Gifts

Before I embarked on my adventure those I spoke to warned me about bad people but they rarely said anything about good people.

I was expecting the worst when first starting out and thought, I can only be myself and if others bestow upon me the same warmth I give them, then it’s a gift. There are some people from early on in my adventure that are still pressing on my mind, so I thought “I should share about them.”

I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me but I’ve found all the people I meet while on the road fall in camp #2 – they’re travelers, adventurers, outdoorspeople, or non-conformists. We’re all out here seeking nature and adventure and because of that, we have a wonderful common goal. Being like-minded, happy people, out here doing what we want to do and seeing what we want to see results in us being warm to each other.

Some people who stand out are The Lifesavers from Virginia, Adorable Family from Louisiana, and Mother and Son Team from Texas.

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Underestimating my water intake, I ran out of water on my hike back from Lake Solitude in the Teton mountain range. Reserving the little bit I had left to allow myself a sip every two miles was my strategy to maintain hydration for the 11 miles ahead of me. But on my way back to the trailhead I ran into a wonderful couple from Virginia. They had underestimated the hot day as well and borrowed some iodine tablets from other hikers for additional water. Even with their limited supply they offered up their water (and even part of a granola bar) from their Camelbak to me, not to mention hiking companionship back to Jenny Lake. He was an engineer and she a geologist, had some of the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard and I feel appreciation for them in a way I can’t describe.

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After my hike back from Lake Solitude I was tired and hungry. I desperately wanted to throw off my hiking shoes and let my feet feel the cool, mountain air. So I did…in the parking lot, alongside my car. While resting, bare-footed, back against my car and eating a sandwich, a sweet young couple with a baby boy walks up from the trailhead. The dad, seeing my Texas plates immediately strikes up conversation saying they’re visiting from Reddell, Louisiana. Having a soft spot for Cajuns and after sharing my sister was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, we were old friends in no time. Out of all the people I’ve met on the road, they were the only ones that didn’t bat an eyelash at my being alone…Cajuns, oh how I love your independent spirit!

Grizzly bears have different personalities than black bears. They can be more aggressive and territorial about their space when surprised. So while on my hike in Glacier National Park (Montana, the start of my time in Grizzly country), I figured my wimpy cheerleader clap wasn’t alerting enough. My thought for something louder was to play music on my phone.

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So while in solitude on the trail, I start playing tunes on my phone and inevitably was singing and dancing along with Selena Gomez in no time. Only when I reach some fellow hikers do I pump down the music. The Mother and Son team from Texas surprisingly didn’t give me the stink eye, and said there’s no shame in singing and dancing on the trail so long as it keeps me safe from the Grizzlies. The son had recently graduated from UT and became a server at a local lodge in Whitefish, Montana to pursue his passion for being outdoors. His mom, a retired science teacher, would easily bring our attention to caterpillars and other interesting creatures on the trail. They showed me people can have likeness of minds, regardless of age.

I suppose with such low expectations for human decency it’s normal for me to get surprised when good people do nice things for me. But I don’t think it should be that way. The normal should be that I should expect people to be polite and good-natured. Only when someone shows me they’re mean or nasty should they be put in an inferior minority. And that’s been my biggest take-away since being on the road. That people, as a whole are good-natured and warm to each other. They’re willing to give you gifts if you’ll accept them.

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