CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11: 28-29 

The AT leads us to a cliff and then takes a sharp turn to the right. More trees. More rocks. More dirt. 

Ugh. I thought we were getting close to the end of this ordeal. 

Our sweat has knit an extra layer around our bodies. 

SunFloJo reads my silent disappointment. I pick up on her equally silent encouragement vibe. 

Keep going. We can do this.  

At the turn, she slows down to talk with a bearded guy coming from the opposite direction. “What’s your trail name?” 

“Sushi!” he says with pride. He has energy and spring in his step. May I have some of that please? 

Passing us, he looks back and projects his voice, “Oh hey, there’s a party in the Tap Room tonight at Big Meadow if you’re interested!” 

Apparently, the invite has gone full circle. 

“Ok thanks!” SunFloJo says and smiles. 

Then to me she chuckles, “Well, this means the girls are alive up ahead.” 

I laugh in my body somewhere, but I’m not sure if it shows because I am so tired. In my mind, I think how fantastic it is that the girls are still sharing the invitation and now other people are inviting…us!  

Trail Mail. Word of mouth. Love it. 

SunFloJo is a couple steps ahead of me probably wondering if I’m going to have a heart attack or not. I cannot talk or respond no matter what she asks. That’s probably not a good sign.   

I feel my fat work against me. My muscles say, we did not prepare properly for this! I barely feel my legs—probably because my brain can’t listen to the pain anymore.  

We stumble down a slight decline. The path is narrow. SunFloJo marvels at nature, “Aren’t the trees just beautiful?”  

She really is a mountain woman. 

I am not capable of participating in conversation with my dear SunFloJo/SteelCut/why-did-I-say-yes-to-this-friend. 

But wait. 

Are those cars on a road that hear?!  

Eh, maybe. Could be my mind playing tricks. The forest spins a bit.   

I feel dizzy.  

Stop it! You’ve got to pull through this. The Tap Room is metaphorically in sight.   

I stop to drink the last of my water. I suck the bottle dry, caving in the plastic. 

Ok, let’s finish this. 

I follow SunFloJo’s easy going pace with my huffing it pace. We hike along a ridge seeing a mountain above us and mountain below us. We trek downhill and straight ahead on a dirt path corridor. 

Soon I see an opening in the trail. We walk toward it. 

And there are the girls!  

They sit on a gravel access road that crosses the trail.  

I look to the left. There is a small trail leading across the path into the woods. To the right, the access road leads to…(yes!)…a real road which I assume is Skyline Drive.   

Across from our position, the AT continues. 

The girls look slightly refreshed. They’ve gotten to sit without their backpacks on the ground for a while waiting on us–aka waiting on me. 

“I can’t wait to shower,” Stalker C says.  Her “shower” sounds like a really long word: “sha-ow-wherrrr”. 

Sunshine Rat responds with, “1.25 for 5.25. Oh yeah.” She recites the dollar and minutes sign we saw at Big Meadow shower stalls.   

I lay down on the gravel with my head on my pack.   

We stare into the trees. No one speaks for a few minutes. 

Finally, I can function jaw muscles again. My first words are, “We’ve got to take an after picture of us before we shower.” 

Everyone agrees. This accomplishment will need documentation. We are disgusting and picture ready. 

SunFloJo springs an idea, “Hey girls. If I give you the car key, you could leave your packs here and walk to get the car at Lewis Mountain just up the road. Then drive back to get us.” 

This keeps the Steam Team from trying to figure out Dick’s short cut through the next part of the trail with our packs on.   

Stalker C and Sunshine Rat are all over that plan. Their young legs are free from burdens and ready to walk with purpose. They stand up and turn toward the road. 

Laying there, I feel tearful. Dehydrated ducts can still feel the feels. 

It’s over. We did what we set out to do. SunFloJo gathers energy to move backpacks further toward the road so the girls won’t miss us when they return. 

A thin guy and girl emerge from the AT. They say, “Have you seen the shelter?” 

I shake my head no. 

“There’s supposed to be one around here. We’re ready to call it a day and sleep there we hope.” 

My toes point toward the foot path that crosses the AT. I look beyond my toes and see a small sign carved in wood. I ask and point, “Is it in there?” 

They walk toward it and read. He shouts back, “This is it. Thank you!” 

Cool, glad I could help. Then I think about them sleeping in one of the little wood lean-tos that are mentioned in the first chapter of the book A Walk In The Woods.   

I hope they have buffs, so they don’t risk breathing the rat doo-doo underneath.  

Oh, first thing I am thankful for post hike: not sleeping exposed in one of the little wood shelters any of our nights this week. 

From my supine position, I hear the Toyota CRV pull onto the gravel behind me. Wow, those girls made great time. 

We load packs in the back and grab our beloved red bag from Deb.  

SunFloJo blasts the air conditioner. We climb in and pass around remaining Deb snacks, shoving peanut butter filled pretzels and melted together iced animal cookies into our mouths like we haven’t eaten in days. Crumbs fly! 

Someone says through mouthfuls, “I wonder if Ted will really come to Big Meadow tonight?” 

Prefer to listen? Join us on the Surrender on The Trail Podcast.

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