On this drizzly, cold and yucky day in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I’m so grateful to be sitting in this warm, fluffy bed with a full belly. I ate two left over Dunkin Donuts at 5:30 a.m., and then had two bowls of Raisin Bran at the Continental Breakfast. I took some yogurt for midday snack.
I have so much time to think when I am on the trail. As an Introvert, I usually stew about things for a while, and then I need to write my thoughts down in order to fully process them. Sometimes, though, I let the contents of my brain spill out of my mouth in speech, and I usually don’t make a whole lot of sense, even if it makes me feel better. In this case, I need to unload all of the things that are bothering me…things that are, things that were, and also those things that the cuckoo bird dropped into my head. I hope you will stay with me.
First order of business is that I need to make sure that some of you know that I am on Eastern Time. I’m an hour ahead of most of you. I usually hike 6-8 hours and I stop hiking at 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Second order of business is that I need to let you all know that ‘trail life’ is different from ‘normal life’. We are in somewhat of a survival mode out here. Men and Women sleep next to one another out here in shelters and hostels. Hostels have co-Ed bunks and everyone is in a separate bunk, but in the shelters there is no such luxury. You are right next to the stinky, smelly, snoring, noisy person next to you, be they male or female. Though it might be shocking or untoward to YOU, it’s quite normal and unavoidable out here in hiker world. It don’t mean nothin’.
Order of business 2 1/2: For those of you who might be ‘concerned’ about why I am out here, what my motivation is for being out here, or the status of my marriage…it’s none of your concern! I answer to God and God alone for what I do or don’t do in this life. No one is harder on me than ME, and I have a strong conscience!
I often think that people who go overboard on Facebook with their demonstrations of ‘love’ are, in actuality, telegraphing to the world that there might be trouble in paradise. Bud knows how I feel about him…how much I love him, appreciate him, admire him and respect him. I tell him often how much I need and appreciate his support on my hike on a frequent basis…mostly when I have cell service. The rest of you don’t need to be ‘concerned’ that Bud is not being taken care of or that he is being neglected or taken for granted. He, I and God know the truth. We are good, thank you!
Order of business number 2 3/4: One of the first things we ‘old people’ talk about out here is, “My wife….” “My husband…” It’s often one of the first things out of our mouths when meeting the opposite gender. Do you know why? It’s our way of saying, “I’m happy to meet someone my age out here, we understand one another, I want your friendship, but I ain’t out here lookin’! I’m happy at home!”
It’s strange how almost everyone thinks that the only reason someone would hike a trail for 5-6 months is because they are looking for something or there is something wrong in their lives. I was in Walgreen the other day and when I mentioned to the clerk that I was on a 5-6 month hike, she looked at me intently and said in her thick, Southern drawl, “Yer Soul-Searchin’.” I could tell she was getting ready to win me for Jesus. I wrinkled up my face in disgust and said, “NO! I’m not looking for anything out here!” Then, she said, “… bucket list…” Then I had to give her the whole spiel about why I want to hike the whole trail from beginning to end. I wasn’t mean. I just get frustrated sometimes when people make assumptions or judgements about me.
I’ve been through a lot in my life. I did, in fact, find the True Jesus, my Savior, my Truth and Answer to every problem, and it’s real. I am whole and complete, after many years of being a screwed up wreck!
I grieve (and pray) for the hoards out here who are looking for answers or running from problems out here. As a wise person once told me…you can’t run from your demons. They will follow you and throw a party when they catch up to you (or something like that.) It’s so true!
Last order of business: In later years, I’ve learned to draw the circle around myself and take care of the person inside. I have enough problems, issues and concerns in my own circle to keep me busy. I have no time or need to go peeking into someone else’s circle, unless they ask for my help or opinions.
I’ve also learned that when I go pointing fingers at someone else, I have three fingers pointing back at me! That means, when I point fingers at what someone else is doing, it’s probable that I am being a hypocrite by doing something similar or something just as bad in God’s eyes.
HOWEVER… when someone else’s circle starts to encroach upon My circle and it invades my life, privacy and rights…I can and DO have the right to say something or address the matter.
Smoking weed is prevalent on the trail. I have been landing at shelters with a group of pot smokers. They are addicts. They do it first thing in the morning and it’s the first thing they do when they come into camp. I have no doubt they smoke it in the middle of the day, too.
I’m not judging them for smoking, or having an addiction. Having been addicted to things in my past, I totally get it. I can love the person, but not love what they do. What bothers me, and what I totally have a right to say something about is when what they are doing is affecting ME. They aren’t going off down the trail in the woods to do it, they are sitting in a ring, right at the shelter or campsite, brazenly smoking their illegal substance, daring anyone to do something about it or say something. I’ve heard some hikers complain that they are smoking in the shelter in the morning, to the point that they don’t want to eat breakfast there. One man with his son in the shelter in the Smokies told me he had to tell someone who lit a joint in a shelter with a TARP on the front to take it outside! What is wrong with people? This was forcing a child to breathe in that crap! That crap smells horrible! Even when they light up outside, it stinks up the whole camp! It’s illegal to smoke regular cigarettes in most public places, but these people think its ‘cool’ to force everyone else to breathe that crap!
They are blind sheep. Because someone on TV or the internet tells them it’s cool and ‘medicinal’…they believe it. No one tells them that though pot might fool their brains into thinking they are not feeling pain, they are killing brain cells and wrecking their lungs. I hear them coughing every morning. No, thank you. I don’t want to partake of ‘slow death’ substances. Been there, done that, been delivered o’ that.
I hasten to tell you that I don’t think I am any better than these people. I’ve struggled with substances. I know the underlying pain driving them to do it. It’s only a bandaid, not a solution. They don’t have a prescription for it, and even if they did, they are abusing that substance. I am so grateful that God delivered me from it….so grateful to be free of those chains…that I don’t want to go near it, participate in it nor applaud those who partake. To me, that would be like slapping God in the face.
So I was sick of smelling weed every morning and night. I had been landing at the same shelters and campsites as the weed smokers. I busted my butt to get into camp ahead of them, and was the first to set up my tent. I went way down the hill away from the shelter to get away from the crowd and weed smoke. Next thing I know, the pot smokers are chugging down the hill, laughing it up. I couldn’t stay silent. I said, “Guys…no offense, but I came all the way down here to get away from the smoke.”
“You mean fire smoke?” One of them replied.
“No…WEED smoke.” I replied.
They rolled their eyes and trucked ’em back up the hill.
The next morning when I saw them, I thanked them for their kindness….because they could have said, F*** Off, B***h!” Instead, they at least respected me enough to move somewhere else, and I appreciated that. Also, I wanted them to know I don’t dislike them. I dislike what they are doing and it’s bothering me.
In my life, I have observed that many Christians can’t love people who do things they disagree with. They cut them off, as if they are better than them. I don’t want to be that way because from my own experiences, I know what these people need the most is LOVE. Also, there, but for the grace of God, go I!!!
I know at least one of these people is ripe, and desperate for change. What’s more, is that unbeknownst to him, he gave himself a leader’s name. I strongly believe in the power of a name and the meaning behind that name. He is using his gift for evil, rather than good, leading his sheep down a path of destruction. Will those of you who pray remember him in your prayers? He has a tremendous potential for good, but he is ensnared.
The last order of business: So many people hate our President Trump. I am a YUGE fan. For the most part, politics disappear out in the woods. However, I have to get this off my chest. There are privies out here on mountaintops…mountain tops that I had to use both hands and feet to climb that have handicapped ramps and bars on the inside! No doubt, charitable organizations that maintain the trail and shelters were forced to make these costly changes due to STUPID regulations! I can assure you that no one in a wheel chair is going to be able to get to these privies. If a handicapped person is in good enough shape to get up there, they don’t need special handicapped provisions in the privies to help them. These are the kinds of stupid, costly regulations that cripple businesses and organizations which President Trump wants to end! ‘Nuff said.
Thank you all for letting me get these things off my chest. I hope I haven’t lost too many of you.