The Road Goes Ever On: Hot Springs to Damascus
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I need to be”- Douglas Adams
These past few weeks have been my absolute favorites on the Trail. The weather has been incredible, the views spectacular, and the trail family is finally coming together. Flame Thrower and I have been hiking with Phu, Gold Star, Selfy, Hulk, Icarus, and Juice for around a week and a half now off and on, and it has been a blast.
Heading out of Hot Springs, Flame Thrower and I encountered several signs about trail magic that we were going to miss, unless we hiked to a gap 40 miles away in a day. Slightly disheartened, our spirits were definitely lifted when we encountered a sign for trail magic happening the next day. And boy, was it incredible. They even had veggie burgers for us vegetarians, fresh fruit, and homemade baked goods. I think I stayed there a good three hours just eating and talking. Plus, the views from the ridge line to Flint Mountain shelter were incredible.
I have been loving the balds in the South. I’ve never experienced such an expansive 360 degree view before. The Roan Highlands have probably been my favorite scenery from the trail so far. The Overmountain shelter was also spectacular. At the shelter, our entire trail family (all 10 of us at that point) watched the sunrise from the back porch. It was pretty special.
At the town of Roan Mountain, Phu, Flame Thrower, Gold Star, and I decided to hitch in to get pizza. What we encountered was the greatest pizza I have ever experienced at the Smoky Mountain Bakery, along with some fantastic bread and pastries. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, it is definitely worth a stop.
It’s funny how the Trail can toss you around. On the way into Hampton, at the end of an 18 mile day in the heat, I was feeling pretty low. The sun was beating down, and it seemed like my legs had turned to concrete. That’s when I turned a corner and saw a sign that said “Hikers, You Hungry? Come to the brown house!” What greeted us was a ton of food, drinks, tenting sites, and a bonfire. It’s funny that just when you’ve reached your breaking point, the people on the trail have the ability to lift your spirits.
Which brings me to the magical place that is Kincora Hostel and Bob Peoples. We stayed at the hostel for a night, slack packed Pond Flats SoBo (one of the oddest experiences on the trail so far), and cooked a great tortellini dinner. We also got to talk to Bob, which turned out to be very eye opening for me. He told us that “we are all out here to learn about ourselves and others. It’s psychological. There’s few other trails like this one. Take your time because this will likely be the last time you ever hike a trail like this.”
It got me thinking about my trail experience, and how I was often anxious to get going if we had a late start, or felt bad when we didn’t do more than 16 miles a day. I’ve discovered that I’m not here to make it to Maine. I know that I can do it, but what matters are the people and the stories that get me there. What I’m here for is to experience, enjoy, and reinvigorate myself. The thing that is currently helping me achieve my goal is the people around me and the things I am experiencing, not the miles that are propelling me forward. It’s okay to be behind some people, and in front of others. I know getting to Maine will happen. That can wait. The one regret I’ve heard from former thru hikers is that they were so determined to get to Maine they didn’t stop and enjoy the moment. So stop. Enjoy the moment. Be present for what you can, because making it to Maine is only a small piece of your journey.
With this in mind, I have found that I am enjoying my time not hiking so much more. Hanging out in Damascus for Trail Days has been incredible. It’s made me realize how expansive the hiking community is. After, most of my trail family and I have decided to do trail maintenance for a couple of days. I’m excited to give back to the trail, and to experience a new side of the AT.
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You really hit it with what trail life is about. Thanks for giving back with the trail maintenance. Have fun, Backfire.
Great post! So true.