I come up out of the trees and onto a road. I look side to side, wondering if traffic will come take me out. There is no one on the road, but a dirty hiker sits behind a truck, and I suspect there may be trail magic afoot.
I make my way cautiously towards the truck, half a mind to keep on up the trail and get in the last half an hour of hiking I know I have in me before I collapse into my bivvy. But no, the hiker, who I find out is called Molly Molly tells me there is magic.
I need magic. My feet hurt. My book is almost done, and I feel crushed for poor Peeta (yep, rereading the Hunger Games). I am hungry and tired.
And there is ADD, one of the sweetest angels to come my way. He jumps up once, twice, three times to get me a Coke and a real salad in an adorable mason jar with cucumbers and tomatoes and crispy croutons and salad dressing. I get cookies and an apple and sugary Rainier cherries that remind me of home. It is a delight, I am overwhelmed.
We talk, ADD, Molly Molly, and the third hiker I’ve seen so much of recently I should remember her name, but don’t, about a bunch of different topics.
“You are all in much better mind sets than I expected,” our trail angel states.
The two hikers on either side of me talk about how they are never down, how their worst days on trail are better than their best days in real life. I say that I seem to have half and half, a rollercoaster of days out here.
As the talk continues and we eat more and two more hikers come along and I sit in a real lounge chair I ponder that topic, of mindset and happiness out here. I wonder.
Then I pick up my pack and wander through the darkness to a hidden spot a mile up the trail. And by hidden I mean it is practically on the trail and, I soon find out, teaming with ants (but not my kind!) but hidden by the deep darkness that has taken over the day.
Are my worst days on trail better than my best days in civilization? Am I always happiest out here? Is this my real calling?
I have had wonderful, joyous days in civilization, much better than my worst on trail. I am certainly happy here, but I have experience an abundance of delight in so many places. Walking forever is not my calling, and this trail is not my home.
I suppose I am different than the two hikers I met, both of whom have thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in previous years. I come out on these trips not to be filled with unending pleasure or because I feel a calling to walk. I am a traveler, an experience seeker, an awe inspired watcher of my body.
I have been thinking a lot about why I am out here, now that my partner isn’t with me all the time (for my original purpose was to ensure we were a good match, and I have) and my best trail friend is gone back to Kentucky (Rainbow Dash is recovering from this last bout of her chronic Lyme Disease at home with her sister and mother at hand — and I miss her every day). I sometimes feel lost. But tonight I believe I am out here to feel myself in my skin, to make choices just for me, to feel the pleasure and horror and pain and disgust and fun and utter boredom that my entire life is full of, but that I rarely have a chance to fully feel.
Here I am, I keep telling myself. Here I am.
Perhaps there is no reason at all. Perhaps it just is. I am here because it is exactly where I am.