lesson learned // if you’re not ready don’t go

A couple of days outside of Pearisburg, we reached a road where the guidebook said we could get a hitch to a “unique, Amish-run grocery store” with ice cream. This sounded better to us than our other option at that road, Trent’s Grocery, which just sounded like the typical hiker resupply spot–overpriced hot dogs and honey buns and granola bars. Trent’s was within walking distance, though, so most everyone was headed there. But we held out for a hitch the 3.6 miles to Nature’s Way.

It took longer than our other hitches, but there were fewer cars passing and also we were right by a prison (which we didn’t know at the time). As usual, I was excited when we finally got a ride. Also as usual, I felt nervous about how far off the trail we were going and a little worried about getting back. There’s something about suddenly covering more ground in five minutes than you usually could in an hour. Once we got to the store, though, those worries disappeared. It was basically like our old Co-Op in Corvallis, except affordable. It was exciting to find organic and healthy things all over the place instead of hunting for the tiny “natural” section which may or may not exist (but that’s shopping in tiny southern towns for you). We walked around just enthralled for awhile, and unable to decide which of the delicious sodas to drink, which flavor of homemade ice cream to buy. Eventually we settled on their porch with some snacks and pulled pork sandwiches and chatted with the locals who were there. One of them offered to give us a ride back to the trail. We weren’t quite ready to go yet, and told him we didn’t want to hold him up, but he insisted he wasn’t busy.

When we resupply, we have to spend a lot of time repackaging things so that we minimize the amount of pre-trash (mostly packaging), we carry with us into the woods. This time, we needed to take our snacks out of the plastic boxes they came in and put them in ziplocks. We also wanted to finish our milkshakes before we went back, so we could throw the cups away and not carry them until the next trash can (which could be days). This is all obvious to us at this point, but not necessarily to those who aren’t living this life. So when our ride started opening up his truck and telling us to come on while we were still drinking and our food was still in the grocery bag, we should have told him that we weren’t ready, and we’d find another ride.

Instead, we were so focused on the fact that we had a ride that we just did what he said and got in. As we drove back to the trail, I was sucking down my milkshakes as fast as I could, hoping to ask if the man would take the empty cup from us and throw it away. But we reached the trailhead before I could finish. And it was starting to downpour. “Looks like umbrella weather!” our ride said cheerfully, ushering us out of the car. And so before we knew it, we were standing under a leaking bridge in torrential rain, with a grocery bag full of food wrapped in plastic and two plastic cups.

We were pretty pissed. Just ten minutes ago we’d been happily sitting on a porch (under a cover!) at the coolest little store, chatting with nice people. If we’d been sane and not let the ride pressure us into leaving, we’d still be there, comfortably watching it rain while we repacked our bags instead of standing under a bridge trying to shove packages of food into our packs.

And that was the second time something like that had happened to us. The other time, it was only a matter of being taken to pizza sooner than I was ready. This time was a little more serious. But we’ve got it now: don’t let fear pressure you into moving too soon, because that’s probably not going to lead you to success.

If you aren’t ready to go, don’t go.

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