about whom it was written. Thank you for writing this lens.

SIALicenceUK on November 04, 2011:

Great story, really enjoyed it, very interesting lens. Thanks for sharing

CatJGB on November 01, 2011:

Wow, what a cool story! And well written too. Any idea why he spoke so loudly?

Joan Haines on October 03, 2011:

Interesting that someone who's into music wouldn't use varying dynamics in his own voice. A friend of mine is planning to retire and then hike the trail this summer. Whoah!

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on September 30, 2011:

What a story! I am moved on so many levels. Makes me wish I could sit down with you in a quiet corner with a pot of tea, some sandwiches and a long afternoon to talk about Screamer and all he means to the folks who walk the path with him. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

Kylyssa Shay from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on September 04, 2011:

I just stopped by to give this amazing lens about Screamer a "blessing" while I may. Thank you for creating it!

iMANDY from Melbourne, Australia on September 03, 2011:

You are an amazing, captivating writer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this heartwarming lens you have so cleverly put together. You really know how to make the most out of life and all the universe has to offer, very inspiring.

It is a shame that Brandon will, most likely, never read this wonderful story all about his wonderful self. He happily shuffles through life, blissfully unaware of the effect he casts on those that he meets, quite heart wrenching, but very inspiring! :)

zdaddyo on August 23, 2011:

Great story and great writing. Thanks for sharing it!

ZestCareerCoach on August 10, 2011:

I really enjoyed reading this, thanks for taking the time to write it.

anonymous on August 02, 2011:

Screamer is a pretty cool dude. We are both from NY. I hiked with him for about 100 miles last year.

Mary from Midwest on June 25, 2011:

Great story. I love true stories anyway, an i all so know you put a lot of work into this lens. I thank you for that. 5 star for me

anonymous on June 10, 2011:

Great story! What a fascinating character, and you tell the story so well!

nadjaiskeniskie on June 04, 2011:

Great story. I re-read it a couple of times and have forwarded links to friends.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on May 23, 2011:

I was hooked from the first paragraph onward. Thank you so much for sharing this story of Screamer. We really are very individual entities on this planet that we call home.

reasonablerobby on May 04, 2011:

Came here via ShirlW, what a great story.

sheriangell on April 17, 2011:

back to drop off another blessing on one of my favorite ever lenses!

Paul from Liverpool, England on February 17, 2011:

Move over Bill Bryson

LouisaDembul on January 20, 2011:

I love your story about Screamer! How good that you got to know him, and also that you got to hear more about him!

CCGAL on January 20, 2011:

Great story, well told. I see you already got a much deserved purple star. Gonna drop a little angel dust while I'm here - this is really a great lens that deserves a higher lens rank. ***BLESSED***

Tonie Cook from USA on December 19, 2010:

Your adventure with the Screamer will be one that I will remember. Thank you for sharing your story.

darciefrench lm on November 18, 2010:

I feel the need to sit with Screamer some more vs give a commentary. What an amazing Teacher he is, and you are- for sharing his story. Much love and many blessings, including an angel one and feature on November Health Blessings. In fact.. Screamer will have his own spot there- this is the first accounting I've come across of a homeless person teaching the 'haves' about giving... and I am sure there are many examples, just under spoken. Beautifully done.

anonymous on November 07, 2010:

My youngest son may have encountered him.

We live near the Smokey Mountains.

He likes to backpack and camp "to get away from it all".

He was telling us about one night how someone was,

well "Screaming" as they went by his campsite.

Scared the #@%& out of him! After his nerves settled down,

my son said he slept very well that night as he knew

there wouldn't be any bears or any other animals for miles!

You have to always look for the 'Silver Lining' in life.

sheriangell on October 26, 2010:

I go hiking once a week or so. When I get out there in the woods, I always think of this lens and the story of Screamer. Bless by an Angel today and featured on Pay It Forward - My Life As An Angel

anonymous on October 05, 2010:

What a wonderfully interesting lens. It made me think, realise how truly blessed I am and shed a few tears along the reading. I'm going to pass this on to as many people as I can...Brandon can teach us all so very much.

Joan Hall from Los Angeles on September 15, 2010:

This was a fascinating read. I'm adding my Angel blessing to this lens, and will feature it on my SquidAngel At Your Service lens.

Kathy McGraw from California on September 14, 2010:

Deb-I enjoyed reading this...and yes I did read it :) Your story of Screamer and how you and others came to watch out for him warmed my heart almost as much as the socks and later new boots warmed his feet. You are a good story teller....

Kimberly Napper from U.S. on September 10, 2010:

I've always really liked this story, for the thoughts it provokes and the gentle reminders within. Came back today to *SquidAngel bless* it.

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on July 09, 2010:

"Screamer" appears to have found his 'niche' in life. It may not be the way most others would wish to live, but it seems to work for him. With this story, Screamer now has a 'page in history' and will not be forgotten by all who either encounter him or read about him. Wonderfully written.

Richard from Surrey, United Kingdom on July 08, 2010:

Lensmaster LKW31 sent me your way to read this wonderful account of Screamer. A Squid Angel blessing too :)

Richard from Surrey, United Kingdom on July 08, 2010:

Lensmaster LKW31 sent me your way to read this wonderful account of Screamer. A Squid Angel blessing too :)

norma-holt on June 30, 2010:

Another wonderful lens on your hiking adventures. *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on June 11, 2010:

Thanks for the update on Screamer, Ramkitten.

sheriangell on June 11, 2010:

I loved reading this story about a special man who has touched so many lives. He looks so happy and content in the photo, sometimes I think we have it all wrong.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on June 11, 2010:

I'm sure I would have been frightened and aprehensive seeing someone so different on a remote trail. Thanks for sharing his story and opening our eyes to his lifestyle.

Indigo Janson from UK on June 11, 2010:

What an incredible story, I was caught up in it from beginning to end. Good to hear that Screamer is still doing fine in 2010 and hopefully is still meeting people who share what they can. Seems a shame to me that he can't be employed to clean up the trail and be paid a proper wage, since he does it for free and would do a better job of it than anyone else they could hire! I wish him well in any case. ~*~* Angel Blessed *~*~

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on April 04, 2010:

Wonderful storytelling! How heartwarming to hear about Screamer, all the things people gave to him, and about how much he gave back. Great job!

Kyecerulian on March 17, 2010:

That was a beautiful story! I loved how you wrote it, I was addicted to it right from the start! Definitely a 5* lens if I've ever seen one!

anonymous on January 27, 2010:

This is very good Deb. I'm going to book mark it because when I have more time I found like to feature it. I'll be sure to give it justice when I do, will let you know. You are a writer in your time. ~

Susie

MediaMogul1 on January 07, 2010:

You are a very engaging storyteller. Love the way you combine humor with the touching way folks were looking out for this man. 5 stars.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 06, 2010:

Back to this great lens to lensroll to my lens about the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative that I thought you might be interested in.

lakshyaa on December 22, 2009:

Very interesting story, wonderfully narrated. Felt so touching, especially the parts where your friends gave him coffee and then the woolen socks.

I-luv-Freebies on November 30, 2009:

This lens really kept my attention! I loved reading it!!

Great Lens 5* and Fav!!

royalfoust on November 21, 2009:

What a story. I have always wished I had taken the time to walk that trail. And now would be looking for Screamer. What a guy.

anonymous on November 18, 2009:

Makes me want to jump on the Trail tomorrow. Thanks.

Cookiegirl on November 10, 2009:

An awesome story and a great lens. 5*

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on October 25, 2009:

great story about screamer. what a wonderful writing! simply superb presentation. 5*

poutine on October 24, 2009:

A Man Called "Screamer" has been added tothe following lens;

"An Ode To People Who Help The Homeless"

Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on October 19, 2009:

Very interesting story. I really enjoyed reading about Screamer! 5* and blessed by an angel.

Lee Hansen from Vermont on September 23, 2009:

Fantastic story - I live a few miles from the Port Clinton / Rt 61 crossing near Hawk Mountain in PA and we see hikers at the rest point and nearby hotel frequently. No doubt Brandon has passed this way a few times, and will continue to hike AT for a few more years making new friends. Congrats on your Purple Star, and this story. I think you could write a book from this ... 5*

ATP on September 02, 2009:

Great story. Rather sad. I especially liked how well you described the part when your friends gave him the socks. It was a truly touching scene.

kimmanleyort on August 17, 2009:

This lens was nominated as a quality lens on http://www.squidoo.com/50qualitylenses!

anonymous on August 01, 2009:

Great story about Screamer. I initially met him in Damascus, VA. Like you, I really didn't know what to think about him, but as time went on, I came to like him and respect his uniqueness. A real character to say the least. Also I can confirm what others have said, especially his cleaning our cabin at the Mohican Center. He felt really badly about spending the night without paying. While he was busy cleaning, one of my mates asked who is Screamer talking to. Someone said he's talking to himself again. To which Screamer loudly replied, "I'm not talking to myself, it's a soliloquy"! With that, I nearly choked on my breakfast. Me thinks the dude is much brighter than he lets on. And the story of Screamer and Stevie Ray is one of my most memorable moments on the AT.

anonymous on July 14, 2009:

This is neat! You are a great writer :)

Clairwil LM on July 13, 2009:

What an amazing and very humbling story. A fantastic lens. *****

Alfiesgirl LM on July 08, 2009:

Living in London UK all my life and not being the best at geography, i had never heard of the Appalachian mountains untill today and what a great experience you had during your trip I thoroughly enjoyed reading your lens and i am left feeling quite envious of you for having such exciting lens titles to write about.Thankyou very muchly for sharing your experiences with us and a definite thumbs up from me ..Tina x

anonymous on July 08, 2009:

Incredible story! Thanks for sharing it. We can all learn some lessons on humanity from this humble man.

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on June 17, 2009:

A beautiful story. I'd been wanting to read this, and finally got to it.

Kimberly Napper from U.S. on May 26, 2009:

Beautiful, inspiring, and thought provoking.

Bambi Watson on May 19, 2009:

hey deb this is Bambi's hubby Scott

this is a great story about a man who is truly free

what an inspiration thank you

Bambi Watson on May 18, 2009:

Amazing story Deb 5*

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on May 15, 2009:

This is the kind of lens I love best - one that tells an amazing story. Thanks for sharing this with us! 5* and an angel blessing!

snowwater on May 06, 2009:

Thanks for sharing Brandon with us. The wallflowers in life are amazing sources of inspiration - we just have to take the time to respect and listen.

Brandon earned his way on the AT. Brandon was revived by your respect and kindnesses and he repaid you by letting you have a part in his restoration.

My back-burner dream of walking the AT has been partly realized through your lens Thank you for walking and meeting Brandon for me..