Kaile and I slept in to about 6:30 a.m. It was so great to be in a bed, even a super thin one. We got dressed and headed downstairs to see how we could help out with getting breakfast ready. Sneaker Bear was in the kitchen repairing eggs with two older gentlemen, Pacer and Flatts from Florida who were chopping away to add into the eggs. Kaile and I harvested some basil leaves from the rooftop garden and she chopped them what I crushed fresh cinnamon and blended it with sugar.
We sat with the two gentlemen while eating and introduced ourselves as Faith and Phoenix. I had gifted the trail name Phoenix to Kaile the moment she showed up yesterday and joined me on my trail life adventure. Kaile was a holistic practitioner in real life. She had a natural gift to heal others and used many mediums to do so; everything from energy work, crystal singing bowls and much more. Her business name is Phoenix Lightworks and so I thought it was pretty perfect.
We sipped Mata tea and eat our eggs and grains while Pacer and Flats shared some of their adventures along the trail. Pacer started in Georgia and Flats started in Virginia. Along the way they connected and have been meeting up to camp at night similarly to the way River and Puddles had. They said places like the Yellow Deli are all over. Many churches let people stay with them for a night and also often supply a dinner and/or breakfast. They told us one story about how they came across a picnic area set up for the AT hikers with hundreds of dollars worth of cookout food that this couple did just to give back to the trail.
(Picture above: Kaile, Brooke, Pacer, then Flats)
Afterward, we hit Walmart one more time since I was still bleeding and in need of pads. Oh and I almost forgot to mention, when we left the parking garage the machine to pay was broken and the gate was left open so we got to park overnight for free. We were grateful for the trail magic. It took us an hour and a half to drive back to where I had started on the trail and it really put things in perspective for me. It allowed me to see just how far I'd really walked as we drove by mountain after mountain. I had decided to go back to where I had started my journey since my ankle was still healing and the more North I got, the harder the trail would be. I figured I'm going to want to come back anyways to finish the entire trail so I might as well do the easier part while I'm injured and only have a few days left to be here.
We want to The Stratton Pond Trailhead and hiked the flat 3.7-mile path down to the pond. Kaile and I enjoyed taking pictures of all the moss, mushrooms, frogs, and newts along the way. We went swimming and our clothes made bubbles in the water. I'm guessing it was probably due to the vinegar we used to wash my clothes at the Yellow Deli. We enjoyed watching the newts swim along with a small school of catfish that we first thought we're tadpoles. There were also three bigger catfish swimming around. The innkeeper, John said seeing Catfish in Vermont was unusual and we wondered if maybe someone had dropped them off in the pond.
Kaile left after swimming and I headed towards the nicest shelter I had ever seen. It had an enclosed sitting area with benches and a picnic table and individual bunk beds on the lower deck and a loft above. If I remember correctly, it sleeps up to 16 people. I set up my tent close to the shelter and hung my bear bag. A man in his seventies who went by Stone Age was sitting at the shelter when I went to walk by and we got to talking about God. We talked about how you can truly feel his presence when you are surrounded by the beauty of all his creation.
We headed back down towards the pond as we chatted and he told me he had been section hiking the AT over the past year. He only averaged about 10 miles a day, unlike most AT hikers who typically do 17-20 miles a day now that they've been out here a few months and have built up an endurance. We agreed that fewer miles were not only better on the body but also gave you a chance to appreciate nature, take pictures, go swimming, climb fire towers, and meet people. Some of the AT hikers we'd come across get so caught up with trying to do as many miles as fast as they can but they skip many opportunities to just enjoy the adventure.
Down at the pond, people started filling up the little patch of land that looked out to the water. Some people who had stopped just to swim ended up deciding that they wanted to stay. John, then said the sunsets there were amazing and so all 16 of us claimed a spot to watch the sunset slowly descend, lighting up the sky with beautiful rays of yellows and oranges until finally fading and changing to lovely shades of pinks and purples.
Together we all walked back to the shelter and our tents. I started to write in my journal when I suddenly heard something walking around. I had only been in my tent for about 10, maybe 15 minutes when the fabric in front of my face got pushed in and I backed up in a panic! I started clapping my hands try to scare it away, but it kept walking in circles around me. I began yelling at it to go away and get out of here in the deepest voice I could manage. Apparently, I did not sound very scary because it tried to get in from the back of my tent. I continued to yell and finally, that's when I heard someone come running down the trail. Neil came over from the shelter with a flashlight and scared whatever it was away.
He asked if I were alright. I ignored the question as my heart was still stuck in my big toe and replied by asking if he saw whatever it was. He said no, that it must have run off when he heard him coming or saw the flashlight. He kindly told me there was still space in the shelter but I decided to stay in my tent. I wasn't sure if sleeping with a bunch of strange men would make me feel any safer. I ended up falling asleep with my glasses on and my flashlight in my hand.
As a trauma survivor I have learned to move forward in my life and heal from my past by exploring many passions such as spirituality, art, travel & herbalism. I hope my blog can help inspire healing in others and let them know they are not alone on their journey.