A day spent waiting at the General Store of Fontana, the dashed hopes of moving on, negated instantly upon my return to the shelter. A few new hikers and a few from my bubble were pooling food for a feast.
REI told me they'd overnighted a pack for me. The dear lady at the Fontana PO went out of her way to follow up for me on the package. It was sent 3 to 5 business days. This means either Saturday or Monday. The ruck that's the wrong size caused fatigue and excessive back pain to the degree I'd rather have my 22 caliber size kidney stone back. I refuse to hike the Smokies with this inconvenience yet, I can't afford another delay.
I'm discovering North Carolina is teaching me patience. First with the climb past the border on a cold, misty, windy day. Next, came issues with the pack failing and needing to nurse it. Now a delay of several days while I wait for another pack to arrive after REI sent the wrong size.
The community of hikers is up lifting as everyone comes together over the common bond of hiking, food, and sheltering. The tenters partner with shelter folks over a fire or a common eating area. The trail takes strangers and makes best friends with simple greetings. I've met students, mid-lifers taking a break, retirees, and folks who can take extended time off. I can't imagine life off the trail right now though I know the experience could be negated with one mistake. We share and help each other out as the need arises. If someone is hungry, they will eat (unless they are habitually putting themselves there). If someone is cold,they get warm. If a shelter is full and someone comes in cold and wet, they will get room even if it's beyond capacity.
Some of the hikers I started with are far a head. Others, I've heard are off trail for one reason or another. With the speed I started with I thought I lost are cycling back as I've slowed. It's good to catch up with them. Trail life, it's a life style.