[at-l] Hopeful update

Tenacious Tanasi tenacious_tanasi at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 14 10:56:13 CDT 2011

Yesterday after getting off from work, I arrived home and began cooking dinner.  
Michael arrived shortly thereafter, and we chatted about our day as our meal was 
finishing up.  Then we went out on the front porch to eat.  Michael stated that 
he was glad to have a relaxing evening at home (keep this comment in mind ...  

After dinner we relaxed in the swing while he had called his step mom, Connie, 
who is in the hospital for having her foot and lower leg amputated.  While 
he spoke to her I pulled out my cell and was browsing through fb... when what to 
my wondering eyes did appear?!  A post that a couple of Trail Angels (Ox and 
Squirrel Friend) were headed up to Mt Collins Shelter to surprise Hopeful with 
some birthday cupcakes.

Now this whole story actually began way back in 1999 when Ox and Hopeful met at 
Stecoah Gap.  They had both arrived there to do Trail Magic for hikers... and a 
fast friendship was formed.  Both have a deep revere of the mountains and devout 
love for keeping trails maintained so that folks could get out there and enjoy 
the trails meandering through nature providing soul rejuvenating experiences.

And, thus began joint treks to do trail maintenance and magic for hikers in 
celebration of not only hikers but also of their deep friendship.  They began 
doing trail magic annually at Browns Gap together.  At some point along the way 
Ox learned that Hopeful's birthday was April 15 which was typically around the 
time that they did the Browns Gap magic.  

In 2003 Hopeful began his own trek up the Appalachian Trail fulfilling a long 
time dream....only he forgot to tell Ox that he wasn't going to be there 
at Browns Gap to do their annual trail magic... he'd be there to receive it this 
time as a thru hiker!  However, that year it came a horrible snow storm and the 
going was slow and rough through the Smokies.  Hopeful had had one issue or 
another and it was taking him longer than what he would have wanted.  After not 
seeing Hopeful at Browns Gap, Ox had learned that Hopeful was on the trail and 
was somewhere in the Smokies.  So, he had a huge cake baked up and headed up to 
Newfound Gap to try to catch Hopeful to surprise him for his birthday.

Ox shoveled out a spot at Newfound Gap parking lot and set up his canopy to 
await Hopeful.... for 2 days he went back and he waited... as other hikers came 
through they partook of Hopeful's wonderful birthday cake and Ox's trail magic 
in honor of him.  But, Ox never saw Hopeful who was socked in at Derrick Knob 
shelter.  For the next month as Hopeful went up the trail he met more and more 
people that thanked him for his birthday cake and told him how wonderful his 
birthday celebration had been. Poor Hopeful... he had missed it all.  

So, yesterday after Ox had gotten home from work as he and Squirrel Friend were 
enjoying their supper, they discussed Hopeful's birthday... and Connie made the 
comment that it was a shame that they couldn't surprise him for his 
birthday....and Ox said... well why not?!  So off they went!  When Connie made 
the post on fb I asked Michael if he'd like to do some trail magic... he said 
sure what weekend... wish you could have seen his face when I told him right 
then!  It was around 7:30 pm!  LOL

We grabbed coats, headlamps, a pack, stuffed some of my home made chocolate chip 
cookies into a freezer bag, and out the door we went.  We stopped to pick up 
some milk and cups (cuz what is birthday cupcakes without milk?  lol), and 
zipped over to the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  There we jumped into Ox's GMC and 
off we went up the mountain.  And, anyone that has ever ridden with Ox knows... 
just close your eyes and pray til it is over.  I think Michael was OK until we 
slid around that one curve.  LOL!!!  

We pulled in at the roadside parking along Clingman's Dome access road, and up 
the trail we went.  This is the first time I have been out hiking in several 
months due to the pregnancy, but it was only 0.6 of a mile.  Ox said that it 
really wasn't that bad, and so I wasn't worried about it.  But, Lawdy have 
mercy!  I was quickly out of breath and my 4th month of pregnancy suddenly felt 
like the 9th!  The baby weighed a ton and was pulling me forward.  A little ways 
on up the trail I settled into the walk, but I had to shed my fleece jacket and 
got down to my t-shirt because I was so hot.  I threatened to get down to my 
bra, but Michael wouldn't hear of it.  LOL  

The 45ish degree cold air was absolutely wonderful against my skin, and even in 
the dark the trail was gorgeous!  The smell of the rich, loamy earth drifted on 
the breeze with a hint of pine.  And water trickled along the trail, sparkling 
in the light of our headlamps.  Overheard the clouds glowed like opals against 
the star studded backdrop of the night sky.  Oh, how I have missed this so!  

Ox and Squirrel Friend had gone on ahead, but waited at trail junctions to show 
us the way to the Mt Collins Shelter.  They arrived before we did, and Ox came 
hiking back up toward us.  He told me that the shelter was vacant and no one was 
there... then promptly burst out laughing at the looks on our faces.  lol

We walked over to the shelter where as you could very well guess all of the 
hikers were very much asleep...including Hopeful.  Ox ventured into the shelter 
and after waking a few found Hopeful in the very back.  lol  Very quickly we 
were joined outside by some of them and then a very joyful Hopeful hiker ran out 
with a wonderful look of awe on his bearded face.  It was hugs and 
handshakes all around, and then everyone dug into the cupcakes and milk.  

We hung out for a little while with them, and then headed back out so they could 
get some rest.  The walk back out was OK for me except for a couple of big step 
downs that jarred my belly a little.  I could tell that I was tired though 
because my feet were dragging all the way back out.  This certainly wasn't our 
evening walk down at the school track which is level and we typically do 2-3 
miles at a time.  And, Michael fussed over me making me take his headlamp 
because mine was a little dimmer...while I joked he needed a stronger light 
because he was farther from the ground than I was.  LOL

As we settled down in bed together after 11:00 pm, Michael wrapped his long body 
around mine hugging me back into his broad chest with one hand laying on my 
belly.  With his breath gently blowing in my ear, he chuckled softly to 
himself.  "And, here I thought we were going to have a relaxing evening at home 
tonight," he said.  "You know, Love, since you have come into my life, there has 
not been a single dull moment."

I smiled to myself so deliriously happy...and promptly fell asleep exhausted.  

Hopeful was hiking the short distance over to Newfound Gap to meet Mrs. Hopeful 
where she was picking him up this morning for some time together.  As there is a 
huge Rod Run in Pigeon Forge this weekend, we advised them to go to the North 
Carolina side of the mountain.  

Hopeful looks really, really good.  He seems to be hiking stronger this year 
than he did in 2003, and he seems to be enjoying himself much, more I think.  On 
his trail journal the first entry is entitled "Some People Never Change".  I 
think that Hopeful has changed though... his love of the trail and people is 
deeper... he is hiking stronger... and from talking to those on the trail he 
spreads joy, cheer, and hope to those hiking around him.

You can follow along with Hopeful's AT journey on his Trail Journal.  I have 
always enjoyed reading Hopeful's writings.  

Tenacious Tanasi 
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