The Trail Provides…Opportunities for Greatness
We all know the saying “the trail provides.” It’s used when extraordinary occurrences happen on the trail typically when you are at your darkest moments or happen to need a little bit of ‘magic’ in your life. It’s a hikers explanation for positive events or spontaneously random acts of kindness. Long story short, it’s our basis for all things great that happen on the trail.
However, in my opinion it’s not the trail that provides, it’s the people on the trail that make small but incredibly significant decisions not only impacting themselves, but everyone around them creating that sense of splendid wonder when something remarkable happens.
Here is my “the trail provides” moment:
After resuppling in Caratunk, ME, I originally anticipated it would take us 8 days to travel to Pinkham Notch, NH for our next resupply. I was horribly incorrect in that estimate largely due to the fact that the terrain in southern Maine resembles the path to Modor. It is primarily encompassed by miles of vertical rock scrambles, tercherous mountain summits well above treeline, and is in the middle of nowhere with little to no opportunities of running into civilization.
The only things differentiating us from Frodo and Sam were human eating spiders (or none I noticed) and hoards of mutant creatures chasing us (again none I saw at least).
Eight days out of Caratunk I had less than a day of food left on me and only two small backroads within walking distance leading into Andover, ME to try my best at getting a hitch into town to resupply.
Needless to say, my hopes were not very high about getting a hitch on a Sunday morning on roads not frequently traveled, and having a large dog with me didnt help matters either.
The entire night Saturday, I laid in bed going over our plan: wake up early, hike to the first road by 9 and try hitching until noon so we would still have time to get to the next shelter that night, and try the final road the next day if our luck didn’t hold up.
But of course, things never go as planned on the AT.
I woke up that morning at 6am to a dense fog enveloping the world around us. That normally wouldn’t be an issue except for the fact my headlamp batteries had died the night before even though I had been sleeping with them in my sleeping bag to keep them warm.
Luck was clearly not on our side that morning.
After waiting for the fog to lift enough for me to see to pack up camp, we ended up hitting the trail just after 7am with 6 miles to cover to reach the first road.
Expectations were low, but I tried to tell myself that whatever the outcome I still had tomorrow and if worse came to worse we could walk the 6 miles from the trail into town resupply.
An hour into our hike, we were stopped dead in our tracks by a large disturbance in the woods about 30 yards away from us. Having seen a bear only a week prior that was immediately what I thought it was. Boy was I wrong! It was a cow and bull moose trudging through the misty morning just like us.
The day prior to this I ran into a trail worker saying that I likely wouldn’t see any moose past this point because the landscape isn’t ideal for them and hunting season had just opened (I had never seen a moose in the wild before).
I was awe struck! I couldn’t believe how quickly our luck had changed into such a miraculous moment. Riley and I sat and watched them for about 10 minutes before we headed back out on the trail. Only now the fog had entirely lifted and the sun was proudly shining and warming everything it touched.
A couple miles later, we ran into Fiction and Non-fiction, two thru-hikers finishing their last 25 miles of the trail and spotting their cars, one which was parked on the road I planned on hitching at. I asked them the likelyhood of me getting a hitch at the road, and explained my pitiful food situation.
Without hesitation Fiction offered me her car keys to drive into Andover to resupply and then park it back at the trailhead once I was finished.
My jaw dropped and it took every ounce of strength not to break down and cry right then and there.
I hadn’t noticed how heavily my food situation was weighing on me until that point, and their completely selflessness and gracious act of kindness caught me entirely off guard and filled me with a sense of gratitude so expansive it’s beyond words.
It was then the phrase “the trail provides” popped into my head.
Except it wasn’t the trail that provided this massive change of direction in my day.
It was the simple insurmountable act of kindness that two strangers bestowed upon another person that will forever be one of the greatest gestures ever offered to me.
It was my decision to stop and take the time to appreciate the rare chance occurance of seeing a moose; to stop and make the most of the moment instead of staying focused with my blinders on and get to the road as fast as possible.
The trail provides all of us countless opportunities to be the best versions of ourselves and impact the world around us in various ways.
The same holds true for the world outside of the AT. By being a little a little less selfish and being more giving, taking the time to appreciate the little things and not get wrapped up in the daily stress of life, and keeping a positive outlook we radiate positivity on the world and people around us by creating a domino effect.
We, not the trail, provide the chance for greatness for every experience in our lives based on how we react to each crossroads we encounter.
Being the best versions of ourselves projects that “the trail provides” atmosphere. We provide for each other and ourselves. Sometimes it just takes walking a few hundred miles in the woods to realize it.
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