The Trail Community of a Path Less Traveled
A less-hiked long trail during the off-season means miles and miles alone. Add T-Mobile spotty service and I can spend days without ever seeing… or talking to… another human.
Reconnection and pulled pork.
On this trail, I generally hike with no one and camp with no one. I text friends and family just to reach out for connection; that’s this trail’s norm for me. I’m not an extrovert by any means, but the perceived isolation is something I have never felt before.
So when I hobbled into the Cracker Trail County store after a few days of no service and no contact, I was physically and emotionally burned-out. As I ordered too much food and began shoveling a pulled pork sandwich into my face a man sat at the table next to me and jokingly commented about my eating. I smiled politely and said, through mouthfuls, that I was hiking the trail nearby.
That was all it took. I was no longer eating alone and even had a ride back to the trailhead… if I was willing to wait until his wife got off work. During my break we talked about all sorts of things: the trail, the community, the long bike ride he and his wife did, what he did for work, and all of a sudden I was no longer isolated or lonely. I was more connected with a community I didn’t know existed until an hour prior.
Oh, and it wasn’t weird for him to comment on all the food. I bought a comical amount of food for a 130-pound, 5’8″ woman.
Escaping society and reconnecting with people.
I long-distance hike to escape the general population. The whole human socializing normal communication thing, small talk, it is just exhausting. However, this trail has changed so much of that. While the PCT and AT sections I did may have helped me reconnect with myself, the Florida Trail has sort of helped me reconnect with humanity. All of the trail communities are full of love (shout-out to Rattle River Hostel in New Hampshire, which is like my second home), but Florida is especially special because, mostly, it’s just acts of kindness. The trail isn’t AT established. It is just a little sliver of dirt through a state that doesn’t even know it exists.
The trail community.
The Florida Trail is a challenge. I am breaking it up more than most because I needed to recoup, and because the angels, FTA, and volunteer groups are very involved in their hikers. I have had countless offers for help on the hiker page, my Instagram, or texted to me.
Some of my most extreme examples of acts of overt support and kindness are: an angel offering to drive hours to drop off an umbrella to help me with heat control to finish a section; an angel who runs caches personally messaging me because he knows I am one of the only southbound hikers out there, to let me know exactly where and how much water he has placed; getting a text from an angel to see where I am so he can drop off a Gatorade, snack, and hang out for a bit. I haven’t even done the whole trail. The FTA (the very short-staffed FTA of like… 10 people? Not even?) always answered me, and let me know about the new opening of a section and changes in closures in the south (messaged me) so that I would be up to date.
They may not really know the trail but they were all amazing. Whether it was stopping on a road walk (multiple times, sometimes turning around) to see if I needed a ride, hunters asking me (like every hunter I met) if I needed water or food, people at the gas stations and shops giving out free coffee or a snack or allowing you to charge your devices, everyone is very, very nice. Maybe as a woman I get different treatment, but I think it is important that, as a woman, no one has (yet) been creepy or dangerous. Everyone is interested, concerned, helpful, and kind.
Hikers receive support… even when they don’t ask.
The community of the Florida Trail, and my state as a whole, warms my heart. It has been an amazingly caring experience so far and I have met some of the greatest humans. There’s no need to worry about the people out here – they are all ready and excited to help, learn, and be a small part of your journey. They have added an extra layer of awesome to my trip: what new person will I get to share some time with today?
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