Faith, Trust, and Trail Dust
“I will walk by faith even when I cannot see.”
2 Corinthians 5:7
Hey all. I’ll be honest, I’ve been having a couple of off days. Close friends and family know that I struggle with anxiety. Hiking often helps me to deal with my issues, but sometimes it is not enough.
One aspect of life I am learning to use to cope with my anxiety is my faith. In the last year, my relationship with God has changed a great deal. I lost my way for a bit a couple of years ago, but I am glad to be back on track.
On Friday I experienced a scary day on the trail. My anxiety heightened the situation, but at the end of the day, I felt God’s presence, letting me know that no matter what, as I continue to walk with faith, I will be OK.
Here is a brief description of the day:
I woke up Friday morning to rain. As a hiker, rain is not ideal, but it is inevitable. I had a 22-mile day planned so I had to get up and start trucking. I packed up my wet gear and headed out.
A few miles in on the trail, the rain got pretty bad, but honestly, I didn’t let it bother me. I figured, I’m already wet and I have a long way to go. Why not jump in a puddle or two along the way?
The rain cleared off and I came to a fork in the trail. In bad weather, hikers are to go to the left as the trail on the right is an exposed ridge. Based on the fact that the rain stopped and I am white-blazing thru and thru, I took the high-ridge trail.
Walking along, I paid extra attention to the rocks. I took my time, nice and slow, watching each step. I’m not sure what happened, but I slipped and slid off the side of the ridge, backward. I slide for a while through some thorny vines, trying to grab at anything to stop my slide.
Eventually I was so tangled in the thorns, I came to a stop. I tried to get up, but my pack held me down. I unbuckled my pack and rolled over, grabbing at the vines, trying to pull myself back up on to the ridge.
After a few minutes I got my bearings back. Thankfully I was not seriously injured, just shaken. I started back on the trail, thinking maybe I should make it a shorter day. The fall scared me because no one was around and I was totally exposed on the ridge. Maybe taking it slower would be for the best.
I kept on and decided I would do five miles less and stay at a hostel right off the trail. I could get a good night’s rest, dry off my gear, and be fresh for Saturday.
About a mile out before the hostel, I met a man at a road crossing. I asked him if he heard anything about the hostel. He had a lot to say and none of it was good.
Apparently this particular hostel had a lot of drug trafficking and some low-key prostitution. Hearing this was not comforting. The man was kind, though, and gave me his contact info, saying that if I felt uncomfortable, I could call and he would come and get me.
When I got the the hostel, I immediately realized it was not the place for me. There were many signs outside saying, “Trespassers will be shot.” I have since been reassured that these signs were a joke, but I didn’t find them funny. I called out for the hostel caretakers, but no one was around. I pushed open the door to the hostel; when looking inside, it resembled a place where someone might be held captive. All these signs convinced me that the man I met was correct; this place was not going to work out.
I got back to the trail and pushed on, climbing up the last five miles to get to the shelter and finish out the 22-mile day.
About halfway up, I met a man setting up camp on the side of the trail. We made small talk and I mentioned I was freaked out about the hostel down the mountain. He looked at me and said that the shelter was fine, he stayed there before, and there was nothing to worry about. When he smiled at me, I saw he had no teeth; this added more to my already eerie feeling. I said bye to the guy and bolted up the mountain.
I hiked on for a bit and started worrying about arriving at the shelter. I was convinced the shelter would be around each bend, but that just didn’t happen.
At dusk I began crying. I was exhausted, both emotionally and physically. I asked God to please let me get to where I needed to be. My fall in the morning scared me, I had wicked pack rash that was bleeding on my hips from my wet pack, I was scared about the hostel and the man I encountered on the trail. I wanted to be done for the day and I wanted to be around people. I hiked on and on, up the mountain, and there was nothing.
I made a mental note that if I didn’t get to the shelter by 8 p.m., I would call it quits and camp on my own. I’ve done this a few times on the trail but like to avoid it as much as possible.
Just when I was about to call it a day at 7:57 p.m., I spotted the shelter sign. I ran to the shelter where a group of people I’ve been hiking with on and off were waiting by a warm fire. When I saw them I began crying again and told them about my tough day on the trail. They were happy to see me, said they knew I would catch up (they were all a day ahead), offered me a spot to sleep in the shelter, some water, and a seat in front of the fire.
I spent the rest of the night laughing with this wonderful group of people. When heading to bed, Big Bear said, “See? Today went from pretty bad to pretty good.” I thought about that as I fell asleep. I also thought about God and the fact that I put my way in his hands and he delivered.
My anxiety is hard to deal with as I hike this trail. It’s hard to explain to those who do not have this issue.
I worry about getting to my destination each day, about whether or not I will have company at the camp spot, I worry about finishing within the deadline I’ve set for myself, I worry about finishing at all. The trail is good for thinking, but it can lead to dwelling on things as well. Often, these things I focus on I actually have little to no control over.
Moving forward on the trail I hope to work toward being less anxious while strengthening my faith. When thru-hiking, you can only take it one day at a time; that is all that I can do.
After making it though this day, I know God is in my corner even though it may not always appear that way. And while I’m not sure that I will stay with the group I have as of now, I’m so thankful to have them for the time being.
Here’s hoping that things improve as I move forward. I’ll check back in with y’all, soon.
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