I've mentioned before a saying often used by hikers, "The trail provides." The expression refers to the uncanny way in which we are given help just at the moment we need it. That saying was proven true again today, though in this case I didn't even know at first I needed help.
The day started promisingly. Rain had stopped and the high winds had diminished. It continued interestingly. I passed spots of beautiful nature and fascinating history, and I met some friendly people. And the day ended miserably.
Apparently the three bears that walked through the campsite Rafiki and I shared last night didn't have second thoughts and return for our food. The bear bags we hung remained where we left them. As I began to pack up and head up the trail, trees were swaying even more than they had yesterday. The wind was definitely picking up. From behind me I heard a loud crack and a thud. Somewhere near the trail, but a hundred or so yards away, a large branch from a tree fell to the ground.
The small town of Hot Springs, N.C. has a reputation for sucking hikers into its vortex of restaurants and other conveniences of civilization, making it difficult to leave. I wasn't trapped by the town today, but I was delayed a few hours before I could leave.
The morning started cold and blustery, much like yesterday ended. I was slow to get moving. Shortly after I finally exited my tent I said hello to a couple hikers who were walking by. From that point on I didn't talk to nor even see another hiker until I was less than a mile from Hot Springs. It was a quiet, lonely hike. I enjoyed every moment.
Day 21, Groundhog Creek Shelter to Kale Gap
I told Althea that treachery was tearing me limb from limb
Today was only my second day back on the trail after being off for eight days. I could have expected it would take time to readjust to trail life. I should have known it would be hard to return to a hiking routine. But I would never have predicted I'd question why I was hiking this trail. I did, and that worried me.
As much as I enjoyed spending time with family and friends, eating good food and sleeping in a real bed, they weren't going to get me to Maine. So early this morning Kim drove me back to Davenport Gap, the spot where she had picked me up just over a week ago.
As planned, I took eight days off from the trail. The time away was to get some rest and then to attend a work-related convention. More than once during the first days I was home, my wife said to me, "It's just like when you used to live here!" And so it was. I was able to take a shower in the bathroom I used to use. Sleep in the same bed I used to sleep in. Eat food in the same kitchen I used to eat in. I could get used to this.
I didn't leave myself with many options today. It was either going to be a day of hiking 20.5 miles, more than I have done so far on this trip, or contacting my wife because I can't make it that far and telling her to pick me up tomorrow instead of today. It shouldn't be difficult to figure out which option I preferred.
Day 18, Mt. Collins Shelter to Peck’s Corner Shelter
There are things you can replace and others you cannot
When I awoke this morning I heard a sound no hiker wants to hear. No, it wasn't a camper next to me snoring loudly. It was rain hitting my tent. Rain makes you change your routine. You have to be more careful how you pack and prepare to hit the trail.
With our original plan of meeting my sister-in-law at Newfound Gap for a resupply now abandoned, Landon and I set out to execute a new plan. Actually, we had a new plan and a backup plan.
The rain that began yesterday continued today. Relentlessly. There was so much rain that by mid-day the trail had become one continuous stream of mud.
People will often tell you to enjoy the time you have with your children when they are young. "They grow up so fast," is what you're told, and that much is true. Let me tell you, though, special moments can be had with your children when they are adults. In some ways, those moments are even more enjoyable.
The Bible tells about the contentious relationship between Jacob and his twin brother, Esau. The relationship became so bitter that Esau vowed to kill Jacob as soon as their father, Isaac, died. Wisely, Jacob decided to leave. While he was traveling, Jacob had a vision of a ladder reaching into heaven. Jacob’s ladder was difficult to climb, but the view of heaven and the many of the blessings received from God once the top of the ladder was reached made the climb worthwhile.
People who have a lot of experience hiking long distance trails will often give this advice: "Don't quit on a bad day." The best thing to be said about today was I didn't quit.