All in a Day’s Hike
Imagine that you’ve been hiking since dawn. It’s now mid afternoon, and your feet hurt. Your clothes are dripping with sweat. Your legs, which you’d thought were strong, have felt as lively as a twenty year old tennis ball ever since you crossed the New Hampshire state line.
You’ve been guzzling water all day because of the heat. Your pack weighs a ton because you’d been told you’d need your cold weather gear for the White Mountains — but you’ve been hit with four straight days of 90 degree temperatures instead. You haven’t bathed in days and feel disgusting (especially after you stepped in mud), but your next hotel stop is still two nights away. You try in vain to ignore the stench.
You had a nice diversion earlier on when you came across a trail volunteer, an incredibly energetic man who bounds over the steep terrain in his spare time, clearing deadfall to make a better path. (Thank you, Joe! You are amazing, and we appreciate all your work!)
But the hours have dragged since then. You hike mostly in silence, unable to distract yourself from your misery (after two months on the trail you don’t have a lot to say). You desperately want to rest your feet, but every time you’ve stopped the flies and mosquitoes have descended in swarms, forcing you to move along. And your campsite is still 0.7 miles uphill (which you know exactly because you’ve been compulsively checking your GPS every 15 minutes).
There is nothing you can do but trudge on, and so you do. But then something catches your eye. You glance up, expecting to see a moose, a bear, or just about anything except what is actually there — a man standing in the forest cooking omelettes.
Yes, you read that right. It’s Carl, the omelette man. He has lawn chairs for you to sit on. He has an entire kitchen rigged up — stove, skillets, awning — smack in the middle of the New Hampshire woods. He’s even burning citronella candles to deter the bugs.
At his urging, you sit down. Still dazed with disbelief, you watch him whip up a couple of omelettes (ham, cheese, peppers, tomatoes), which you devour. You eat bananas and cookies, and guzzle cold tea. He offers to make you pancakes, and seems disappointed when you decline. He has Epsom salts for your feet. He offers you cinnamon rolls, more fruit, just about anything else you could desire.
And all the time, you’re wondering why. Why does Joe spend his free time clearing the trails of deadfall? Why would Carl spend every day of his retirement waiting in the woods for passing hikers — and feed them at his own expense?
I don’t really know. Almost a week later, I’m still marveling over their incredible generosity. But I can certainly tell you the result of their kindness. We sailed up the hill to our camp that night, our spirits greatly buoyed. Maybe it’s all in a day’s hike, part of the wonder that this journey is. But it sure left us feeling blessed. Thank you, Carl and Joe!
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