The Gift of Two Black Eyes
Ask almost any former thru hiker what they didn’t expect when they first started their hike and almost every one will say something like, “The trail restored my faith in humanity.”
Seriously, try this at home.
Ask ANY thru hiker.
Between the non-hikers who offer trail magic or rides into town, or the hikers who look after each other or make room in a crowded shelter on a bad night, thru hiking brings out the best in people right when people need it the most.
I needed it the most a couple of weeks ago when this came into my life:
This little piece of strategically placed rebar could have stopped my hike.
Instead, it led to a cascade of escalating generosity that I’m calling my offocial “restoring my faith in humanity” moment.
That little piece of rebar was sticking up in the trail right after a road crossing near Smithsburg, Maryland.
I was hiking with my trail friend, 77, and we were a tenth of a mile from the shelter where we planned to camp.
(First, a word about trail friendships…they develop quickly and can be close, but at the end of the day, one hiker is under no obligation to another. We all have to put in our own miles and sometimes that means hiking on if someone injures themselves. I mean, minor injuries. Most would stay for blood and CPR, I think. I hope).
Yes, I tripped on the rebar and face-planted in the trail. Hit my head on a rock and ripped a few holes in my knee (enhanced by grinding some gravel into the wounds). I think I saw patellar tendon under the flap of skin.
It wasn’t faith restoring enough that:
* My trail friend stayed with me throughout the whole ordeal.
*He yogied us a ride into town from the first person who passed.
*The sales lady at the Dollar General allowed a dirty (bleeding) hiker into the employee (i.e. NOT public) bathroom (and offered use of the first aid kit).
*A random lady with a shi tzu in her arms brought me an ice pack wrapped in a wash cloth while I paced outside the Dollar General in a tad bit of distress after deciding I needed an Urgent Care Center and a tetanus shot.
But wait! There’s more!
Well, actually that might have been enough to restore my faith, but there was so much more!
And it came in the form of this amazing woman, Liz Freeman.
Liz was an Army medic, an EMT and is a nurse (not to mention a bad ass MMA fighter and a great mom).
“I’ll take you!”
But I didn’t know any of that and she knew nothing of me or 77 when she walked up to us in front of the DG and said, “I’ll take you to Urgent Care.”
Also, did I mention? She had no idea that the nearest Urgent Care was a half hour drive away. We were in rural Maryland. About which I know nothing.
Tipping the Scales
Liz tipped the faith-restoration scales when she:
- offered to wait for me while the PA tried to rip the flap of skin off my knee and the no-nonsense nurse at the urgent care center scrubbed my knee with a wire brush.
- took me to the drugstore for the economy-sized bottle of “just in case my knee rots out in the dirty woods” Cephalexin. (72 cents, BTW. Antibiotics are cheap!)
- took us for food. And medicinal beer. At the BBQ joint nearby. (No, I did not let her pay.)
- Offered us beds and laundry and showers and hard-boiled eggs and a ride back to the trailhead in the morning.
- Thanked me for the opportunity to help someone in need.
OMG, I def have a girl crush on her now!
And her sweet daughter, Samantha, who offered us cupcakes leftover from her 13th birthday celebration the day before. Chocolate! My favorite.
I’m a badass, too.
I was back on the trail the next morning before 7am, so, yeah, I feel like a bit of a badass myself.
And I have two black eyes to show for it and more helpful people everywhere.
Sunsets was sure I’d had a bad night and stayed up crying all night.
Lisa from the hostel in Boiling Springs offered to give me some makeup tips.
Fast Eddie wanted to “get whoever did this to me.”
Watch your back, 77. I’m just sayin’.
People are watching out for me out here!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.
You said it well. That’s what the Trail is all about. There are good people out there willing to help others for no other reason than they care. Safe travels and good luck ahead.
Roo, when in need the universe provides … all those wonderful, selfless, compassionate people extended to you the best of themselves and in your sharing the story insures that the spiral of good karma will continue to bless many. Heal well and Trek on.
The trail does provide and face plants happen. Keep on trucking!
It looks like magenta eye shadow gone wild. But a beautiful color on you. Goes with the Ruby Throat. Glad you had all that good help along the way. Hey, I’m off the week of the 6th of August. Where will you be then? Could I meet you somewhere on or off the trail? Let me know. Gotta nail down some plans.
til then, step lightly,