Our Trail Angel

I slept in for the first time in a long time. I layed in bed till around 7, saying goodbye to Diesel and packing up, I met Huck at the trail head.  We both had planned on stopping at the river for the night, a short 18 mile day for us, at most 9 hours. We spent the morning sharing stories and catching up over music.  Our conversation moving to pirates and listening to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean.

He hadn’t been able to call his dad on father’s day and that was getting to him a bit.  I was feeling the pressure of family stress as well as the financial burden to make what I had left last. My breakneck pace was also wearing me down, no matter how many people I passed it didn’t make me feel happy.  The upside to being the only two one the trail, you have nothing but time to talk or avoid talking. The past two weeks of solitude were weighing on me, I spent most of it alone and or with just one person.   I hadn’t thought of my brother much, he was history by this point and all that mattered were miles in the green tunnel. This lasted all the way to Spy Rock, here I took off on my own to climb the sheer rock face for the view. We both talked about what was troubling us.

Climbing hand over hand, making my way carefully to the top of the 40 or so foot climb.  Each step precarious and dangerous with my pack on my back, I probably should have left it at the bottom, my entire life down at the bottom of the hill, the thought of being separated from it showed how much what little I had mattered to me. Hand over hand I c,I’m bed steadily without fear. The rock face started to level out forming more of a steep side then a sheer face.  As I crested over the top 8 could see ei wasn’t alone, other people had climbed up here and were snapping photos. Music blaring, I walked around quickly taking in the views more out of habit than out of awe.
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Going down unnerved me a touch as I had to move blind, not being able to see my foot holds as I made my way down. I don’t know how climbers do it, there must be a learned trust after a while, for me I wasn’t afraid, just cautious before putting my weight on anything. Back on the trail I made my way up the rest of the mountain and over the ridge to the Priest.  There was a shelter that everyone would confess their trail sins at. What were my trail sins? What the deuce is a trail sin anyway? No one buries all of there crap, everyone burns some trash every once in a while, no one leaves no trace, hell one girl kept a flying squirrel she found in between her boobs for a few days before it ran off.

Reading the log book I learned a few things, some people confessed to the pink blazing they had done, others about losing there focus, or yellow blazing.  Mostly trivial stuff.  I guess my trail sin was reading the book with no intention of confessing anything.  It’s a shame there was no pen or I would have written that. It mostly was a silly thing that people would confess too.  I can tell you one thing, that shelter had one of the best springs 8 have drank from so far, the ice cold water coming from deep within the earth.

Feeling just as down I made my way over the Moutain and down the backside of it. The steep rocky terrain making to difficult and slow to move. I was navigating the actual ridge which meant the face was too short to do switchbacks. If I went off trail or fell, I would plummet to my doom, or at least far enough to have a horrendously rough day. With all things out here nothing stays the same, pushing onward the rough terrain finally changed to a smooth switchback.  Picking up my pace I could hear the impending sound of a storm coming. The thunder boomed like cannon blasts in the distance,no lighting to be seen, just the deep resonance of thunder.

Down I went back and forth, the farther down I went the faster the thunder came, you’ve got to be kidding me I thought. Just what I needed right now, to get blasted with water and slip and fall.  I prayed, pleaded with God for the rain to stay just long enough for me to get down the trail. I moved as fast as my tired legs could carry me, jumping and running when the terrain allowed me to do so.  Looping across the hillside I could hear it, the unmistakable sound of rain. In the woods, first comes the wind, it whips through the trees, rustling the leaves, a sound anyone is familiar with. Next comes the rain, sounding like a million fingers typing away on a keyboard, it’s very distinct as each droplet slams into leaves on the way down.  You can hear it above you before you feel it pass around you.

Donning my pack cover I took off in full sprint cursing the rain down the trail.  I just wanted to get to town and have ice cream to recover form the unbearable heat of the day.  The past week had been well into the 80s and muggy, I dripped in sweat at all times and just wanted that cold ice cream to make myself feel better.  I deserved that ice cream, I wanted it.  Breaking out of the last bit of trees I came to the road the wall of water coming dosn, steaming off the pavement in front of me. There would be no refuge from the onslaught of water. I started hitching, each car passing by without a second look.

I’d rather be ignored than get what I sometimes get, a wave saying hey I see you, someone pointing in a the direction I’m going to say I’m going that way, or my all time favorite the thumbs up.  Each one more of a screw you than the last. I stood there in the pouring rain for an hour with each passing car taking no notice of me.   Losing faith, a young lady passed me, then putting on her brakes as if she changed her mind, backed up and asked me when I was headed. I quickly told her I just wanted to go a few miles up the road to get ice cream and that’s it.  The young lady told me to get in and off we went to the camp store.

Over the next four miles or so we got to know each other and she offered to have me over for dinner but had nothing for me to eat.  We talked about her work and the trail as she pulled into the store.  Finally ice cream, not ethe store was closed, but there was Huck.  He was just standing there looking at the closed sign on the door when I called him over.  Talking for a minute or two I found 9ut they had closed a few hours ago and she mentioned there so a store in the other direction that sold it.  Telling Huckleberry to get in the three of us went back the other way. We got to know each other a little more as Huck sat in the back. She was a dental hygienist that had just moved to the area.

Pulling into the store, which was more a home than a store front, we walked inside. The owner, an elderly woman,had converted her entrance way and living room into a store long ago for the town. Inside was everything a hungry hiker could ever want. Food galore, snacks, sodas, pastries, and a freezer.  I wonder what was in the freezer as I opened it. Good god, there were pi to of ice cream and frozen pizzas. Grabbing a pint painted painted pizza I said out loud my thoughts, How can I cook this?  Without any hesitation she offered to take us to her place to eat. Ecstatic, we couldn’t have been more thankful or honored with that gesture.

Upon reaching her house, she went above and beyond any trail magic we had ever recieved, offering us showers and laundry while we waited. She prepared our pizza as we got cleaned up and talked.  It was as if three old friends had gotten together for an evening. It felt normal and natural, she didn’t have many visitors and we didn’t have much company either. The three of us found comfort and feelings of belonging while we talked about our lives and our days.  It was nice to share with someone what our day was like, our bad days.  Her mother would call while we were there and it got quite humorous from then on.  She let her mother know we both were veterans and thruhikers and all her mother could think about was we were murderers.

Wed joke about that the rest to the night over dessert and a glass of milk. Our clothes were dry, we were clean, and our bellies full.  We said our goodbyes, thanking her for her kindness and generosity as we left. She was our trail angel, the two of us full of our depression and feelings of woe, we’re uplifted with her act of kindess.  Huckleberry and I couldn’t stop talking about how much better we felt on the way back to the river.  She and saved us, from the Virginia Blues, ourselves, and the solitude of the trail. There truly is no way to express the gratitude we felt for taking us in.

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