On June 21, 2007, Joy and Wane Anderson dropped their son, Dustin, in Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness and reluctantly drove away. Dustin, 27, had begun his southbound hike of the Appalachian Trail.
“I had so much angst when he started,” Wane said. “Even though he was 27, he looked like a little boy.”
The worry began as Dustin took his first steps along the trail, and continued throughout the five-and-a-half months and 1 million steps it took to complete the more than 2,100-mile trek.
Through it all, Joy and Wane kept a map of the Appalachian Trail pinned to their wall; it was at times the only connection they had to their son.
“The map was the way we tracked him,” Wane said. “It was very important.”
“Where is he?” they would ask each other and try to estimate how far he had progressed in between phone calls. Dustin called home when he could find a phone, but invariably the Jacksons would be out and Dustin would leave a message. “I missed him; I missed him,” Wane said.
From Boston, where Dustin left the trail for a side trip to visit a cousin, to Bland, Va., months later, Wane didn’t lay eyes on his son. When Wane saw him crossing the road in Bland, Dustin, hobbled by shin splints, looked more like an 80-year-old man than the boy his father had left in Maine.
Nearly four years after Dustin accomplished what few ever do, his parents still treasure the AT map. They kept it pinned to the wall but wanted to frame it properly.
Wane had worked with Beverly Jenkins of Main Street Cafe in Jonesborough and kept in touch. When he learned she was doing mosaics, he knew he wanted her to make a frame for the map.
“I knew how creative she was whether she was doing a small lunch or a big wedding. She put everything into it,” Wane said. “She could walk through a garbage pile and make something beautiful.”
When he asked her if she would take on the project, Beverly said, “Heck, yeah.”
“I knew a lot about the story of Dustin’s trip and the heartache of everybody that does something like that. It was hard on them,” Beverly said of the Jacksons. She also knew how much Dustin’s accomplishment meant to them. “This is a memento and a way to honor his trip.”
Wane and Joy brought the map over to show Beverly. “I’d never seen an Appalachian Trail map,” she said. “They unfurled this thing. Whoa. It was big and long and skinny — 91â„2 inches wide. That’s small for a map.” The unusual dimensions offered a challenge, but Beverly was undaunted.
The Jacksons shared tidbits of information about the hike, the trail, the family’s long history of hiking together. Beverly took time to study the map, looking for inspiration. From Maine to Georgia, the Jacksons had noted dates and towns as Dustin reached them. And throughout the map ran the crooked red line that represented the AT.
Someone had given Wane an AT emblem marked Maine to Georgia. It became the jumping-off spot for Beverly.
“When they brought the emblem, I saw rocks and mountains and water. Everything you can imagine that happened on the trail is on this map,” she said.
Beverly began collecting objects to create the mosaic: antique glass, a World War II P-38 can opener, broken pottery from Spain, tile from France, pottery animals, sea glass, rocks.
“I put them in (containers) from the restaurant. They were filled with trinkets,” Beverly said. “I’d find something and say, ‘I am putting this on the frame.’”
When all the collecting was done, she began telling the story, creating something whole and beautiful out of myriad pieces. The process took five months, about as long as it took Dustin to walk the trail.
At the top of the frame is the AT emblem and the word “Farsang,” which was Dustin’s trail name. He took it from “The Places in Between,” which is the story of Rory Stewart’s walk across Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, a farsang is the distance a man can walk in a day.
One of Beverly’s favorite found objects was an Appalachian Trail multi-purpose tool with flashlight that had been smashed by a car. She also commissioned a piece: “My dad made me a peace sign in the sixties. I had somebody make one for me and put it (on the frame),” she said.
She included three hearts — “because each mosaic piece I do has my heart in it” — a silver heart for Joy, a turquoise heart for Wane and a red heart for Dustin. Blue glass represents the water of Fontana Lake. A broken red slash like the trail on the map runs through the frame, and white rectangles represent the trail blazes.
“I set glass on its edge, (and said to myself) ‘I have just made me a mountain,’ ” Beverly said and laughed.
The frame, like the map, tells a story, but it isn’t only about a five-and-a-half-month period in 2007, it’s about the whole of the Jackson family’s life.
“We started doing back-pack trips when Dustin was 3 years old,” Wane said. “We were a young family looking for something to do that we could afford.”
When Dustin got older, Wane would pull him out of school for a week and take a hiking trip. “Just me and him, no interruptions,” he said. These quiet trips with his dad influenced Dustin’s decision to hike the trail, choosing the north-to-south route so he would be hiking toward home instead of away from it.
When the Jacksons entrusted Beverly with the project, they knew she would see the whole picture.
“She knew what it meant to us. We knew that. We trusted her completely,” Wane said. “She knows about family.”