200 mile journal – Trail Lessons

Every hundred miles, my goal is to journal a summary to share with you all. I’m zeroing at 191 miles today. Close enough. This week, filled with soaking shoes, slippery stones, silly stories, swollen feet, magic moments, and cleansing, guttural laughter has been riddled with rocky ups and downs, both literally and figuratively. Endless wet, ankle-twisting rocks as slick as if they’d been rained on with melted butter; swollen feet I barely even recognize as my own; days of gloomy rain and drizzle with fog blanketing any hope of a possible view followed by days of sunny warmth and fresh mountain air; odd encounters and lessons learned from people off the trail; the indescribable feeling of gratitude that comes from being indoors during a nighttime rainstorm; magic human beings who get pleasure from providing grateful hikers with places to stay, sandwiches, coolers of drinks, or even showing up at a shelter with tables full of food; storytellers from all walks of life. In a week, my time has been filled with eccentrically diverse hikers such as a teenage writer on a hike with her mom; a German fellow, “Earth”, whom I was lucky enough to pass in a field ten days ago who has brought genuine, gut-clenching, tear-producing laughter into my daily existence; an older gentleman, trail name “Paul with Bunyons”, who’s lived a life that comes alive in riveting stories told by a gifted storyteller; a surprise encounter with Cheswick, a friend I met three months ago on an entirely different trail who helped me navigate my way around Duncannon; trail angels Bob and Sue, 219 Market Street, who open their home, their cooler, their grill, and their company as hikers trudge into Duncannon searching for rest; Linda who sets up trail magic sandwich stations; Pennsylvania Mule who was there when needed a trail angel the most; Alice who blesses hikers with tables full of food biannually at the 501 shelter…the stories, the people, the views, and the ups and downs are endless. The perfunctory daily routine of setting daily goals, walking miles with your belongings on your back, snacking, filtering water, cooking dinner, setting up camp, taking down camp, packing only to unpack a few hours later somehow morph into a series of unforgettable moments and the adventure of a lifetime! To sum up my week, laughter truly is an instant vacation…or even better. Rain sucks, but the sun will shine again and the streams will be full. Trail life, though exhaustingly difficult at times, is a daily reminder of just how little one really needs to be at peace in our world. Happy trails, friends!

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