Passover in the Wilderness
Thanks to the amazing Foundation, a trail friend I made while hiking through Big Cypress National Preserve on the Florida National Scenic Trail, there was matzah and grape juice waiting for me at Fontana Dam, North Carolina. So, on the third night of Passover, I hosted a “Hiker Seder.” What an incredibly deep, transformative experience. Clarity the Movie Star, Exterminator, Living Proof, Got, Charcoal, Hula Bear, and Feel Good were all there. I designed the seder to have four major pieces, based on the idea of four questions.
1) When the Hebrews left Egypt, it was to escape the bonds of slavery. The Hebrew word for Egypt means “narrow straights.” What Egypt, that is, what narrow straights did you leave to hike the trail?
2) You’ve been hiking for some time now, what kind of manna have you found along the way to sustain you on your journey? It could be a daily practice, a meditation, reading, food, whatever.
3) Mt. Katahdin in our Mt. Sinai. What do you currently hope to learn by the time we get there?
4) Some of us may not make it all the way to Katahdin this year, statistically speaking. So, how can each of us find a way to reach our own personal Katahdin, even if you don’t get to the physical one?
There was laughter and tears, joy and sorrow. We all had an Egypt and we all had a vision for Sinai. What a great blessing to share in the Passover experience with people from all walks of life, all with their own journeys, and all here in the wilderness.
The Great Smoky Mountains
The following day found us hiking into the Great Smoky Mountains National Forest. The entrance to the park is just over Fontana Dam, the largest dam east of the Mississippi River. After walking over the top, you are immediately in the park. And just like that, we were on our way.
Over the next several miles, Feel Good and I hiked up and up and up. From the dam at the Little Tennessee River (1756′) to the Mollie’s Ridge Shelter (4586′), we climbed a total of 2830′. It was a little rough going at first, but once we hit the top of the ridge, we remained at the higher elevations for almost the remainder of the Smokies. And talk about beauty! If I weren’t already madly in love with the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I would say these were my favorite mountains.
Feel Good and I were both in very introspective moods, he hiked on ahead to do some thinking. So I did some thinking, too. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do when I am finished hiking the Appalachian Trail. I know it’s still early yet, but I want to start the brainstorming. I’ve found myself in a lot of situations as acting-chaplain while on the trail, so much so that it almost feels like a calling. I have to pray and think more about it, but I see the start of something here.
Gaia and I were the last ones out of Mollie’s Ridge Shelter. Feel Good had already left to get a head start and we made a plan to meet for lunch at the second to next shelter. Gaia and I ran into some section hikers at the Russell Field Shelter: Jerney & Traildog. We chatted for a bit, but before we left, they gave us some Snickers bars, grapes, oranges, apples, bananas, and I took some peanut butter crackers for Feel Good. Thanks, Trail Angels!
We hiked the highest point on the trail (at 6643′) the next day, Kuwahi, and then we got off trail for resupply in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was quite beautiful.
The remainder of my time in the Smokies was marred briefly by the loss of a small 2 litre bag that carried, among other things, some sand mixed with my dad’s cremains, the cremains of my friend Beth, an external battery charger, my knife, my space pen, and my Florida Trail patch. Also missing was my rain cover for my pack. Some real fine folk exist on the trail. Thanks to my trail friends Mickey and Mrs. Massachusetts, I have a loaner pack cover. Thanks to a section hiker, I have a knife. And thanks to my brother Fred, I now have an external battery charger. THANK YOU. Also, thanks to some very find folks for donating to my GoFundMe to help recover some of these items.
I got off the trail for a few days to go visit my sister Valerieann in South Carolina for my nephew / G-ddess-son’s 2nd birthday. Fred picked me up from Hartford, TN and brought me back a few days later with more food than I should need for a week, but it was worth the extra pack weight.
From Hartford, it was on to Hot Springs over two 15 mile days. On the day before getting into Hot Springs, I was hanging out at a shelter having a late breakfast and hoping my friends Clarity and Exterminator might come by. We had planned on meeting at that shelter the night before, but I got a little worried when I did not see them. Sure enough, they walked in. Just as Clarity left, a couple ladies walked in. I kept staring at one of them and thinking she looked an awful lot like my friend, Backpacking Granny (BG), when suddenly she yelled out “TREK! OH TREK!” It was her! In North Carolina! I was ecstatic. She was there with her friend Purr from Asheville. For those who don’t know, BG and I met when I was 13. She was a mentor in my life as a teen and this just reminds me that I should write more about her soon.
Stayed at the Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Springs and then off a few of us went to Damascus, VA for Trail Days, the annual AT Trail Fest. I’ll be back on the trail on Monday!
I am still working on my budget for the rest of the trail. If you are interesting in helping with resupply packages, please shoot me a message. If you’d like to help fund the pilgrimage, please head over to GoFundMe. Your most generous contributions are greatly appreciated! Many blessings, friends. And as always, Live Long and Prosper.