Stay the Course
To commence this entry, I thought I would leave you guys with a few excerpts from my very own personal trail journal… No juicy details, but a few moments of candor to make your day! Here goes nothing–
“I know that I ‘ve gotten a little lackadaisical about my journal… so I’ll try and recap all the epic moments we’ve had. Right now we are chilling about six miles from Hampton, TN and Lilly and I will be taking a ‘near-o’ (almost zero mile) day at Kincora Hostel tomorrow.
Yesterday we hiked from Cherry Gap Shelter (17 miles outside of Erwin, TN) to Roan High Knob Shelter. It was one hell of a 16 mile stretch. We spent the entire day hiking in drizzling, cold rain. At lunch we stopped at a shelter to get our final meal before taking on the roughest part of the day. We hiked up Roan Mountain, which is approximately 6,300 feet high. Roan was the most intense climb; the trail was already steep enough and the rain, slick rocks, and slurpy mud made it a horrendous challenge. We fought through gale-force wind and frozen rain. Finally, we summited on what seemed like a never-ending stairway to Heaven. The top of the mountain was covered in beautiful Christmas trees and cloaked with fog. They say that Roan Mountain has some of the most beautiful views on the AT…yeah, we didn’t get to see any of those.
A few minutes later we made our way to the shelter–just in the nick of time for the snow to start falling. The cabin was cut into a stand of Christmas trees; it was very picturesque…. And then we met Clay. Clay was interesting character, to say the least. He hid in the loft of the shelter and talked to himself. Then he would play his harmonica and sing at all hours… like 6 am when we were trying to sleep. By the sound he made (something glass hitting the wood) we could tell that he was emptying and repacking his bowl to smoke weed. Shortly thereafter, he offered us some weed, to which we declined. The next morning, I was sitting quietly, drinking my coffee, and suddenly I heard Clay yell “Get the F*** out of here!” It scared me because I didn’t know if he was threatening me or self-motivating. It gets worse.. haha. I later heard him say “I’m not high enough; I need some Valium!”
“Today, we descended from Roan and walked over some frozen wasteland balds. The wind and snow was so bad that it formed horizontal ice cycles about 5 inches long on all the signs and tree branches. This afternoon we climbed up-and-over Big Hump and Little Hump; by that time, all the snow and ice had melted, but the wind was still pretty bad. We cam down from there and had to trek across a mile long bolder field. It was very difficult and I re-injured my knee pretty badly.”
“They said the hike would be easy today, as our elevation changes were minimal.. they lied! I didn’t think it was so easy. Apparently we hiked through an area that used to have meth labs an marijuana farms. The locals would hang fish hooks over the AT and it would catch the hikers in the faces. They did all sorts of things to deter hikers. I was so sketched-out for the first half of the day because the trail cut through farms and residential areas. I didn’t want to encounter any of the locals; I guess I shouldn’t have watched the movie Wrong Turn before I hit the trail.”
“I am sitting and relaxing in a very old and stinky recliner at a very wonderful hostel. Lilly and I stopped at Kincora, outside of Hampton, TN. The man that owns the hostel is famous on the trail–Bob Peoples. He has been very wonderful to us. Interestingly, he doesn’t charge hikers a fee to stay here–it’s all by donation.
When a hiker approaches the front porch at Kincora they are greeted by 9 friendly and colorful cats. Don’t worry about securing a room–the reservation system works when the hiker places his pack on an empty bunk. Oh an none of those extra fees here; the laundry, a towel, and the kitchen are all included in your stay. In the evening, Bob drove us into town to a grocery store. We had dinner at an Arby’s and let me tell you–those curly fries never tasted so good!
As I sit in this musty, old hostel, I am thankful to be inside on this exceptionally stormy night. A sign on the wall reads “My hiking is definitely getting in the way of my trail experience!” and I can totally relate this statement in so many ways. I very much miss my family right now and all my GCL friends in Gainesville. I am also very thankful that the Lord has carried me so far. I am amazed that we have made it to the 400 mile mark.
I am often reminded and encouraged by a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Patriot. Mel Gibson’s character always says “stay the course.” So for now, all I can do is persevere and stay the course.
There are times when I look at a map of the AT. I see our current location all-the-way at the bottom. I think, how could we have hiked so far and only done so little of the trail? I realize more and more that 90% of this journey is mental strength and only 10% is physical. I am often contemplating my experience and reasons for being on the trail. I know that I will never repeat this journey again. I often wonder what and how it would be different if we had started a week earlier or later. “
Right now, we are sittin’ pretty in Damascus, VA. I am so pleased and blessed that the Lord has kept us safe. I would like to close out with a scripture that I have been encouraged by these last few days.
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not a that things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-5:1
I liked the tent reference, as a tent has and will be my home for the next few months : ) As for the light affliction of hiking 2,179 miles, reaching Mt. Katahdin will be a worthwhile glory!