Exactly one week ago, I was sitting on the banks of the Sipsey River beneath a cloudless sky filled with stars so bright I didn’t need the aid of a flashlight. Silver undersides of dried Mountain Magnolia leaves reflected the moonlight, nature’s nightlights scattered on the forest floor. Every few minutes, lightning lit the sky from one end to the other, alerting me to a storm in the west. An hour passed before it obscured the stars, bringing thunder and rain, forcing me into my tent.
Isolated several miles in the wilderness, I couldn’t hear a single familiar sound to remind me that cars and highways and buildings lay beyond the treeline. I fell asleep to owls and insects and coyotes and leaves rustling and water rushing over rock, and, eventually, rain. Even prayer flowed easier.
For 48 blissful hours, I didn’t think about political news or school or housekeeping or logging in or any of my usual responsibilities. Everything I needed I carried on my back. My only duty: leave no trace. I simply placed one foot in front of the other until I reached the end of the trail.