Pogo Rheinheimer was known for his individuality and determination. By the time of his death at age 16, he had hiked about half of the Appalachian Trail.
Maryland Appalachian Trail section from U.S. 40 north to Pogo Campsite with side trail to Annapolis Rocks and back. 8 miles.
As part of a trip to Baltimore to visit my brother Eric and attend the [Impossible Number] reunion of my high school class, we stopped in central Maryland for a walk from U.S. Route 40 north and back on the Appalachian Trail. The hike is notable for several things: It's an easy, popular, wide, pretty stretch of trail, making its way up about 500 feet and then leveling out; the quarter-mile side trail to Annapolis Rocks offers a nifty viewpoint; and, most germane to our walk, there's a nice lunch spot at the Pogo Campsite.
Walter H. "Pogo" Rheinheimer Jr. was a 16-year-old member of the Mountain Club of Maryland when he drowned in the Potomac River in 1974, and the site was designated in his honor soon after his death. My "baby brother" (nearly 12 years younger than I and never getting to grow beyond his exuberant youth) hiked often, both on his own and with both of our parents.
We had last visited the campsite in 2000, when son Carl was on his way south on the AT from Maine as a part of a thru hike (which remains 100 or so miles short of completion). As with the best of the AT, the site looks exactly as it did nine years ago, including the brown sign nailed to a tree. The sign identifies the site, albeit with an incorrect birth year for its honoree, as Pogo was born in 1957 rather than '58.
As we ate, and after I had sort of involuntarily bragged to a passing couple that the sign recognized my brother, Gail and I talked about contacting the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club about a more permanent marker for the site. This seems a little more pressing than it did in 2000, as these days Pogo's father is 93 and Eric and I are, as they say, not getting any younger. The idea of something to replace the bent metal sign has been sent along, and consideration by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's supervisor of trails is promised.
I lived in Omaha during Pogo's teen years and thus did not know him well after the early years of his life, when he was the darling of his older siblings (11, eight and six years older). But to visit to his place on the trail is to re-experience – keenly – kinship with him, these 35 years after he died, these 45 years after I was finishing high school and he was a beautiful six-year-old boy.
September 25, 2009