“Sundrop”:Finding Beauty in the Challenge

Day 5 on trail consisted of descending several thousand feet and traversing 16 miles in blistering heat and high winds. I strained my IT band in my left leg and as the miles wore on the pain became so intense it took all my energy to focus on the wonders around me.

Extensive hikes are all about ands. It is beauty and pain. Challenge and overcoming. Tears and triumph.

As I struggled on, an image cane forth of a sun encapsulated by a raindrop. It was my spirit in that moment- finding joy and light in the hardship. Feeling gratitude even when the challenges felt unbearable. Those times were not unbearable because the joy still remained deep inside. That is true trail magic.

So that is now my trail name: sundrop! It seems the perfect fit for an optimistic soul expanding her reaches in new challenging ways.

I have been challenged in many ways on trail. There was a stretch where I hardly saw any women and that was tough on my morale. Already being new to thru-hiking I feel like there is a huge learning curve with choosing foods, gear tweaks and camping tips. I am naturally most comfortable in groups of women and so those few days seeing mostly men, though they are awesome, had me feeling  a bit more insecure in a journey that already feels so so much bigger than myself.

Trail culture in general has been eye opening. I have been digging fir free food in boxes on the side of the trail or by roads in towns and everyone here does the same. We all stink and happily so. There is no shame in doing whatever you wish to do, no expectations for using a fork and it is all good to wash socks in a sink. We are all just roughing it and living big and doing our best! That is certainly what I am doing.

Over a week in and I have met many awesome guys and gals of all ages, and from all parts of the country and the world. Meeting such awesome folks has to come with a level of non-attachment because we are each hiking our own hike. Sometimes I watch people I just loved camping with pack up and know our differing paces and goals may keep us apart for weeks. It is a little sad, but also so beautiful in that we come together always, make fast friends because we all share the insanity to be doing this, and we keep hiking on and wishing everyone the best journey.

I am doing my best to see challenges as tests I am meant to have. I have taken more rest days than I had planned because of my knee injury, but in a way it is a blessing in disguise. I took a full zero in Julian to rest and in doing so I befriended Wildcat and Pillsbury at 2Foot Adventures (I even cried in the presence of their badassedry.) Julian is a super hiker friendly town and I was graced with free pie at Moms Pies and kindness everywhere I went. New friends came to fruition and I felt revitalized.

I am happy to be going at my own pace and to be making the most of my one precious life in the way this hike will best touch my spirit. Last night I decided to hop off trail for a night to stay at the Mountain Valley Retreat yoga center. Hikers are treated to showers, laundry, two meals, teepee housing and yoga! I am waking up grounded and grateful and ready to take on a new layer of dirt on trail today.

It has been a week and I have hiked over 100 miles! I have cried and I have danced. I have eaten crappy freezer meals and was gifted free pie. It has been extremely challenging and also the most epic adventure. There are so many challenges AND beauty within each. Each day is a thousand sundrops. 

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