Messages while on the Appalachian Trail sometimes appear few and far between. Then again, sometimes messages are more frequent than we realize if we know how to spot them.
Cellular service has been unattainable in southwest Virginia but over the past few days we have received messages in less modern ways. On Day 43, Chief and I took a zero day and stayed at the Lazy Fox Inn in Damascus Virginia. Damascus is a quiet little town, population less than 1,000, except during Trail Days . This festival brings in 20,000 hikers, artisans, and visitors the third weekend each May. We arrived the weekend after Trail Days and stayed at the B&B owned and operated by 90-year old Miss Ginny. Our room looked like something at your grandmother’s house with lots of knick-knacks and a claw foot bathtub complete with Epsom salts. Miss Ginny told us where she hides the key to the house in case she had to go out. The next morning she made a huge breakfast with some amazing cheesy grits and homemade biscuits. Miss Ginny’s message to us was that we would complete the entire trail and she wanted us to send to her a note when we finished. She said that she would remember us and we have no doubt that is true.
We hiked to a campsite later that evening and in the middle of the night had an unwelcome message from a bear! He seemed to be telling the campers that we were invading his domain by snorting and growling and pounding on the ground. No one dared exit their tent but there was much talk about it the next morning. Thankfully we were all protected!
One message wasn’t even for us rather we had the pleasure of being the messenger. As we were hiking the trail, another hiker was approaching from the opposite direction. He stopped to chat and told us he was from Mississippi and that his wife was picking him up at the next crossroad. He asked where we were from and when we said Ohio he told us that he had been born in Newark. The man said he knew the location of Marion, Bucyrus and Shelby. That sparked a further comment from Chief that he had been on the police force there. The man said that he had served in the Navy about forty years ago with someone from Shelby, Bruce F. Just so happens that we have been friends with Bruce and his wife, Cindy, for many years. Our girls grew up together and we went to the same church for years. The hiker told us his name and asked if we would let Bruce know he would like to speak with him. As soon as we had cell service, Chief contacted Bruce and delivered the message. Bruce knew who the hiker was as soon as we mentioned Mississippi and said he had been thinking the past couple years about making a contact.
Day 45 was especially difficult as we hiked the rocky paths to and from Mt. Rogers. The day was sunny which made traversing the trail hotter than we’ve normally experienced on a mountain. We also hiked through the Grayson Highlands State Park and encountered the wild ponies on more than one occasion. At one location four ponies were grazing in the woods, including one all brown foal that wasn’t very old. As we walked along the trail, Chief spotted a yellow piece of paper in a baggie that had been strategically placed next to an A.T. marker. On the note was written, “Chief and Toad”. Now hikers will sometimes leave messages for other hikers but we couldn’t imagine who or why a note would be left for us. It turned out this message was from Tara, an accountant friend we know from Columbus, Ohio that has been following our blog. Tara’s note said that she had travelled to the Grayson Highlands. She must have been out hiking the area and knew that we weren’t far behind. Tara’s message came as a great surprise and was a source of encouragement to us on a day we were challenged both emotionally and physically!
We are truly grateful for the simple ways the Lord has provided for our needs. Those messages of His love are worth sharing. On Day 46 we were hiking a 19-miler and passed a trail volunteer who gave to us a banana. Fresh fruit is such a luxury on the trail and we enjoyed it immensely! We also met a ridge runner who gave us a message about a motel we had planned to use in two days. He said we would be better served by catching a shuttle bus into Marion, Virginia the next day. We heeded that message and woke early on Day 47 to hike the ten miles to the pick-up point. On our way, we met a day-hiker named Sly who blessed us with a Snickers candy bar and said she would give us a ride to town if we didn’t make the shuttle. That nourishment was needed and propelled us faster toward the pick-up point. We couldn’t have been one minute later after hiking those ten miles because the bus arrived just as we were getting to the pick-up point! God sent a message that he understands all of our needs. There is no limit to God’s communication with us if we will only listen with our heart.
Until our next message, Chief and Toad