Once in a Blue Moon


From the Pinnacle along the Blue Mountain, if you had a set of binoculars and knew where to look, there is a red barn in the valley and at the base of it, where the road passes by, there is a big red splotch on the black top. You can see it from the rocks. Allen Hoppes can see it from the rocks because two summers ago, he slid 14 feet down a dewy aluminum roof that he was painting and landed on his feet on the asphalt. He broke both heels, fractured his pelvis and a vertebrae. The red splotch is not blood, it is red barn paint.

Allen had no insurance in the U.S. as he is married to a woman from Madrid and lives there.  It was bad. He was only here in the states for a month and picked up some painting work while here. Allen didn’t know if he’d walk again, he certainly did not know if he would be able to climb to the top of the Blue Mountain again.

But after a Spanish human bone was implanted in him, as well as a titanium plate and 8 screws, after months of re-hab, wheeling himself around in a wheelchair… one year after his accident, he returned to his Pennsylvania home and asked me if I would help him get back up on the Blue Mountain. He didn’t need my arm as anticipated, he needed my psychological support. We stood up on the Pinnacle and he found himself emotionally moved to tears of gratitude, to be able to stand up there. One year ago, he did not know if he’d be able to do this. He brought binoculars and clearly saw the red blotch on the road in in the valley below.

This was one year ago. Todd sometimes drives by it on his way to work and still sees the paint splotch, although it is fading. He wonders if he should repaint it to keep it as a memorial. Allen said he should put up a plaque, stating “Flying Dutchman sighted here.”

This Pennsylvania Dutch boy is not the normal PA German boy. Allen entered the Peace Corp in his 30’s, then worked at Hawk Mountain as the maintenance man. (This is where we met many years ago). He travels like a hungry person, visiting thirty-five countries in his fifty years and fourteen were in Africa. He has led 70+ trips of college students to Morocco through Morocco Exchange, a non-profit org for cross-cultural education.

We got close to Allen ten years ago when we decided to cycle the 400 mile Camino de Santiago- The Way of St. James- a pilgrim path across Spain from the Pyrenees to the ocean. Only an acquaintance at this point, he met us at the airport (all 6 of us), put us up in his home (with his wife, Adela,) shuttled us to the trailhead, and back to his home again afterwards. We could not have done it without him and he made the logistical nightmare of moving 6 people and 6 bikes seem easy.

Another year, we met in Sicily and adventured there as a family together. Then, four years ago, he was our guide for a month in Morocco, as he practiced on our family to gain experience as a family guide in Morocco.

After these international adventures together, he is cemented in our hearts and has become our most cherished friend,  a rare friend who enjoys the vagabonding adventuring life like us.


The Pinnacle boasts the best view on the entire Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. It is magnificent up there and one can be happy for hours, just watching the turkey vultures soar like the aerial acrobats that they are, playing in the wind currents…let alone simply gaze out at the magnificent view.

When Allen married Adele in Spain, he returned home to Kempton and had a party at the Kempton Rod & Gun Club that sits at the base of the Pinnacle. Anyone who could, climbed it that day in celebration. It is a pretty special place- only one place beats it in  my book and that is North Lookout at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

This summer, when Allen returned to Pennsylvania, he and I hiked up to North Lookout and assisted the full moon in its rising. That was 28 days ago, August 2.

This week he called me up and asked to get together to say good-bye as he is leaving for Madrid. His month visit is already over.

“It is a Blue Moon!” I said. What better way to celebrate than come full circle and get back on the Blue Mountain at North Lookout. And so tonight, with Todd and Bryce, fresh back from a train ride from Temple/Philly for the weekend, we took another night hike and made another full moon memory. And celebrated this special friend, the likes of which only comes around in your life, every once in a blue moon.



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