Never Eat Soggy Wheaties
I’m sitting in the Spring Creek Tavern in Hot Springs as I write this post, reflecting on the past weeks since my last update.
I’ve actually lost track of days and time altogether, despite the daily texts my mother sends me. Then again, my temporal reasoning has never been stellar.
I’ve been very blessed out here so far; in Franklin I stayed with a friend who allowed my then hiking partner Kat and I to crash with her while we slackpacking the distance from Rock Gap to Fontana. Then, because I had a wedding in Alabama to attend, I did the Southern half of the Smokies, was picked up by my brother in Fontana, and enjoyed a few days on the beach. I was very sunburnt.
Then it was back to the Trail, and that’s where the loneliness set in. From Newfound Gap to Pecks Corner that first night all by myself I found myself, for the first time, truly alone. In my experience being alone can be either wildly liberating or crushingly melancholy. For me, I found it was the latter as faces were no longer familiar and my thoughts seemed to turn to every mistske, every humiliation, every stupid thing I’ve ever done. I cried while I hiked, as I did for the next two days, and just wished the Smokies were over. Making friends is hard for me and everyone I knew were now miles ahead of me.
The next morning I awoke to frost covering the western slopes of the trail and somehow felt better about things.
The next few days were equally as rough but I can’t really vocalize why. There are no words or reasons to describe my emotional turmoil. I do know this, though; I wanted a tramily of my own. Familiar faces who would be happy to see me at camp each night, people to talk to about nerdy things and life things, people to conspire and commiserate with.
On a particularly rough day I rolled into Max Patch to meet my brother (who has been supporting me along the way) and we decided I needed a night in a hotel and could slackpack into Hot Springs the next day (my first 20 mile day). Max Patch, by the way, OMG AMAZING. It really lifted my spirits to see everyone so joyous and having fun in such a beautiful place.
Starting off from Max Patch the next morning, not quite making it for sunrise but still greeted with a great view, I was ready for what I assumed would be my toughest day yet.
In actuality, the first 19 miles were a breeze. The weather was perfect, I was feeling good and full of energy, and I was making great time. Then, with less than a mile to go, the bloody nose began.
I panicked, not having such a serious nosebleed in years. Down the mountain I flew in my busted shoes, stopping only if I thought I could get my nose to clot. I needed to sit down, I needed to (which I had no more wit me), and I needed to be in a place where I could have assistance. My nose bleeds are no joke. By the time I met Andrew at the trail in Hot Springs, I was a bleeding, crying, itchy mess (I was swarmed with mosquitos in that last mile into town). Stumbling through town lpoking like a hot mess, we finally made it to his car where I got myself pulled together. I’m so thankful Andrew was around to help me. This is why I need people in my hiking adventure; clearly I’m not capable of being on my own.
But I have to learn to take care of myself and be my own support, no matter how tough it gets, no matter how many times I have to repeat “Never Eat Soggy Wheaties” to remember east from west. Andrew leaves tomorrow to head back home for awhile and if I’m going to learn how to be a self sufficient adult, I have some growing up to do.
Maybe I put too much hope on the trail to “fix” me. No, I need to fix myself, my expectations, and my reality. Maybe it won’t heal me, but the Trail continues to teach me every day.
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