I woke up to the sound of the rushing river beside me and looked outside my screen door to the river. It was 5:20 am. I had been waking up at that same exact time every day just about. It must have been because that's when the birds started to sing and the sun began to break through the trees. River and Puddles planned to do a 17-mile hike that day and so I told them I'd help wake them up since they had become accustomed to being able to sleep in out here.
I climbed out of my tent and walked by their's quietly saying "good morning, good morning" and to my surprise, they responded. The night before, River had shown me a trick she learned from an 18-year-old MIT student of how to hang multiple bear bags using one line. I can't even begin to try to describe it in words but I made a video in order to remember the steps. Hanging our bags together last night worked out well since my rock bag had smashed the night before. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to deal with that in the upcoming nights just yet.
We got to chatting about food while eating breakfast and I learned that the average hiker only carried about 3 to 4 days of food at a time. Then they go into town to resupply as well as potentially take a shower, charge their phones, contacts loved ones, and potentially stay at a hostel or a hotel. A shower sounded pretty good right about now. They said I was crazy for carrying ten days of food but I admitted I was too scared to try to hitchhike alone or even go into town. People scared me.
I had also told them that I originally planned on eating nothing but beef jerky and granola for lunch every day. They laughed and said that's not going to work. I laughed too and said, "no, it didn't." By day 4 the beef jerky turned my stomach every time I opened the seal and the fumes wafting from the bag made me feel like I was a walking ideal piece of bear bait. I admitted to them how I debated tossing all of the meat into the woods for some animal to enjoy but then realized I wasn't sure how far the next town was, and so I decided that I would try to trade it with someone that day, or it was ending up in the woods. Luckily yesterday, while I was washing my clothes in the river, the college group I had met my first night out there passed by and I stopped them. TA, the only girl in their group, was willing and kind enough to trade out my remaining one pound of jerky for protein bars. I hadn't even thought about the importance of trading protein for protein but she had and I was grateful to her for being honest about it.
Puddles and River told me they had planned and made a ton of dehydrated freezer bag meals to mail to themselves to have over the trip. For the most part that was working out, but there were a few items they were sick of that they wish they hadn't packed so many of. Pubbles had also quickly come to dislike the taste of dehydrated eggs, but River gladly took them off her hands. River was also kind enough to offer some of her food to me but I declined. I had enough and she needed the good stuff since she was hiking a significant number of miles each day.
I wanted to take a zero-day badly since I was absolutely mentally and physically exhausted but there was a group of college boys that had set up camp just across the river and they had definitely driven in from somewhere because they were fully equipped with all the camping luxurious a person could want including a pop up screen room, tarps, lanterns and folding chairs. Drinking, obnoxious talk, and swimming nearby was also happening so I decided it wasn't the best place for a young girl all alone in the woods to spend the day.
I hiked the short 3 miles or so over to Little Rock Pond. When I got there around noon, a boys summer camp group were just packing up and leaving. The shelter was impressive like the one at Bromley. It had an enclosed picnic table area as well as a platform for sleeping. I signed the log book and gave a female hiker my information to contact Len since I yet again had no service and she'd likely get some before me.
I found a nice tent platform by the shelter and decided to set up early. This would be a perfect spot to take the rest of the day off and finally relax. Using my trekking poles, I tied a clothesline with the rope from my rain fly to hang my still damp clothes to dry in the only sunny spot I could find. All the land surrounding the pond had a dense canopy of green leaves letting very little light through. Sunblock and my hat were two items I could have ditched on this journey.
After setting up, I went down to the water with my cooking gear to make lunch. I was so tired and my feet were starting to really hate me. A part of me really just wanted to crawl into my tent and take a nap. But I told myself I needed to eat, and so I sat looking out to the water while I boiled some water to make Raman noodles, something I would never eat back home. I never cooked lunch before since it takes time and effort to pull everything out. Once the water was boiling, I turned the burner off, dumped my noodles in, and quickly placed the lid on and wrapped the pot up with two bandanas to let my noodles finish cooking inside. As the cool wind blew I was very happy to hold my hot pot. I had wanted to go swimming but rumor had it that another afternoon storm may be passing through and if the temp dropped any more, I didn't want to be wet and cold.
I unwrapped my Raman pot and happily ate the hot noodles and drank the salty chicken broth. It tasted like the best soup I had ever tried. With each bite, I began to realize I had been starving. By the time I finished the pot, my headache had subsided and I felt full of energy again. At that moment I realized why so many hikers praise Raman. It is warm, heavy/filling, has lots of carbs (sugars that break down slowly to give long-lasting energy) and lots of salt to help restore electrolytes to help keep you hydrated. I decided from then on, I was taking the time to cook my lunches.
After eating I was incredibly restored and although people were stopping by and chatting with me, I felt this strong desire to get moving again. I quickly packed up and started towards the Green Wall shelter 5 miles and one mountain climb away around 4:30pm. Sunset wasn't until 8:20pm. I had hoped that would be enough time to get there.
The first part of the trail was calm but as I began to climb, my anxiety decided to pay me a visit. What was I doing? My safety rule was to always stop hiking between 5 and 6pm in order to make sure I'd have plenty of time to set up camp, eat, and tie my bear bag before dark and now here I was hiking up another mountain! I started praying to God to help push me forward and upward. I prayed that I wouldn't be still out here when darkness fell. Finally, I got cell service. I should have texted Len to let him know what I was up to but with the one bar of signal I had, I used it to reach out to my women's church group and ask for the support of their prayers to help get me to the shelter before night. Essentially I was asking for a miracle.
As the forest grew darker and my body weaker I prayed more and more. Sweat dripped from me like tears all along my arms and face. Every noise had me jumping and panicking. I stopped to lean my pack against a tree, closed my eyes, folded my hands and prayed, "God, if you are with me let me feel you. Even if I have to spend the night in the forest, let me know you are with me and that I am not alone. Please protect me." Opening my eyes, I got the idea to play the only music I happened to have downloaded to my phone, Christian rock. I blasted the speaker in hopes it would scare off any animals nearby and that the beat would help motivate me to move faster.
When I reached the top of the mountain, the sun was shining through the tall pines. I looked at my phone, somehow it had only been an hour and I had hiked 3 miles! Usually, it took me one hour per mile when climbing uphill. I was suddenly filled with hope. My heart pounded. This was impossible! How? My only explanation was that God had pushed me. That's when I started to feel it. The sense of peace and not being all alone. Was this what people meant when they said were filled with the holy spirit? I slowed my pace and looked up from my feet to the forest that surrounded me. Each tree stood like a pillar, bare leaf covered branches, allowing me to see clearly out passed them to the mountain range across from this ridge. A carpet of green moss cover the earth and an umbrella of green blocked the sky. I had never seen a forest like this before.
With this new sense of peace, I felt like I was floating over each rock and root down the path. That's when I saw and felt God. Before me stood dozens of white sparkling stones piled on top of one another across a flat pine carpet roughly 50 to 100 square feet. Each stone, tree, branch, and leaf seemed to emanate with a life force vibration. It was as if God was the earth and the earth was God. His/her presence was the air and forest all around me as well as inside of me. The divine was everywhere. It was like looking at a grill and seeing the gas cause wavy lines in the air. Everything had a vibration.
Eventually, I moved on, feeling grateful for my experience at White Rocks. I couldn't help smiling as I walked and thinking tonight was the night I needed to see God's sunset. I knew there was a lookout somewhere nearby, but I was having trouble figuring out which path led to it and I only had a little while left to figure it out. When I got to an intersection, the sign read .3 miles to the Green Wall shelter one way and 1 mile to White Rocks the other way. The third way led down to a road. Fortunately, I man running with his dog came by and I asked if he knew if people camped out over by the lookout. He said not usually and asked why. I told him I really wanted to see the sunset, but was afraid to walk on all these slippery rocks after dark to try and get back to the shelter. He offered to meet me at the lookout once he was finished running with his dog and walk me down to the shelter. I graciously accepted the offer.
Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn. I thought I was heading in the direction of the lookout but when I came across two 16-year-old girls day hiking, I found out I had been wrong, and needed to turn around and hike/climb back up the 2 miles I had just descended. The girls were kind enough to let me walk with them since they were heading that way anyway.
I watched the sunset with the two girls, the man with his dog, and a husband and wife who also hiked up just to watch it set. The colors were beautiful. The girls took a million pictures and I made a video. The man rolled a joint. He seemed kind enough, but I couldn't help but feel a little nervous about the idea of him. He was wearing only a pair of black spandex shorts and a hydration water backpack. His hair was a crazy mess of curls and his eyes didn't quite focus on anything very long.
As we walked back to the intersection, the others headed down the hill towards the parking lot and the gentleman and I continued onward in the dark towards the shelter. At first, I tried to use the red setting on my headlamp but with all the slick rocks I decided to turn the bright white light on. I was struggling to keep up with him but tried my best. My foot slipped from one of the rocks and I felt my ankle twist slightly. He turned to ask if I was okay and I said yes. That's when he slowed down and pulled his pack off in front of him. As he dug through the contents of his bag I began to panic. What was he looking for? A gun maybe? If he tried to attack me right now there would be almost nothing I could do about it. Then he clicked on a light and placed on his headlamp. My heart slowed and I was instantly filled with guilt. Here was this sweet guy walking me to a shelter in the pitch black forest, and here I was thinking he was some kind of terror. Way to go Faith.
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.