1217.5 I’m still shining on!
I have done the very thing I told myself I wouldn’t do… I have fallen behind on my trail postings. It has been over a month since I have shared news of my trail life; and for those that follow, I am truly sorry you have not been in the loop. The short and dirty is that the trail continues to provide me with regular miracles, obstacles, and lessons… and Virginia was hard and long.
Let me set the scene, I am currently in a hotel room in Hamburg, PA. Trail mile 1,217.5! I am sharing the room with 3 other hikers I met within the past three days: Mouse, Honey Buns, and the Conductor. I have done laundry, had two showers, eaten McDonalds, and for the first time in a long time- feel compelled to actually write. I am sad to say writing had begun to feel like a chore. To add insult to injury, I never have enough service on the mountain to write- so that always meant town would be my only time to write… I have several short drafts saved on my phone that I had hoped to compile at some point to give “Virginia” a proper write-up. Now that I feel like I have justified myself- I will tell you some good stories!
That time I found the turtle..Some of you may not know this, but I have a niche for finding four-leaf clovers. I share this trait with my mom, and for some reason, we have always be able to find them. I remember my dad telling me when I was a little girl he once saw my mom find a four-leaf clover while on horse back. On the trail, they have been so prevalent that I often see them as I walk and don’t bother to pick them up. For a while, I was leaving them in the log books for fun! The point is, I believe in good omens; signs that reassure that I am on the correct path. Well, a few weeks back, I was in the Shenandoah’s. I had made it to Big Meadows when I felt the strong pull for getting home to my family like I hadn’t yet. I was 30 minutes away by car at that point, so I called my mom to pick me up. I had pushed my miles for several, continuous days. Averaging 20-25’s, no breaks, hot and humid weather. That day, I had gotten into a sticky situation where I went an 11 mile stretch trying to make less than a half a liter of water last till the next water source… I remember around 2 o’clock I sat down, literally on the trail, and thought I was going to fall asleep. A wave of exhaustion came over me and every step was a forceful effort. I left a message on my moms phone unsure the call would even go through. A few hours later I received a text with the sweet words, “On my way.” I was home for 3 days- I was so sick. I had no appetite, I was “loosing lots of fluid”, and I could only move far enough to lay down on another flat surface. I thought I had Giardia or Nora Virus… The symptoms would not give up. The funny thing was, I wasn’t even upset. I kept thinking how wonderful it is to be sick at home and not in my tent. To be around people that would rub my feet, bring me water, and kiss my head. I was so thankful I hadn’t experienced a single “shitty” day on trail relative to this. It sounds funny, but it’s like the universe gave me these days to be at home to counterbalance all the good fortune and good health thus far. I needed those days to literally not move. I don’t take zeros on trail. This may be one of my biggest “hiker flaws” because I know I probably should. Once I got back on trail, I had to reassess my hike. I was no longer hiking “home”, which had been a mental mantra for 969 miles. I was now officially hiking to Katahdin! This brings me to mile 999.9.
I knew I was getting close to mile 1,000. The rocks on the trail began turning all white pebbles. These tiny little, bright, white rocks were all I was thinking about. I wanted to pick one up. I crossed one rock that was to the right edge of the trail, I gave it a fleeting glance, and I thought to myself, “that looks like an upside down turtle” and I kept walking…very similar to finding a four leaf clover- I held my stare on the rock as my body kept moving and then I stopped, took a few steps back and reallllly looked at it. It really did look like a turtle. So I picked it up. And it was.
Then I looked up, there was the sign for mile 1000.
A good omen. “Slow down”. “Slow and steady wins the race”. “Turtles carry their homes on their back”… The metaphors go on and trail continues to teach me about myself.
That time a carried a dog bootie all day…
I told myself I’d never hold onto another hikers “stuff” after what happened to me one day in North Carolina when a hiker asked me to hold his phone in the pouring rain till we got to the shelter, but we both accidentally missed the shelter and he sprinted ahead and made me hike a 22 mile day to catch him…(I had only planned on doing a 17)…
The other day a southbound hiker asked if I was going to the next north shelter. I told him that was my intentions but I may fall short, he said, “great! Please take the boot with you and give it to Medusa!” I took it without thinking, I didn’t even know of a Medusa, and I thought the dog bootie was some kind of joke. As I looked at the guidebook the next shelter was 18 miles away… I had already done about 12 miles. I looked at the bootie and immediately regretted having it. I thought to myself, “Great! (Sarcasm) now my day is about getting to Medusa.” The damn boot kept falling off my pack, hitting against my leg as I walked, I cursed that damn thing. I kept thinking I should just put it down and pretend I never saw it. I was going up my last climb of the day and in the corner of my eye all I could see was the red boot swinging back and fourth and that’s when I decided to “lose it”, but then that moment I heard, “Hellooooo down there!” I look up and see no one. I heard her again. There was a woman on a rock ledge looking down at me! I stop and wave. She asks if I happened to find a dog shoe. I start laughing and told her I was just about to put it down! We have a wonderful conversation and found out she is a flip flopper with her dog. She shared some stories and her trail calling and something that she said resonated with me, she said, “it is when we are this remote can we actually experience “it all” (air quotes)”…”People call it trail magic or the trail community… But they are just scared to call it what it really is… It’s God.”
That time I lost all my money in Duncannon…I was going to do my first 30 mile day from Boiling Springs, PA to the first shelter after Duncannon. I stopped by the infamous Doyle hotel for dinner, loved the the hiker talk, the service, the environment, the food. I needed to do a small resupply at the food mart a block up. I always cringe having to do food resupplies at these small convenience stores; 2 and 1/2 days of low quality food can cost over 30 dollars at least. I check out and I am the only one in the store. I put my card in the machine, she hands me the recite, I was about to sign, but then I looked closer and it said $230.10. At that moment every person in Duncannon thought it was a good time to buy their newspapers and milk. People flooded the store. She told me to stand aside and wait. Over an hour I waited. She tried fixing the mistake and she charges that amount a second time… I begin to really panic. She FaceTimes her husband and then her son- she wants me to talk to them… I don’t know what to say. She was able to refund one amount on the card but then tries to pay me the rest back in cash. I insist that I will not take that much money with me because I’m hiking. She tells me to come back tomorrow, again, I tell her I can’t because I’m hiking. She wants to take a picture of my card to send to her husband and I stop her. I start panicking and then this guy walks into the store who looks oddly familiar, it clicked, it was Odie- the hiker yearbook guy! He asked me if everything was alright, frazzled and with tears of frustration in my eyes, I tell him the run down and that all I want to do is hike the 4 more miles to the next shelter, but it was getting late. He told me to wait there then walked outside. 5 minutes later a van pulled up and parked with an older woman inside. Odie asked me if I had met Trail Angel Mary yet. I had not. I went outside, she says, “Come here Rucker!” I walk to her window, she immediately reaches out and gives me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She says, “Don’t hike those 4 miles, you have a cot in my office you can sleep on tonight, pull out the bacon from the freezer we will have it for breakfast!”
In the end, everything works itself out my friends. There are so many distractions that can so easily take charge of your present moment. I am learning to quiet these distractions. I have also began reading the book “The Alchemist” last week and was brought to tears when I read these words in the opening pages, “We warriors of the light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.“….. Boom.
(Please look past all the spelling and grammar errors, I write on my phone and have fat thumbs:))
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