We woke up in soft beds, warm  and cozy.  The Warrior Expedition hikers brought a huge casserole, and after it was heated, we ate to our hearts content.  Everyone put on fresh clothes, after enjoying hot showers.  At 11:00, we checked out of Blood Mountain Cabins.  After a nice conversation with the man who was running the place, another fellow veteran, we made our way back to Neel’s Gap.  

There is a famous tree right outside Mountain Crossings called the ‘Tree of Soles’.  As the story goes, in the tree hangs the boots (soles) of those who have hung up their boots and headed home.   One set of boots captured my attention.  A pair of desert combat boots hung by themselves on a lonely branch.

I guess they kind of capture the essence of our trip.  Ryan has hung up his boots, in exchange for freedom.  One foot in front of the other, we are making our way home and finding healing one day at a time.  After only 10 days in the trail we are growing stronger and more unified as a family.

We finished up our pizza from the night before along with nice juicy apples.  While finishing up our lunch, we met up again with new friends, Brady and Jess Graham.  We also were able to say hi again to Ms. Janet and to Chris, who generously gave us some new socks.  Chris helps hikers, and is a representative for Wrightsocks.  

We hiked some beautiful miles with Brady and Jess.  They are graduates from Liberty, so it was fun for Taylor to talk with them about their experiences.  

We broke camp on a saddleback between Bull Gap and Baggs Creek.  Dinner was delicious. 

And then all HAIL broke loose… Literally!!! The weather rolled in so quickly, it caught is off guard.  Doing dishes in the hail and pouring rain is NOT fun.  We were thankful to have already eaten, and that the tents are already up, but it was nuts!!!

Gusty winds, hail, torrential downpour mixed with thunder and lightening continued for the next several hours.  It is a little hard to explain how vulnerable you can feel when there is only a thin sheet between you and the harsh elements.  We managed to get through the night with one side of one of the tents collapsing twice.  

I’ve never wished for an indoor bathroom more than last night when I had to use the bathroom so badly, and had to brave the elements to squat next to a tree… 

There is a saying out here… “No rain, no pain, no Maine”.  I think we now get the point of that full well.

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