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Tales from the trail

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By Charlotte Underwood

On Earth Day, I went for what felt like an incredibly long hike along the Cumberland Trail in order to benefit Relay for Life and the American Cancer Association.

While I raised money and hopefully a little awareness, I was really the one who benefited from the experience.

Two days walking 18 miles through the mountains with my best friend and my dog through sunshine and fresh air taught me a lot about myself, who I am and what life is really about.

 I don’t know at what point it all clicked, whether is was as we crawled slowly up Anderson Mountain, each step laborious and painful in the midday heat or if it was as we sat at our campsite, soaking our swollen feet in an icy mountain spring. Was it all the spring flowers blooming along the trail, the red trillium, the wild iris or the tiny white violets that spoke to me? Was it the call of the red tailed hawk as it soared high above, keening a call of freedom, a call that somewhere deep inside me echoed and called back?

As we walked the mountains and valleys at what often felt like a snail’s pace, my mind finally went blank of all worries and stressors that normally follow me through my day. Suddenly, there was nothing but trees, sky, dirt, leaves and the simple sounds of nature. The sweat washed everything away, as it dripped down, cleaning away what felt like a lifetime of tension.

Sure my muscles were knotted and my feet hurt, but I wasn’t worried about the bills piling up at home.

The pack often felt as if it grew heavier rather than lighter as water was drunk, but the thirst quenched along the way was definitely something more than just a physical need.

It was the need to feel myself propelled forward without the aid of an engine or electronic device. I needed to know that I could do it.

God made me with two good feet that are meant for use and while backpacking nearly brought me to my physical limits this past weekend, it also showed me that spiritually I am boundless. Crossing over mountains taught me that.