Have you ever met someone briefly, but once you left them, you feel better for having encountering them?
Our lives are so busy, and everything is so fast pasted that often we will miss this brief encounters if we are not careful.
Such was the case almost two months ago, when I went on my first solo hike. Hiking is a wonderful way to slow down and just enjoying being. There are no phones, no hustle and bustle, and you honestly can’t beat the views. The debate over hiking solo has gone on for years and I am sure will continue to carry on for many more. Even amongst the hiking community itself we are divided.
Some believe hiking alone is dangerous… which it is. Of course it is always going to be safer for me to have a companion. Most places are remote and without cell coverage, so if something happens to me, I have to rely on myself to get assistance. We are taught early on that there is safety in numbers and that mantra keeps several gripped in fear.
Others are of the opinion that the dangers of the trail are minute compared to the dangers of everyday life. This is the category I identify with. I wasn’t always of this thinking, but I have found that most of the time I am safer out in the woods then I am sitting at my office desk.
Two months ago, I decided it was time for my first solo hike. I have been hiking for a while, but never gone alone. Honestly the opportunity had never risen for me to go alone. There has ALWAYS been someone to hike with. Being an extrovert, being alone is problem. I LOVE being social. My mouth is constantly moving and yapping.
When I announced that I was going solo….. you would have thought I had told people I was leaving for Mars on the first space ship out of here.
My sainted mother never batted an eye, but I could tell she did NOT like the idea at all. Her best friend, who is like my second mom, did not hide her emotions. She was a nervous wreck…. Once I told her, she immediately called my mother questioning my sanity and wondering why my mother was allowing such a thing. My mother informed her that the last she knew, you couldn’t ground a 41 year old grown woman. 🙂
I admit, I was a little nervous, but the excitement I had FAR out weighed it. The hike was hard, REAL hard, but it was also the most wonderful and spiritual experience I had ever encountered. Spending time alone with God in HIS splendid creation was just what my hungry soul needed.
The journey was difficult. My body ached, and I didn’t have my usual hiking partners there to help ease the monotony of the never ending climb. My legs, or stubs as I call them, are so short that my stride is not very long. For every one step a normal person takes, I take about 3. I was getting VERY discouraged. Maybe I should have someone with me. Maybe coming alone was stupid.
Throughout the day I met some wonderful folks. Each and every person I met encouraged me and made me feel a little better about my hike. All left me feeling encouraged and proud, but it was the person I met about 40 minutes into my decent back down the mountain that made the largest impact.
I was totally booking it back down the mountain, because I had stayed up top longer then I had really meant to and I knew my mom would be nutsy until she heard I had made it off the mountain safely. I actually thought I was keeping pretty good pace until this flash of hiking sticks and tufts of blond hair whizzed by me. At first I was furious that this hiker had snuck up on me, then he turned around and started a conversation.
I recognized him as one of the hikers I had seen up at the top immediately. While there, I had just randomly seen him walking around, taking pics and enjoying the beauty. But now I really noticed him for the first time. He had the kindest, sweetest face I think I had ever seen.
“Hey there!” he said like we were old friends.
“Hi” I moaned back.
“Sorry I flew by you… I had a little too much momentum.”
I immediately began to relax. We spent the next 15 minutes discussing our hikes and what a beautiful day it had turned out to be. We discussed other trails we had done, and ones that were on our bucket list. 10 minutes in, I felt like I had been friends with this guy for years. It also did not hurt that I thought he was TOTALLY freaking adorable. 🙂
Before we parted ways (he was 10 times faster then me so there was no way I could keep up with him) he said something that spoke more to me then any other kind word I heard all day.
“Don’t ever be fearful. You are already lapping those on the couch. Keep doing your thing. Don’t worry about going slow..you’ll get there. Thanks for the good conversation.”
And with that, he was gone.
Those words resounded with me. I WAS doing better then the person sitting at home too fearful to get out and live life on their own. Instead of talking about what I wanted to accomplish, I WAS out there getting it done.
I many never see this gentleman again….. I hope I do, but these mountains are deep and wide and our trails may never cross paths again.
I only hope he knows how much he encouraged a weary, discouraged hiker, who was doubting herself and her decision to go out alone.
Take the time to enjoy those chance encounters…..you never know when you might just hear the words you need to hear, or maybe you can be the one doing the uplifting. If you are ever in the Smokies and you see the kind, (and very adorable) face of the hiker below, let him know that I am grateful for our Chance Encounter.