Healing In Nature


Southbound After reaching Harpers's Ferry, my support system transported me to Big Meadows Lodge, where I would hike southbound, finishing in Loft Mountain, bringing my trip to an end. I came across Lewis Mountain campground, where I found the camp store with a nice cold Gatorade and a ham and cheese sandwich. Inside, there were two teenage boys and two adults hiking together. I learned the boys would be cousins and were on a weekend trip ending at Big Meadows Lodge. It started raining again, so everyone waited out the storm in the rocking chairs on the front porch of the camp store. A park ranger offered to set up a tent at her spot, which I found very kind. After it stopped raining, however, I felt revived to keep going. It started to get dark, and I decided to keep going, this would be the first time I experimented with night backpacking. Feelings of excitement and terror filled my body and mind during this experience. My initial thought was to fear other humans, not animals; both in society and the woods. Yet the more eyes I saw, I became weary. The eyes were all different shapes and sizes, and I feared something was following me. In the distance stood a trail post, deciphering which path to take. To my surprise, snakeskin was draped across the wood, and I did not notice till it was right in front of me. Night hiking was not for me. I continued fast, searching for a spot to set up camp for the night. When I was starting to lose hope, I saw a small path leading off to the side. I followed. The land was spacious, enough for a few tents. While setting up camp, I talked with my dad on the phone. He told me I was wise to call, as bears do not like noise. The eyes continued to glare at me from every angle I turned. I pitched a tent and hung my food bag in a tree. Finally, I crawled into my sleeping bag, silencing the worries from the outside world. Tomorrow will be a new day, and it will bring light.

The next day, I was hiking when I saw an older man hiking alone. He told me he was walking the AT to pick up trash and other materials people left on the trail and he tried to get out often to do so. He asked what I was doing out there, and I told him how I was hiking the AT to understand better how nature heals our body, mind, and soul. “Nature heals itself,” the man said—a counter perspective to the man smoking the half cigarette at Elkwallow Wayside. The man spoke about how even with fire and destruction, ecosystems can restore themselves. If there are roots and soil, succession will take place. Nature can heal not only humans but itself and will respond to whatever conditions arise.

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