North Carolina is balanced at the end of the next switchback. I kept telling myself that as I walked further and further up the ridiculously named "Low Gap" Trail. Low gap my ass. Tennessee was killing me with switchbacks like staircases. This seemed like such a good idea. When we told the guys in the raft that we were going to try it, these men, these scruffy men who lead float trips full of girl scouts down this river every day all summer long, looked at us and told us that was quite a big bite to take.
North Carolina is at the top of the next switchback. I can do this. I can do this because I don't have a lot but I do have stamina. I persevere. If I can do 52 hours of labor with that crazy London I can walk to North Carolina.
North Carolina wasn't at the top of the next switchback. Or the next. We kept walking, my traveling companions including Brooklyn who was smiling at me mildly as I kept saying, "no, I can go further." I can keep at it. I can keep going. I can do it. I can do this. I am more than this.
I could see the change in the light as we curved around on the last switchback. Finally the last one. I saw it but I didn't believe it. I kept my eyes on the steep rocky ground, these hiking boots that could keep their own blog steadily moving me up. This. Mountain.
And then there we were.
She sits on a big gray rock/takes off her boots and socks/not knowing what/she will do next/just starts to cry
I hike because it calms my brain. I can feel the synapses refocus and reorganize. I hike because damn it, I'm tired, I'm over 40, my brain won't leave me alone, and all I want to do most days is crawl back into bed but I won't. I won't do it. I can't do it. So I hike. And I run a little and bike. But my favorite is a hike to something amazing or hidden or beautiful.
This hike obliterated me. Because we got to North Carolina and we weren't done. Not even.
Walking the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, walking that oldest footpath, it was easier than Low Gap, but it was haunted. So many footsteps on that narrow little trail. It felt more like a pilgrimage than anything I've ever done before. The path was so narrow. How could it be so narrow?
And then we walked back down.
Have I been to North Carolina? Yes.