To build a trail is to believe in tomorrow.

I might have changed Audrey Hepburn’s words a little to fit my needs.

I spent the past week escaping from all the stress and bustle of senior year by traveling 14 hours away to Dayton, Tennessee, with 20 strangers turned very good friends. For 5 days, we experienced firsthand the hard work that goes into building new trails that will eventually become part of the Cumberland Trail State Park, which will also be part of the larger Greater Eastern Trail. For generations to come, people will walk these trails and enjoy all of the restorative feelings that nature has to offer them. In a week’s time, we built 3,022 feet of trail, but digging through that duff and mineral dirt out in the woods was like a metaphor for what we were doing out there together and also back at Fort Bluff. 21 people were digging through the surface material to get to the heart of who each other is at our cores. And I would just like to say that I am incredibly pleased with what I found in these people.

Olivia asks the most thought provoking questions. Liana challenges you to reconsider your perspective. Maria’s smile picks you up when you’re down. Kiera provides encouragement. Spencer makes you laugh. Mark is the brother you never had. Allison doesn’t have an unkind bone in her body. Morgan has a heart of gold. Jake surprises you. Hannah never gives up. McKayla is the other half you didn’t know you were missing. Sophie has cool stories. Olivia sends out good vibes. Ben is not as socially awkward as he thinks he is. Anna squared kick ass. Jess inspires you to take the path right for you. Nicolle has such a positive attitude. Bri and Connor were talented enough to force this unique group of people together in mutual weirdness.

And me, I surprised myself. I tuned out social media for the week. Half the apps are still not on my phone because they don’t fit. I put my phone on airplane mode most of the time and used it solely as a camera to capture moments that I didn’t want to forget. I had no desire to check in, anyway. Instead, I enjoyed meals with real conversations and never felt the rejection of others looking down at a screen rather than into my eyes. I played 9-square before and after dinner. I had quality hammock conversations. I took in the view from the bluff. I told 20 people about my day and then shared pieces of myself with them. And they did the same.

I wore dad jeans and rolled around in the mud. I learned about water systems and then built a quality one that I plan to show my grandkids someday. I moved boulders. Literally. But I couldn’t have done it without the support and teamwork of my fellow UDaBers, CU Boulder kids, and most importantly the amazing community partners from the CTC. I will never forget the things that Danny, Pete and Shauna taught me about both the trail and life. (http://www.cumberlandtrail.org)

Thank you to all of the people who believed in tomorrow with me. The trail will be finished, and when it opens, I will be back. I hope I get to explore it with at least some of you. It’s not goodbye, Tennessee. Just a see you later.

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