Last weekend, I went to the Len Foote Hike Inn in the Appalachian mountains with a group of about thirty other women. One of the women in my Bahá’í community has been organizing this women’s retreat for three years now, which has grown each year as the original hikers have invited their friends, and those friends have invited their friends in turn.
To get to the Hike Inn requires a 5 mile hike through the Appalachians. Once you’re there, you have a sparse but relatively comfortable bunk to sleep in, hot showers, and food prepared for you. With cell phone use highly discouraged, we spend most of our time talking, playing games, putting together puzzles, and, for me, knitting.
This is the second year that I’ve gone, and having done this once before, I was more prepared this time. For one thing, I invested in an actual hiking backpack, which my shoulders appreciated. Still, I’m not the most fit person out there, and despite having turned up the incline on the treadmill a few times to practice, I was pretty tired by the time the hike was over.
There’s one particular part, in the second half of the hike, that’s a bit steeper than the rest, and goes uphill for longer. Last year, I’d finally had to give in and stop to rest, only to find that there was a bench just around the next bend, if I could have just made it a little bit longer. With that mind, I resolved this year that I wouldn’t stop until I got to that bench.
It was tempting at times, but I made my way up the path, albeit sweating and panting, and by the time I reached the bench, I found that I didn’t need it anymore. That was a pretty awesome feeling, surpassed only by the experience of changing out of my hiking shoes into slippers once we reached the Hike Inn, which was positively heavenly.
While I imagine that most of the other women in my group may have been going to spend a weekend with people they have a lot in common with, it was almost the exact opposite for me. Most of the women there were in their 40s, some older—at 31, I was the youngest by a decade, and quickly gained the nickname Mèi Mei (“younger sister”—did I mention the woman who organizes this has spent a lot of time in China?). I believe I was also the only woman there who had never been married or had children.
So, while others may have been enjoying a vacation from their husbands and children, spending time in the company of other women who could relate to their familial experiences, I was leaving behind only an empty condo for the weekend, and soaking in all I heard, making mental notes for the future Caity who would have more in common with these women.
It was an inspiring weekend. Some of the women I spoke to had gone through incredible challenges in their lives, but all were cheerful, kind, and full of good humor. With those radiant souls in mind, it seems only fitting to close with one of the quotes we read in a discussion on gratitude that was held over the weekend:
We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.
— Alphonse Karr
We can complain because a beautiful view requires a five mile hike, or rejoice because a five mile hike leads to a beautiful view.