Posts Tagged ‘Waterfalls’

One Foot In Front of the Other: And Walk, and Walk, and Walk

Monday, June 13th, 2016

I went hiking on Saturday. A couple of the people I was staying with at a cabin were hung over, and one had to write a paper. I went by myself. I like hiking by myself. No chit chat; just me and my thoughts. My plan was to walk about a half a mile to trailhead for an easy hike to a waterfall (Juney Wankey Falls). When I got to the trailhead, I realized I felt like doing something more strenuous, saw a trail that was 4.7 miles, and decided to do that one.

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So, basically, I totally screwed up. I missed the loop trail and ended up doing a much longer loop that was over 12 moderate to strenuous miles. That, combined with the hike to the trailhead, and the walk into the national park meant that I did about 18 miles total that day.

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I saw Indian Creek Falls, too.

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I realized at probably about the halfway mark that I had screwed up, but I never panicked. I knew it was a loop, and i had talked to other hikers, so I knew that they knew I had missed my lower loop and that I was worried about scaring my friends when I didn’t come back soon enough. I finally found someone at the top of Sunkota ridge who had a working cel phone, and I sent my sister a text with my location and the trail name, and when I thought I would be back. I also texted a family pet name I knew she would recognize.

I walked and walked. The people with the cel phones had been walking with me for an hour or so. When I first saw them, I had forged ahead; They were on horseback, a group of about 8 or so. (That should have been a sign. This is a group doing the same trail. They are on horseback.) The leader said, “We’ll catch you up soon.” When they finally did catch up, they said they were impressed with my pace. I do walk fast. When I caught up with them at the top of the ridge, about 5 miles uphill, one lady told me “You are amazing!” Trail people are kind. They offered me water. (I always overdo my water, because I hate the thought of running out, and I had an apple and a bag of almonds. I never worried about not making it back, or not having enough water, or being alone; Just that I had worried my friends.)

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I had water and we looked at their maps at the top of the ridge. That was when I realized I still had 8 miles to hike, but it was downhill, so i knew i wasn’t going to fall out from a stroke. I just worried about whether my knees could take 8 miles downhill. I petted the sweet horses, and thanked my Dothraki friends, and headed down. Sure enough, after about 4 miles of that, I was compensating for my hurting right knee, with odd steps and a weird gait, so then my hips and my other knee, and my ankles were all barking at me.

There were a few times when I wondered if I could make it back. I was in pain, and tired, so tired, and sweating that sweat where you actually have salt build up on your skin. I still had water. I thought, “this is bear country. If a bear tried to get me, I’d be toast. I’d give right up.” I thought about how indians had traveled those trails for hundreds of years. I saw deer and centipedes and picked a lot of ticks off my calves. I saw nothing else – no snakes, bears, elk.

I overtook an older hiker. He was about 70. Ron, from LaGrange, Georgia. He had hiked all day. Was doing some kind of 500 miles in the Smokies challenge. He knew all the trails I had seen on the Dothraki map, so he confirmed that I was on the right trail, and it would take me back to the trailhead I had started at. We drank water and I shared my almonds with him.

I told him I had to move on, that my friends might be worried and said goodbye. We walked together for a little while, but I finally moved out of his sight. I had muddy, aching feet. The air was cool and damp walking along Deep Creek, but very buggy.

I thought a lot during that hike. About how nothing much mattered except that moment. That there were people who mattered, and people who didn’t. I wished they allowed dogs in the park. I had moments where I wanted to go lay down in the cold creek water and just go to sleep. I wanted a beer. (I got one.)
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I wanted to soak my feet in the cold water and then put them up.

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I thought how mad my mom would be that I was hiking alone. I laughed at how i was both stupid and tough; stupid for getting on the wrong trail and tough for figuring out where to go and how to get home. For not giving up. I didn’t give up. I knew I had to keep going, that no one was going to fix this, or pick me up, or save me.

I thought about Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed and what it must be like to spend that much time on the trail. I think i would like it. I thought about a hot shower or a hot tub. I thought and thought – What was the answer that the trail wanted to give me to all of my questions?

It gave me peace, but no answers. If there was an answer, it was, “Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will get there. They have gone before you. They made it. This has all happened before.”

Addendum: I was exhausted and barely able to walk the day or two after this. (Even today, I am hobbling around. It is a delicious soreness.) I had the best beer on the screened porch and ate potatoes with abandon for dinner. And more beer. The best part of the day was probably walking around town (Bryson City) while waiting for our table and running into none other than Ron from the trail. I recognized him and we sat in Adirondack chairs outside a pizza place and compared our days. He is 70 and had done 19 miles. I told him i couldn’t believe he was not sore; i was dying. He said that he couldn’t get up out of his chair. He was camping about Deep Creek and said he was having his third beer, and a pizza, because he’s a vegetarian. I totally dug that guy. Lisa, Nessa, and Robbie all humored me while I chatted with him for like 20 minutes.

Also, I pretty much swam in dogs that night. They are the best to snuggle and give comfort when you are sore and aching.

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I need to hike more. And float down cool rivers. And sit on screened porches.

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And look at bees on flowers.

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And get dog kisses.

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And talk to strangers. And walk, and walk, and walk.