“Lo hace camino andar.” The way is made by walking.
“Solvitur Ambulando.” It is solved by walking.
These are just two of the many phrases, mantras, and prayers that came across my lips hundreds, if not thousands of times during this 12-day section hike.
After 4 years of section hiking the AT, I finally made it to the 600-mile mark. (I’m laying on the ground beside this stone-fashioned landmark…smiling…with only a few drops of water left in that water bottle!)
Day 3 proved to be my first real battle with water-lessness. I left Jenkins Shelter and had some “cruise-y” hiking until after my lunch stop at the Brushy Mountain Deli (which was closed). But there was a nice canopy nearby to enjoy my lunch under and a brief phone call with Deb.
But there was no more water for the next 10-12 miles of hiking. At the 18-mile mark for the day, I was hoping to hit a water source near the Helvey Mill shelter but it was dry.
I scouted out the creek bed a little further down but all I got was a painful sting from a hornet as I scrambled under rhododendrons looking for any wet spots in the creek.
Rubbing the painful welt on my shoulder blade, I continued down the trail to the Jenny Knob shelter where I finally found this small pool of water collecting in the stream bed after about 23 miles of hiking for the day.
There was actually a deer slurping out of this little oasis when I first arrived which brought Psalm 42:1 to mind…but thankfully she didn’t put up a fight and I was able to “camel up” over the course of the next hour. I had to submerge a small ziplock bag into this pool and then transfer the water to my “dirty” water bladder until I had 2 liters…and then filter that into my “clean” bottles. These are the experiences that make you appreciate clean water on-demand when returning home!
Expressing the relief and gratitude one feels after being thirsty for hours and then finally quenching that thirst is difficult. Perhaps you get a glimpse of that feeling from this last photo of the day.
So what was solved by walking on Day 3? How was my “way” made by walking? What do those phrases mean and how does that translate into off-trail living?
All I really know is that backpacking continues to teach me how to be present…to live in the moment. And to be grateful for simple pleasures
and provisions. When you spend several days just getting from point A to point B, life becomes much more simple than what most of us experience off trail. Being concerned mainly with water, food, and shelter reduces the mental complexities and provides an oasis of sustainability.
There are many days off trail that do NOT feel sustainable…that make me concerned about the pace of life and the impact of stress, fear, and anxiety on my relationships. But spending an extended period of time in the woods immersed in solitude, prayer, and walking reminds me that life is lived one step at a time, one breath at time, one day at a time.
I can do nothing about what happened yesterday. All I can do with the future is trust. Which leaves the present moment to be savored and enjoyed. This WAY is made by walking.