The section of trail leaving Stover Creek shelter has been my favorite so far. It was completely green over the trail and felt like a tropical rainforest. Just past this is a cypress forest. For several miles the trail runs parallel to a sizable creek with several small waterfalls. Despite the fact that it was raining all day and the trail was mud sludge, it was still magical.
Turning uphill to Hawk Mountain the trees were bare in the deciduous forest once again. What looked like fog was actually just clouds, because that’s just the elevation. It could’ve been spooky, but it felt like heaven.
A tree branch broke above me and fell right where I had stood. I jumped out just in time to feel it whoosh past me and break apart. It’s not like it was big enough to kill me, but it would’ve hurt my head. I gave it a few curse words.
Just when I got to the Hawk Mountain shelter a downpour begin. It’s funny how I didn’t even try to hurry to set up my tent because I was already drenched and wasn’t going to get any dryer by rushing. Once I got my tent set up the bathtub floor was pretty flooded. Luckily, my cousin Amy had given me a chamois cloth, which I used to sop it all up and wring it out the door.
Then I realized that my backpack had become soaked throughout the day when the wind had blown my poncho over it unbeknownst to me. All my clothing was wet, except my sleep clothes which I had in a trash bag. Luckily, I learned that trick from Dixie on YouTube!
I knew the next day was a longer hike than I was used to. I had only been doing a little over 5 miles a day and Gooch mountain was 8. I didn’t know how I would carry this extra wet clothing weight and I was about to quit the trail in my frustration. And that’s when the magic of the trail people happened.
Bonding Through Hardship
I decided to stop sulking in my tent alone. Since the storm had ceased I went over to the shelter to hang out with many people packed in there like sardines. I got emotional and confessed what had happened and how frustrated I was and how I was at my wits end.
That’s when another hiker told me that he had had a similar situation and had called one of the hostel owners who came to meet him at one of the gaps and took him to get new equipment. He said not to worry because they would all pitch in together to help me carry my load to the next shelter. I was overwhelmed at the help these complete strangers were willing to give me.
I got pretty emotional because my main reason for being on the trail was to get away from people. But I’m starting to understand why so many others say that it’s the PEOPLE that make the trail culture so special. No matter what happens, someone will help. My faith in humanity has suffered a lot in recent years, but a spark of hope has been reignited.
Emotional Roller Coaster
Up to this point it seems that my feelings flip back and forth day- to-day from complete elation to absolutely misery. Just when I think I’m going to quit the trail something magical happens and I’m so in love with it once again. I accept at this point that’s probably going to be an ongoing pattern. But I do know enough to never quit on a bad day.
My new personal goal is to start off each day not only with my list of gratitude, but to think of things I can do to help other hikers. What irony it is that what started out as an attempt at isolation and solitude is now becoming a lesson in self sacrifice and giving of myself to my fellow hikers.
I give thanks for this lesson and receive it with Grace.
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