CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE 

Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat. Psalm 78:25 

Brieanna James gives Tank a music shaker and Sunshine Rat a tambourine.   

They stand on either side of Brieanna and play their instruments on the beat as she sings her version of I’m Yours by Jason Mraz.   

“…I tried to be chill but you’re so hot I melted….  

“I reckon it’s again my turn to win some or learn some…” 

Our audience sways and sings along. Brieanna smiles at her helpers. 

“We’re just one big family and it’s our godforsaken right to be loved, loved, loved…” 

The room claps as Sunshine and Tank raise the instruments to add a splash of drama to the last line. They bow with a head nod and return to their seats.  

Frodo jumps up to be next. He does not have a partner. I look toward a frozen Stalker C who makes no move to stand up. Brieanna gives Frodo a shaker and he moves it like one of those Shake Weight commercials. He is a puppy that could not glow more with happiness.  

Pizzas and wings arrive. We dig in as Frodo returns to the table. He says, “What talent to only be 16!” Someone reminds him that Brieanna is jailbait.  

As the fun continues, I ask, “Ted, how do you spell your last name?  S-h-e-p…like a shepherd in the Bible or something different?” 

His body language says yes, “Yep like the Bible.”   

SunFloJo points away from our table, “Would you look at that; the sunset is gorgeous. Almost dark soon.” 

We soak in the sunset colors through the windows and wipe sauce with napkins away from fingers and faces.  

Sunshine Rat scans the table and says to the Steam Team, “Oops. I guess we should have put our tents up before we came here.” 

Tank’s face turns serious, “That’s the first rule of the trail. Always put your tent up before dark.” He appears disappointed.   

Oh, there are official rules? Feeling a little slap happy, I want to laugh but hold it in. 

Tank continues, “And we’re supposed to have bad weather tonight. Heavy rain and possible thunderstorms.” 

Frodo listens to hear what we’re going to do. 

SunFloJo waves it off, “We’ll figure it out.” 

Frodo offers, “One night we found a bathroom to sleep in because it was storming so bad outside.” 

Tank, possibly concerned with how that admission might sound, adds, “We put down a mat, so we weren’t all the way touching the bathroom floor or anything.” 

“Oh honey, no judgment here,” SunFloJo says. 

We finish the food and appetizers. Delicious. 

“Hey,” Stalker C says to the young guys. “We have lots of trail food left over if you want it.” 

Tank’s face brightens, “Oh, that would be great!” 

I offer, “It’s already bagged for the trail.” 

Frodo says, “Perfect.” 

Brieanna leans into the microphone and smiles, “Now I want to play a song that I wrote. It is called Whatever Happened.”   

She plays soft cords and shares verses with us. The song talks about sunshine days and moonlit nights.  

She sings, “There’s beauty in every direction, everyone teaches a lesson…” 

I feel thoughtful about the lyrics.  

My adult life has gone by so fast. Our babies are nearly grown. One is leaving.  

My husband–while not ambitious beyond our home, certainly always seeks to spend time with me. Not a social butterfly, a little grumpy at times, but his love is genuine. He still wants to be with me even after all these years. How many people receive the gift of consistency in a relationship?  

I reflect on the day we met in May twenty four years ago. The day we pretended not to look at one another. The day I rolled my eyes at God because I knew with all my being that life ahead involved Paul by my side. Not one day since have I ever questioned if Paul wants to be with me. I feel…blessed.  

Inhale. Exhale. Pause for oxygen. 

I sense he may be missing me and wondering about our progress right now.  

Grabbing my phone off the charger next to the wall, I send Paul a text—I AM SAFE AND SOUND AT OUR LAST STOP. GOING TO SLEEP SOON AND DRVING HOME IN THE MORNING. HOPE YOU GUYS ARE OK. LOTS OF ADVENTURES TO SHARE IF YOU WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THEM. I LOVE YOU. 

Paul returns a text immediately—I LOVE YOU TOO! CAN’T WAIT TO GET YOU HOME. AND, YES, I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE ADVENTURES. SEE YOU TOMORROW NIGHT. BOYS AND I ARE FINE. TTYS! 

Brieanna rounds out the lyrics of her song, “Put the pieces away one last time…there’s beauty in every direction, everyone teaches a lesson, which way will you choose…” 

I smile. 

The common denominator of anything that really matters is family, friends and love. Everything else can be rearranged, sold, donated. Just because I want things a certain way does not mean that is the only way. Life can evolve, and I’ll be just fine. 

The room begins to clear. Campers go to bed with the sun. 

Ted smiles in a belly full kind of way. He reaches for his wallet.   

“Uh, no sir,” says SunFloJo. “We’ve got this.” 

In his jovial manner he says, “Thank you.” 

“Ted, we appreciate you. And thanks for coming up here tonight. It was good to converse when we weren’t falling apart from exhaustion,” I say. 

He smiles, shakes all our hands. Then with a quick so long, he is gone. 

We girls chip in our funds, and SunFloJo finishes the bill business. Tank and Frodo say thank you. 

While Brieanna is packing up with her dad, we exit. The Steam Team plus Tank and Frodo make our way up the wooden stairs and out the lodge front door. Crickets dominate the cool night air.   

We carefully step through the darkness down the hill toward our car. I do not want a sprained ankle. Not even at this stage in the game. Flip flops don’t fail me now. 

Lightning highlights the sky. A low thunder sound is not far away. 

The guys stand as we gather gallon size bag after bag of trail food, some from the back of the CRV and some from the bear box. Frodo’s mouth drops and Tank’s eyes widen as they say, “This is a lot of food!” 

We are giggly but do not want to disturb the campground. I peer around to see how many people are still outside. Some people are still awake, but most seem to be tucked away in their tents and campers.   

On one of the bear box retrieval trips, I happen to notice a familiar person. You have got to be kidding me!  

Shut-Up-Guy is outside of his tent next door to us in campsite 3. He shakes his head perhaps in disbelief too.  

We pile plastic bag after bag into Tank and Frodo’s arms all while they marvel about the types of food inside: jerky, marshmallows, crushed pop tarts, fruit chews, pretzels, peanut butter, and more! 

Tank says, “Wow, this will save like 4 days of grocery cost for us. Thank you so much.” 

Frodo adds, “When this happens it’s called Trail Magic! And that means you four are Trail Angels.” 

Trail Angels. I like the sound of that. 

“Here,” Frodo sets down the bags for a moment. “We have to hug. Thank you so much. This was a great evening.” 

Frodo and Tank take turns hugging each one of us.  

My heart is full by their gratitude and admiration for their journey. How awesome is it that they are thru hikers halfway along on their full route AT adventure? Our trail magic gets to move on without us through them. 

Stalker C says, “Do you mind if we follow your journey on Facebook or Instagram or something?” 

Both guys say absolutely and give us their real names. 

“We hope to be in Vermont by Labor Day,” Tank says. 

“And finish in Maine by end of September or early October,” Frodo adds. 

I say, “We’ll be cheering you on.” 

SunFloJo adds with a chuckle, “Virtually.” Even her wonder woman of a body is tired now. 

We smile and after one more round of hugs, the guys carry their food off into the night. 

The Steam Team leans silently against the CRV bumper. 

All of us look toward the dark campsite thinking how set up at this point would be difficult without light—and probably noisy. 

Stalker C says, “So what are we going to do?” 

To listen to this chapter via the Surrender On The Trail Podcast, click here.

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