Didn’t like it one bit. Stepped down onto that road, looked left at empty and alone, and right at four or five who look just like me. Man bun on one. Shirtless. A better man than me. In every way but ego. The littler one, did he know where to go, another mile and a half on top of seventeen, up the road. And I didn’t like that either. But he was right. And. He had his shirt on. I wanted to swim in Jennings Creek. I wanted to feel air on my skin and water dripping from my hair. I wanted the dog to swim in it, brown eyes forgiving me for every one of seventeen with her mile-wide smile. But that wasn’t our story. Not our hike. The dog just ate her last cup of food this morning. And there’s a box up this road full with the only food we’ll find. I have to be there by seven. So worried, I got there five minutes to five. Miles that don’t move you closer to home tire you out more, or at least they do me. Every step that takes me forward on the path that ends in Ashley is the lightest walking I’ve ever had to do. But coming here felt like respot. Like hostel. Hotel. Like not meant to be home. Intentionally not so. Free shampoo and massage bar soap. Not Ashley. Not New York. Not Tuck-E-Man and Eggasaurus Rex back together again. Some reprieve. Yes. Resupply of what I need. But I took a right. Where the trail turned left. A single day at Middle Creek would have done the work of a week. But it won’t bring me closer to home. I’ll walk my feet through to the bone. So long as it ends in Ashley.