Mile 428: The Trail Provides

Sometimes you have a strong desire for something but no way to get your hands on it.

Sometimes you wish for something to happen, even if it seems impossible.

Well, here on the trail things just happen, unnoticed sometimes and mostly in a magical way.

This past week has been characterized with unbearable heat and humidity, little water sources along the trail and a small sense of tiredness after a month hiking up and down the mountains.

Tuesday, after an afternoon two-hour long nap on a picnic table in a desolated parking lot, I reach the shelter on top of Roan Mountain ready to get in my sleeping bag and sleep.

“We’re hiking on”, says Cruise Control as soon as I take a seat.

It’s 7pm, the sun is almost gone, I’m tired.

I look at him puzzled. “He must be joking”, I think.

“There’s a nice bald two miles ahead where we can look at the sunset and enjoy the sunrise in the morning”, he continues, meaning that obviously he wasn’t joking.

“Good luck”, I respond with that little bit of strength I had left in my body.

A few minutes after him, Dubs and Mac (two other guys we’ve been hiking with the past days) left, I felt alone. There were other people at the shelter, but those weren’t my people.

“Fuck!” I angrily think while looking at the sky getting darker. “I hate you guys!”

I put on my pack back on my shoulders I and start hiking. For the longest two miles of my entire life.

Somehow, I reach Round Bald and, as soon as I see my friends, I let myself on the ground like a sack of potatoes.

With a tiny bit of energy I had left, I manage to sit down and look in front of me.

I’m stunned.

The sky turned into a whirlwind of blue, orange, yellow and red. The mountain in the background and the sun just fading behind them perfectly completed the picture.

“Well, that was worth it”, I said to myself.

A blissful sunrise the next morning fully convinced me that hiking those two extra miles was the best decision I could ever make.

And 36 free beers by the river that same night, surrounded by amazing people circled around a fire made the whole experience even sweeter.

But then the heat came back roaring.

Wednesday and Thursday we sweated, a lot. Climbing Little Hump and Big Hump Mountain would have been already demanding in “ideal” conditions, but with the midday sun beaming on top of our heads and no sign of shade in sight, those climbs quickly turned into something close to an improbable quest for survival.

“I’d really love a shower right now”, I cry out loud, hoping to reach whoever trail god looking over us.

We kept on hiking for a few miles and then made a sudden right turn right before hitting the 400-mile mark. A fall appeared right in front of us.

A couple of miles ahead and we found a river, then more falls.

Free shower, a cold swim and more free shower! “Someone up there must love me”, I started to wonder.

We ended our week at Boots Off Hostel in Hampton, TN, right by a lake.

We even found a ride to get to town for some filling Chinese food before getting into our tents for some well deserved rest.

Sometimes you might not get what you want right away, other times you need to work really hard for what you desire.

Here on the trail the rule is almost the same, with the sole difference that at any given time, suddenly, almost magically, the trail itself provides to bring you what you wish for, or what you need.

And even better when you don’t actually know what you need, because the trail will eventually figure it out for you.

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