Mentioned earlier that I am an incurable people-watcher. There was one girl I saw out on the trail that didn’t make it into that day’s trip report, but still lingers in my mind. Was a good-sized group, looked like a family outing. We came across them somewhere along the southern, maybe south-eastern stretch of the ERL Saturday morning.
All of them were heading along in day-hiker garb, ranging about three generations in age but none of them looking too young to drive. Kat and I stood to the side and let them pass. Not much was said, just a few nods. Little eye contact. Me staring and watching like my Momma didn’t raise me right. They head on and we get back to the trail.
Few minutes later, slowly and laboriously making her way up behind them was the last member of the group. Alone. She asked Kat, “Did they forget me?” in a kind of embarrassed, self-aware way that spoke volumes. I heard her say, “I’m so done with this . . . ” as she passed us by, red-faced and breathing hard.
Kat said something encouraging, and I tried to as well. Told her to hike her own hike, that I’m always the one bringing up the rear.
I hope, at the end of the day, she felt that sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from stepping off a trail you know was probably too hard for you, but you did it anyway. I hope she allowed herself permission to compete with only the one person she should ever worry about chasing or outpacing – herself.
I wish she could know that of all the folks I encountered on the trail that day, she was the one I liked and admired the most after just a few passing seconds of shared ground. I hope she isn’t done with this, even though I’ve cursed many a mountain and many a rocky mile myself.
The next hike is always easier, always harder, and always worth putting your boots back on for. There’s always someone younger or in better shape somewhere ahead of you, higher up on the mountain. But they all end up at the same trailhead eventually.