Bill Harris Protects His Beloved Backyard Virginia Creeper Trail

first_imgI can tell how long I’ve known Bill Harris by the length of his beard. When I first met him, it was short and bushy. Now it hangs well below his chin, its wiry brown hairs nearly grazing his collarbone. Bill is a tall, lanky kind of guy with big, calloused hands. His laugh is infectious, a pair of off-kilter eyes crinkling at the corners every time he smiles. Looking back on the four years I lived off and on in Damascus, it’s hard to picture my life there without him. If he wasn’t at Mojoe’s Trailside Coffee sipping a cup of coffee, he was usually on his bike cruising down the Virginia Creeper Trail with his canine sidekick Deohghi in tow.Originally from the southwest corner of Michigan, Bill found his way to Damascus after losing both his house and job in 2000. With his daughter grown and his days now suddenly much freer, Bill decided to take this otherwise unfortunate turn of events and make it something positive. After researching “rails to trails” online, he came across a site for the Virginia Creeper Trail, reduced his possessions to the pack on his back, and headed south.“Michigan wasn’t my happy place. This,” Bill says, sweeping his arms wide, “this is my happy place.”For the decade following that first ride down the 34-mile-long Creeper, Bill would bounce around southwest Virginia working side jobs and making enough money to keep his now-transient lifestyle afloat. But in 2012, the call of the Creeper could no longer be ignored. With the permission of a local landowner, Bill established a campsite off the Creeper just outside of Damascus and has been living in the woods ever since.“Home is where your hammock hangs,” Bill says. “I’ve got no lights, no power, no bills. There’s no stress. I’m here to live and live as easy as I can and do what I can to help another.”Aside from his hammock, a tarp, some fly-fishing gear, and a minimalist espresso maker, Bill doesn’t really own anything. He gets around town on a black aluminum frame Trek with a doggie cart attached. Litter hurts everybody reads a weathered sign tacked to the back of the cart. Bill is what you might call the “trail maintainer” of the Creeper, taking it upon himself to pick up the trash that others leave behind. Generally, he’s one of the happiest people you’ll ever meet, but if he catches you tossing even so much as a cigarette butt onto the Creeper (or anywhere for that matter), you’ve got another thing coming.“I don’t know if you can call me a trail angel,” Bill says. “I don’t ask for anything and I don’t take anything. It all comes around. I’ve learned that everything is connected.”A typical day in the life of Bill always involves picking up at least one bag of trash from the Creeper, an unglamorous pastime at best, but one that does not go unrecognized. Although Bill occasionally runs shuttles for hikers coming into Mt. Rogers Outfitters, he hasn’t needed to find a full- or even part-time job in months: the town of Damascus takes care of him.“Anytime I need something, I always meet someone who can help,” he says. “Sometimes I might have to go looking for that help, but it’s there.”Living outside year-round may sound like a dream come true, but the reality of such a lifestyle is not nearly as tranquil. Bill’s “front yard,” as he likes to say, is Whitetop Laurel, the local creek that parallels the Creeper through town. In January 2013, his setup earned the name Camp Floodzone after days of nonstop rain forced Bill to move his hammock site in the middle of the night.“I was voted off the island,” he says with a chuckle. “But there were people looking out for me. Within a few minutes of taking down my campsite, someone was there with a truck to help me load it all and take me somewhere dry.”I saw Bill the morning following the flood. Although he looked tired, likely from being awakened in the middle of the night to a roaring river beneath his feet, he was not so much as a fraction less cheery. Even in the sticky heat of the long summer days or the bitter cold of the longer winter nights, I’ve never once heard Bill complain. The mosquitos, the snow, the torrential downpours—nothing fazes him.“A guy once said to me, ‘you’re just on a next level of Zen with your happiness. More people need to get there,’” Bill says. “I guess the secret is I’ve thrown everything away. If you’ve got stuff, you have to live with stuff, and nobody really needs stuff.”Aside from his daily trail upkeep, Bill is an avid hiker, a connoisseur of wild mushrooms, a fly-fisherman, and a master fly craftsman. His favorite pastime is listening to the gurgling waters of Whitetop Laurel from his hammock and his most treasured book is Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang.“Pay your rent, work for the earth,” he says. “If I didn’t do what I do, who would do it?”last_img read more

Aileen Withered

first_imgFuneral services will be Noon (12 p.m.) on Friday May 11, 2018 at Sibbett-Moore Funeral Home with Pastor Harris Long officiating.  Burial will follow at Forest Hill Cemetery at Moores Hill. Visitation will be 10-12 p.m. Friday also at the funeral home.  Memorials may be given to Ripley Crossing Activity Fund. Sibbett-Moore Funeral Home, entrusted with arrangements, 16717 Manchester Street, Box 156 Moores Hill, Indiana 47032  (812)744-3280.  Go to to leave an online condolence message for the family. Aileen Withered, 92 of Moores Hill passed away Wednesday May 9, 2018 at Ripley Crossing in Milan. Aileen was born October 17, 1925 in Harrodsburg, KY; the daughter of Jessie and Gertie (Huffman) Dean. She married Curtis Roberts and he preceded her in death in 1960; then she married Robert Withered in 1962 and he preceded her in death in 2011.  Aileen retired from working at the Moores Hill School. She was a member of the Moores Hill Baptist Church.  She enjoyed gardening, yard work, mowing, quilting, cooking, taking rides in the country and getting up really early in the morning to work on her crossword puzzles and spending time with the family.Aileen is survived by sons: Loyd “Ebbie” (Lana) Roberts of Greendale; Bennie (Jan) Roberts of Moores Hill; Randy Roberts of Milan.  5 Grandchildren, 8 Great-Grandchildren, 2 Great-Great- Grandchildren.  She was preceded in death by her husband, 2 brothers: Dallas and J.B. Dean; twin sister: Irene Keeling and sister Lillie Adkinson.last_img read more

Indiana ranks 14th for most underprivileged kids

first_imgStatewide — In a recent Wallet Hub survey, the state of Indiana is ranked 14th across the country in states with the most underprivileged children. The state ranks 1st for the percent of children in foster care, 9th for the percent of maltreated children, and 12th for the percent of children that are uninsured. To see the entire study, click here.  According to the Children’s Defense Fund, a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds and the total costs of maltreatment per year reach $80.3 billion, in the United States.last_img read more

Ryan says NHL is vitally important

first_imgAlthough some inter-county bosses don’t take the competition that seriously the Tipp supremo thinks there’s a lot to be gained by doing so.The Premier County open their campaign against Dublin at Semple Stadium on February 13th but will play two more prepatory games before that fixture.Michael says the players will gain a lot if they do well in the NHL.last_img