Have you ever been in that state of sleep yet slight consciousness all night that you feel you didn’t sleep a wink? That’s how it was for me except after turning to get comfortable so many times, I began feeling like a rotisserie chicken! I also should mention this cat lady’s house is VERY close to the railroad that runs by at 10, 11, and 12 at night. Shouldn’t you mention that in your write up? I need a little humor here before the end of this blog so let me just describe this place.. she has kept DYMO Label maker in business by labeling virtually everything in the house, even huge long labels that don’t stick to wooden bedroom doors so well that say “keep door closed to keep cats out”. To say you needed a sticker for that was hilarious! You could look at the aging, stained carpet to tell the cats love those huge litter boxes called bedrooms! There was a sticker that said “forks” when all there is is forks. In the kitchen alone there must have been over 70 stickers labeling stuff, even each spice jar that already has the name of the spice written on the jar! Sticker in the bathroom, “close shower curtain after shower”, she comes out after showering and oh wait .. the shower curtain is pulled back bunched together. Lock on the bathroom door, you say? There is a random piece of toilet paper in the old timey looking key hole, I suppose so you can’t peek in. Since you can’t lock the door why not “accidentally “ open the door? Oops!
As we left, the one mangy looking cat was laying atop a discarded window unit next to the compost heap. I wonder if the A/C unit will turn to dirt if left there long enough? Oh I could go on but it just gets embarrassing… Nice lady though! She hocks loogies out the car window pretty good too!
The morning was cool and what a nice change that would be as I try out the pack, my boots, walking on rocks, climbing earthen steps of various sizes to see if my ankle is better or not. It turns out it is not, in addition to my previously hurt knee starting to strain a bit. I have made the hard decision to just take this ol’ body home to SC to heal up properly. My sister Jane and friend since 9th grade, Mary Beth, hopped at the chance to help!
I spent the day back at The Mountain Home B&B with Scott and Lisa waiting for them to drive the seven hours to pick me up. I learned how to make grape juice and can’t wait to try it out once I get home. I also picked up a copy of Grandma Gatewood, the first woman to hike the AT from one end to the other non stop at the age of 67 and began to read it while I waited. Mind you I like reading but I believe my last full book I read was a Nancy Drew book!
Emma Gatewood endured a lot in her life and always found calmness, solace, and peace in the woods. While reading of her hike I found myself at the same places as her, knees hurting stretching to climb that big boulder, pounding step over step on cantaloupe sized rocks, ankles twisting, pack bouncing, boots so full of water you can hear the sloshing. At the end of the day or upon seeing mountains in the distance, the peacefulness of the woods draws you in. By the time Jane and Mary Beth arrived I had read the entire book, one worth reading. I hated leaving the trail behind but it’s not that far away and I learned so much thus far from my journey. We headed home and soon stopped for the night, got caught up on things and slumber set in. I woke up in the middle of the night to shake the dew off the lily after the pain in my leg brought my sleep to an end. There was no headlamp to reach for to clear the path of critters of the night, no searching for the best spot, no climbing back into the tent and into my sleeping bag to listen to the night sounds as I fall back into the arms of peaceful sleep. There was however the faint glow of the microwave in the hotel room, lights blinking from smoke detectors, and battery chargers lighting my way, not worrying about things that go bump in the night.
As I return to my bed for the night, I lie down between two sisters, two friends that would go to the ends of the world for me, ones who need no trail names to define them or to make it easier to remember who they are months later; they will forever be my trail angels who retrieved me from the woods. There were no frog sounds, no crickets, or owls, only breathing sounds and gentle snoring to lull me to sleep once more. My toenail is black, my hip chafed and bruised as I feel every heartbeat in my red, swollen pinkie toe. I survived on my own, missing family and friends all the while making new friends along the way. I still miss Larry every day, getting his advice, enjoying his company, but God has helped take away the pain I felt in my heart and replaced it with solace knowing we all have more living to do, more adventures to take, more people to meet all the while keeping 40 years of memories locked inside to be released whenever I want. There is still a sadness along with the laughter but I will always have His words, “ Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled”…