Hi there, readers! It’s starting to look and feel like fall in my neck of the woods. I love this time of year. This past week, I built a couple of fires in the fireplace in the evenings. I never cease to be amazed at how much joy and comfort burning logs can bring.
Now that it’s colder outside, I can’t imagine being on the trail; yet, I know that are some diehards still out there. And, there are some who willingly choose to hike during the fall and winter months!
If you remember from last time, I ended Part I: The Shakout Hike hinting there was a reason why I left the trail earlier than planned.
Well, here it is: my knees hurt.
If you were hoping for something more dramatic, I’m sorry to disappoint.
I knew the terrain would be hard, but I wasn’t prepared for the ruggedness of this section of the AT. Constantly navigating large rocks and boulders and hardly ever walking on a smooth, flat surface took its toll on my body. Early in the trip, Brad cautioned me to slow down and to take it easy, especially at the beginning of the day. I should have paid more attention to his advice. Hikers talk about acquiring their “trail legs” and, in hindsight, I saw the truth of this statement.
Going into the trip, I prided myself on my physical conditioning. However, that wasn’t enough for the constant ascents and descents of The Whites. Towards the end, it was a struggle physically and mentally whenever I faced a steep descent. Those were the worst. I knew I would feel every step.
Also playing into my decision to leave early was the fact that we were approaching Lincoln, NH, a town large enough for a bus pickup. And, to be completely honest, I was ready for my creature comforts—regular showers, clean clothes, not just ones rinsed in a stream or by hand, and some fresh fruits and vegetables.
The day before I left for home Brad and I hung out in Lincoln. We began processing our hike. During our conversation, I made an important realization: a week on the trail was about my limit.
Part of the purpose of this hike was to figure this piece out. We didn’t decide anything definitively, but one idea that continues to appeal, includes me joining Brad for a week whenever he completes longer hikes.
Over the past months, I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking and reflecting on what I learned.
One of the best parts of this experience came somewhat as a surprise. It wasn’t the beautiful views and scenery, although that was incredible, even breathtaking at times. It wasn’t the sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of the day or after reaching the summit of a mountain, although that was a incredibly satisfying feeling.
It was the people.
I loved seeing the variety of individuals who hiked the trail and meeting some of them at the shelters and hostels where we stayed. On our third night on the trail, we met two women from Denmark, the mother an accountant, the daughter a pastry chef. For the mom, hiking the AT was a dream come true, years in the making. Later in the week, we met others from Scotland and Australia, each traveling thousands of miles for this opportunity. We also met a 75-year-old man, retired from software engineering, attempting a thru hike.
One hiker, a retired, middle-aged Marine from Ohio, gave me valuable advice on more than one occasion when I said things like, Well, I should be able to… or I thought I would be able to… “No,” he said. “Do your own hike. Each person’s hike looks different.”
Wise words that apply beyond backpacking.
My understanding of hospitality also expanded as a result of this hike. I love to welcome others into my home and share a meal or host a party. For me, practicing hospitality happens largely in that space. However, I saw another facet on the trail. The moving over to make more space for someone to sit on a flat surface rather than a pointed piece of rock. Experiencing trail magic, often provided by strangers, such as leaving cold, bottled water at the trailhead. Or The “Omelet Man,” whose setup was outfitted with an open-air tent complete with camp chairs, bananas, homegrown cucumbers, water, and orange drink. Every morning he cooked made-to-order omelets for hikers on the trail. Or Chet, whose hostel is part of his home. He doesn’t offer deluxe accommodations, but he welcomes those coming off the trail and provides them with a shower, a place to sleep, and the use of laundry facilities. This is the beauty of hospitality. It’s not limited only to my dining room table or home, but can happen anywhere. Often, it surprises.
Lastly, I witnessed another side of community on the trail that had nothing to do with the Church or a small group. I’ve benefited in many ways from the Christian communities I’ve been part of throughout my life. I wouldn’t trade those experiences. On the trail, I saw a genuine camaraderie amongst fellow hikers. They wanted to see each other succeed and meet their respective goals. They encouraged. They instructed. They challenged. Sometimes, Brad and I would stop and chat with a hiker for only a couple of minutes. In those brief moments, we offered encouragement and received it as well. A “passing of the peace” in a different way than on a Sunday morning.
My categories of Christian hospitality and community stretched and grew as a result of this hike. I became even more convinced that the Holy Spirit is always with us, guiding our conversations and our moments whether or not Christ’s name is verbally proclaimed.
I love that the Christian life doesn’t grow old or stale. I love that as a woman in her late forties, truth, beauty, and goodness continue to amaze and reveal themselves to me.
You bet I’ll go on another hike.
And, Some Other Stuff
So, I’ll admit that I have often wondered if it was worth it to spend the extra money on name-brand beauty and haircare products. I feel like I read mixed reviews about whether or not the $30 splurge on lipstick from Sephora is better than the $4 tube at my local CVS. Same with hair products.
However, recently, I spent some money and I can tell a difference.
The first product I bought was Bumble and Bumble’s Thickening Go Big Volumizing Treatment. I heard about it on a blog I follow called The Small Things. (I’ve written about Kate before.) I have fine hair that needs some pumping up each day. This product works and doesn’t leave my hair feeling like it has a ton of product in it. Since my hair isn’t especially long, I think I will get a good six months out of this bottle, making my dollars stretch even more.
And, yes, I did spend $30 on a tube of Pat McGrath lipstick from Sephora. Anna and I were in the city and had some time to spare. I told the woman what I was looking for—an everyday color that wouldn’t dry my lips out, yet still have some staying power. I sampled a number of colors and landed on Realness 405 (Okay, I just love that name for a lipstick color!). The packaging was beautiful and the fact that it was made in Italy brought a smile to my face.
One other perk. Because my birthday is next month and I signed up for Sephora’s Beauty Insider club, I received two sample lipsticks and some lip gloss as my birthday gift. Each time I spend money at Sephora I earn points. Definitely a fun perk!
Blessings, readers. Until next time.