It amazes me how God knows exactly what you need, when you need it, and fulfills those needs in creative and unique ways. A little over a week ago, I was desperately in need of a distraction and something to help me pass the days until having surgery on May 1oth (more on that in my next post). Waiting has been hard on me, harder than I anticipated, and I've had a lot of restless nights lying awake thinking about it, praying for rest, peace and patience. Then last week happened. I'm excited to tell you about it!
It all started with Bill. Bill is a longtime friend, father of a close friend from college, who is currently hiking the Appalachian trail. Vivacious, talkative and still full of energy at the ripe age of 68 years old. He is currently roughly 700 miles into the 2200 mile trek from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. We have been tracking Bills progress since he started his northbound trek on the trail on March 4th, and even more closely since he entered the state of Virginia on April 11th. Since a large stretch of the trail lies within 45 minute of our home, we planned to connect with him as he passed through our area (because Bill would never pass up the opportunity to visit his favorite Blacksburg restaurant, Cabo Fish Taco!)
As Bill approached our area, he connected with a family of 8 that was hiking the trail together, The Crawford's. He learned from them that Altra had just offered to outfit the entire family with new trail shoes for free. All they needed to do is find a store that stocked Altras to get fitted for sizing. It just so happens that my husband, Jordan, has an affinity for taking in AT hikers and is very familiar with the Altra brand. Conveniently our local running store, RunAbout Sports, also just started carrying Altras a few months ago! Next thing I know on Sunday evening, Jordan is picking them up at the trailhead in our church's 12-passenger van to take them to be fitted for shoes.
Throughout that process Jordan extended an invitation to have everyone stay overnight with us, if it worked with their hiking plans. The next day, Monday, they took us up on the offer, and this time it was my turn to drive! My tiny self climbed into the drivers seat of this mega van, still wearing my dress and heels from work, and drove out to Pearisburg to pick them up once again. I was slightly overdressed as a taxi driver, but nonetheless they were more than grateful for a friendly home to stay overnight and a home cooked meal!
Monday night we ate fish and listened to stories from the trail. This is not the first time we've hosted thru-hikers in our home, and every group brings with them a unique story. The Crawford's story is obviously a bit more unique in that there are EIGHT of them, kids ranging from 2 to 16 years old, hiking the trail together. Just WOW. Talk about an epic family adventure! Anyways, we enjoyed a lovely evening and made plans to connect again later in the week as they continued to hike through our area. Tuesday morning, I bid them goodbye (or so I thought) and left for the pool for my swim. Well, halfway through the swim Jordan arrives to switch vehicles and let me know that a few of the kids were sick and they decided to stay another day. Ok by me! I worked from home, welcomed the extra company and LOVED it. A day later, they packed into the van and Jordan dropped them back off on the trail in Pearisburg.
Knowing that everyone was coming back on the weekend gave me something to look forward too, and all day Wednesday I was just glowing with happiness for the first time in a while. Well, that is, until after teaching class in the afternoon... Toward the end of class I felt off, a little nauseous and lightheaded but I couldn’t pinpoint why. Twenty minutes later, I literally walked out of class and straight to the bathroom where I lost my lunch from earlier that afternoon :( Probably my breakfast too. I didn't know it at the time but I had picked up a GI bug and it hit me HARD. If you're in need of a distraction, getting taken out my a GI bug will definitely do the trick. Thursday and Friday were a complete wash, and I was just starting to come around on Saturday as I drove out to pick up the Crawfords and Bill once again, this time in Catawba valley.
Saturday evening I met them on the trail and came prepared with local snacks in the form of Carol Lee Donuts. Let me tell you, hikers LOVE to eat and especially donuts. A dozen of them were gone in a flash. Normally I would have been happy to make dinner but energy-wise I was still dragging, so instead I took advantage of the opportunity to introduce them to Benny's pizza. I tried to warn them that the pizzas were huge but I don’t think they realized just how big!! We ate and caught up on the last several days, which mostly meant sharing barfing stories since the GI bug made its way through most of the group. The thing that just gets me is this: while I was laying around on the couch recovering from this bug for 3 days, they pushed on and hiked 75+ miles. I am not envious but definitely in awe.
Late Sunday morning, with the help of friends, we drove them back out to the trail in Catawba for the last time. Their plan was to have lunch at The Homeplace and continued their hike toward McAfee's Knob and beyond. Meanwhile Jordan and I went on with our Sunday by attending the musical “Singing in the Rain” at our local high school.
Later that evening, I had just began fixing dinner when I received a frantic call from Bill: "The trail is on fire. They are telling everyone to evacuate.” I just thought, "here we go again!" as Jordan drove out to Catawba valley to pick them up (+1 more!). Meanwhile I quickly set to work making mass quantities of food (duh!) As the group arrived, the words “we're home!” were like music to my ears and I couldn’t help but smile. Our house was once again full and our hearts even fuller.
On Monday morning we ate french toast before I dropped them off on the trail for the final time so they could continue their trek towards Katahdin. They ended up having to skip the 20-mile section from Rt 311 at the McAfee's Knob trailhead to Daleville due to the trail being closed from the fire. Though I am sad to see them go, I am excited for the adventure that awaits them and grateful for the opportunity to share in their journey. Even though it was a chaotic and crazy week, I am simply amazed by the handy work of God for bringing together our family and theirs, and thankful for much needed distraction to get me through the week.
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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