Restoring My Faith in Humanity, One State at a Time
I am slightly over a quarter of the way finished hiking the Appalachian Trail.
It has been just over 50 days.
I’m in my fourth state, and reaching the final days of my first pair of shoes. My knees and ankles hurt pretty much all the time. I’ve grown so much stronger it’s insane. My body is able to do things I did not think I would ever be able to do.
Some days, it’s hard to get out of my tent in the morning.
Either the physical or mental strain of the trail weighs down on you, and the thought of packing up camp and hiking 20 miles seems inconceivable. The demoralizing act of putting wet socks on my cold feet then into wet shoes is more than I can stomach some days. Other days, I have already hiked 15 miles by midday and I feel like I could go another 20. It’s a whole different world, and I am experiencing a new set of challenges and experiences every day. I freaking love it.
As a SOBO,
it’s a strange adjustment from the peaks of NH and Maine to the green tunnel in Vermont. It has forced me to shift perspectives; I appreciate the beauty in the trail itself rather than looking for my next big payoff. It’s so easy to take picture after picture of the sweeping views that go along with climbing 4,000-foot mountains every other day. As gorgeous as they are, though, they all eventually start to blend together. Some of my favorite moments have been the smaller things: the way that the sunlight dapples off the forest floor through a break in both the canopy and the morning fog. The tiny streams I cross every day, with their icy water and bitey bugs. Sometimes it’s just the feeling that a certain part of the trail gives me.
I enjoyed my time in Vermont, and while there were definitely plenty of mud patches, my feet managed to stay dry for the entire state. This, I hear, is something of a miracle.
Speaking of miracles…
I swear that with every step that I take, my faith in humanity is being restored. Out here, people treat people differently. People go out of their way to help you, for no other reason than that they genuinely want to do it.
Before I started my hike I joined a Facebook group of aspiring thru-hikers and through that I was introduced to a man who lives not too far from me named Robert Bird. He told me to get in touch with him before I got into Massachusetts, so I did. He takes in five to six hikers at a time, and juggles them for a week as he slackpacks people for 80 miles. This, my friends, is the true miracle. Everyone is on different schedules, and going different directions. His drop-off and pick-up points go in total opposite directions, and he often has to drive the entire length of his range twice or more in a single day. He wakes us up, feeds us breakfast, takes us where we need to go, picks us up, brings us back to HIS home where five or more stinky hikers get cleaned up. He takes us for good food, or wherever else we need to go, before letting us sleep in his home and starting it all over the next day. The man never gets a chance to relax it seems, but I also do not think he would have it any other way. As soon as one hiker is almost finished with their 80ish miles, he finds another one to bring in.
This. Is. Magic.
If he finds someone who is hurt or sick, they stay with him until he personally nurses them back to health. This man does this out of his home in TN, then comes up to Massachusetts through the busy hiker season here and rents a cabin to help hikers up north where he meets SOBOs, then goes back to TN to wait on them to get down south so he can help them again. I’ve been at his cabin for three nights now. It’s been a very welcome and much-needed break, getting to sleep in a real bed but still hiking my 20 miles a day, carrying only what I need for the day instead of my full pack. It is honestly the kindest thing a stranger has ever done for me, and I’m not alone in thinking that. Thank you, Rob. There is good out there in this world. A lot of it, and I’m walking right into the heart of it.
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