My husband Tim and I planned to hike a stretch of the Long Trail, but it was raining. We went anyway.
I like hiking in the rain, snug in a high tech jacket and rain pants. But it’s easy to forget, so I again promised myself to get outside daily in my off-trail life, no matter what the weather.
On the trail, I had dry clothing with me, plenty of food, fuel to cook it, my sleeping bag, and even a tent, in case the shelter was full. It wasn’t. Few hikers were out in the cold rain. But the next day was sunny, and we met through-hikers, nearing the northern terminus of the trail. We hoped to reach the end, too. We hiked fifteen miles, summiting three peaks and arriving at the next shelter just before dark.
Some time that night the rain began again and the roof started to leak. Nevertheless, we broke camp and were on the trail before the rain turned cold and started to come down in earnest. We stopped at a shelter after only eight miles, where we joined the hikers we’d sheltered with the night before. By nightfall, eleven wet hikers were in the shelter, and smelly, wet clothing hung everywhere.
The next day, they all pushed on. Tim and I thought we would, too. We’d been section-hiking the trail for twenty-five years, and hoped we’d finish this year. But when I pulled on my cold socks and wet boots in the morning, I had second thoughts. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could make it up and over the next mountain. I just didn’t want to. Neither did Tim. So we planned our exit strategy.
Hiking out, I no longer felt quite as smug as I had when we’d started. I’d chosen to hike in the rain, but now I was choosing to return home. It was sobering to realize that I had the luxury of choice, while around the world, refugees fleeing their homes in all kinds of conditions in search of safety, do not.
And I thought of all the people in Houston and Florida coping with massive flooding and wind damage.
As we squelched through muddy, ankle-deep water, the prospect of peeling off wet clothing in my warm, dry home got me thinking in a whole new way about privilege.