Sometime, somewhere, someone lost a mitten: a black fleece mitten with a brown design. Sometime, somewhere, someone else found the mitten and stuck it on a fence between Milepost 12.5 and Milepost 13 on the W&OD Trail. It stands boldly upright, greeting the westbound traffic with a jaunty air. It’s the Hailing Hand.
I look for it every time I walk this part of the trail. If I’ve started out from the parking lot at the Vienna train station, the Hailing Hand lets me know that I’m close to the turnaround for my two-mile walk. It’s as if it’s saying, “Hail, traveler! You’re almost halfway there! Well done!”
Since it was so windy today, I wondered if perhaps the Hailing Hand had been snatched from its perch and was tumbling through a nearby field. But no; it was still firmly attached to the fence this morning, its head bent just a little against the wind. If it stays there through forty mph gusts, I’m guessing it’s there for good – unless some person with no sense of whimsy takes it off. Time, weather and nesting birds will no doubt take their toll on the Hand, but for now it’s a cheerful greeting to those trekking the trail.