I’ve learned a lot about fear this week:
– Fear can be debilitating.
– Fear can be motivating.
– Fear can be grounded in self-doubt.
– Fear can be grounded in knowledge & wisdom.
– Fear is universal… Everyone knows fear.
On my first morning out of Neels Gap on my solo adventure, I hit the trail at 6am. The sun was still struggling to climb the mountains, and a heavy fog clung to the ground in front of me. It made the trail look like it wound through a fairytale wood.
Feeling a bit giddy with nervous apprehension, I pretended I was a young (told you it was pretend, right?) maiden out to conquer the beast at the top of the mountain.
Then I rounded a foggy bend in the trail to see two black rolls curled up in the middle of the trail. From a distance & with my over active imagination running wild, it looked like two smallish bears sleeping on the trail. I was paralyzed with fear! Seriously. Where there is a baby bear, there is mama bear.
I was cursing myself for thinking I could do this alone. Mister Dirty would surely know what to do. Should I call him & ask? No, he would think I couldn’t do this. So, I mustered all the courage I could find (reminding myself that Neal had just called me brave the day before) and tiptoed quietly up the trail to find this:
An abandoned backpack!
Yes, I felt stupid for being afraid; however, I also felt courageous for going forward when I was scared. I later learned that other hikers were scared here because they thought it was a dead body!
A few days later, I was passing a scout group when the leader warned me about two copperheads on either side of the trail. “When the trail levels out and you see a downed tree that’s been cut for you to pass through,” he said. “They will be right there.”
For the next five miles – every time I passed a downed tree in a relatively level spot – I lifted my trekking poles in the air and prayed to not get bitten.
When I made it to my campsite, I laughed at how afraid I had been. My hiking buddy (Break Time, who I met on the trail) confessed that he had also been freaked out at the idea of walking through a virtual pit of vipers… Which made me feel less girly.
When I finally crossed the border into North Carolina, I was traveling with a motley crew of hikers. Legs of Steel found a really awesome campsite on the ridge line at Bly Gap. He swore it would have a great sunset, then he continued north to the next shelter. Break Time & I were the only ones planning to stop at Bly Gap, so we set up our hammocks & settled in for the night.
(Twisted Oak at Bly Gap)
Little did we know, there was a storm brewing. Did I mention that I am terrified of lightning?? As soon as I had turned in, the sky went very dark, and gale force winds started blowing. Then came the rain. And the thunder. And the lightning. The normally-adequate stakes on my rain fly surrendered to the sheer strength of the storm.
We made a belated decision to move our camp to the site in the valley just below the ridge line. In the middle of the storm, we packed it all up and ran – praying the entire way. It turned out to be a wise decision: the storm didn’t die down until about 5am.
I’ve always been terrified of lightning. Because I am, I did research prior to my trip. Here’s the kicker: I knew setting up camp on that ridge line was dangerous. My fear when the storm blew in was grounded in the knowledge that it was as dangerous as the two copperheads.
Through it all – from the almost bears to the copperheads to the lightning – I knew I would be okay. Why? Because I am more valuable than many sparrows.