Frankly I was pretty worried as I descended into Hot Springs. I was afraid the trail towns would be shunning thru hikers because of the virus. The last few days have been bad. The terrain is fine but the weight of everything going on in the world feels like an extra ton in my pack. When I slow my mind down a bit I can hear the birds sing and the streams rushing in the valley and I do get a lot of peace from that. But every time I check in on the news or connect with Bryan I am thrust into a world that is out of control. It’s really hard to even fit these two realities into my mind right now. The trail and the forest are so beautiful and I belong here but I know so many people are suffering illness, anxiety and financial hardship. I hope the trail can provide some answers.
I got up early today and was hiking by 7 so I could enjoy the sunrise with my hiking mug full of coffee. I recently added this mug to my kit and it has been a game changer. Now I can make an extra large cup of coffee and slowly sip it for the first hour or so on my hike. It is 19 miles into Hot Springs from my Shelter but the trail was easy and I got in around 1:30 without stopping for lunch or a break. As I walked into town I found my B&B right away and received a big “howdy and welcome” from the innkeepers. I took a long shower and headed down to a super friendly restaurant down the street. They apologized a hundred times for not being able to serve indoors and they were so nice to let me eat on the front porch. They peppered me with questions about the trail and said they were glad that I was staying on.
These kind words meant so much to me right now and I thanked them back a hundred times for being open and so sweet to the hikers that are still out here. Rumor has it that about half of the hikers left the trail over the last few days. It breaks my heart to see them go. For me this trail is more than an adventure. It is a form of rehab and therapy to help find happiness and a sense of peace. The decision to hike 2,200 miles did not come easily but my goals are much larger than the distance and elevations I am logging. I still see a safe path forward and I’m not ready to leave. The trail has just hinted at what it can do for me and I’m eager to stay with in it and see what I can learn.
Talk about learning – I found out today that you can quite happily resupply for your hike at the Dollar General. I don’t think I had ever been in one before but it has everything a thru hiker dreams of. Tuna packets, rice sides, tortillas and sour patch kids. Man, can we talk about tortillas for a second? They are a hikers answer for every meal. Cheap extra calories and they hold breakfast, lunch and dinner like a champ. Hooray for tortillas!
After dinner and resupply, my running coach drove up from Asheville and we shared a beer on the beautiful grounds of my B&B. It was so generous of him to come and spend time with me and I really enjoyed hearing about is recent adoption of two sibling boys (now 3 and 5 years’ old). Randy also runs a high school track and field team with 60 athletes! That is super impressive. He is a great guy and a terrific father to these lucky boys. It was a wonderful visit and set me up well for the killer climb out of town tomorrow. Thank you Hot Springs for being so awesome when I needed it.