Big Rocks Can Wobble, Too
The trail is my teacher, and it’s up to me if I want to absorb the lessons being taught. Just like in the Harry Potter franchise, each state shows up as the newest slightly odd teacher that challenges me in some way to help me discover new things about myself. Pennsylvania was no different.
Side quests are my jam.
There I was, just getting out of the rain for a night in Virginia. I had gotten a cabin and another hiker asked if she could share it. Of course, the more the merrier when it comes to splitting rooms, and I just wanted to be dry for a minute, I wasn’t looking for a zero in solitude or anything. It turned into a nice night of conversation, but the next day we went our separate ways and hiked our own hikes. Occasionally one of us would check in with the other, but that was it. Fast forward a bit to waking up after a great night of sleep in PA at the Tumbling Run Shelters, which boasts the snoring and non-snoring options. I wandered from my tent to the privy, and then went to retrieve my food bag from the bear pole. As I walked up to the pole, my not yet caffeinated brain couldn’t quite make sense of what I was seeing. Turns out a raccoon found my bag to be its favorite, and eviscerated it in the night. Always a nice way to start the day. I returned to my tent, determined to at least break down camp before returning to deal with the carnage, when I received a random text, ‘hey! how are you doing?’ Huh, funny you should ask. I replied with my current situation, to which she revealed that her hubby had surprised her with a visit and so therefore there was a person and a vehicle ready to help me out. YES!! I packed up quickly and hauled my cookies as fast as I could to our meeting point, managed to get a temporary bag and some food, even scored a town lunch, AND made it to my shelter goal for the night. Dandelions do thrive in tough situations after all.
I am a people person.
I know, most who know me would say ‘Duh!’ I am a very social creature, this I know. I have often said my family is genetically predisposed to be able to have a conversation with a rock. However, this trail is teaching me just how much I value the people I surround myself with. Hiking on my own for a bit, surrounded by people I only sorta knew after losing my hiking community when I took time for injuries, I was definitely lonely. One of those lonely in a crowd type feelings. Sure, I can talk to anyone, but making connections is a little harder, and by this point in the trail, many (though not all) hikers have their established groups and just don’t reach out to make new connections. I had resigned myself to this feeling and just focused on hiking, when I randomly bumped into a couple I knew at a water source one day. They had taken time off for a family visit, so *poof* we were in each other’s hiking mileage again. After catching up for a few minutes, they got ready to move on, and spontaneously hugged me before setting off. It wasn’t a major hug, but it was a major moment for me. I didn’t realize how much value I put in being with people who know me, or more importantly, who ‘get’ me. Thankfully we still hike in each other’s orbits today.
Big rocks can wobble, too.
We have all heard about ‘Rocksylvania’. More on that in another post. As I was making my way across another boulder section, as opposed to the shoe shredder/dog teeth section, I hopped to this somewhat flat boulder, that was maybe three feet across. It shifted noticeably under my feet.
‘Whoa! You are a big rock, you’re not supposed to wobble!’ I scolded the rock. Yes, after a while we all talk to rocks out here, sometimes very colorfully so. Then it hit me. Why was I expecting this rock to act a certain way just because it looked a certain way? Isn’t that exactly what angers me when I am treated the same way? Ok Dandelion, it’s just a rock. Yes, I am aware, but lessons are found everywhere. Even in boulder fields. The soundtrack to Disney’s ‘Encanto’ is in my regular rotation (don’t hate on me, it’s a bop, as the kids say!), and I do very much align with Luisa, the super strong yet emotionally marshmallow sister. So the next few hours I spent noticing the rocks a lot less (hallelujah!) and doing some inner work, healing and giving myself permission to wobble, or even jiggle, when life calls for it. Luisa has some dance moves, after all.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
If you read that and were immediately transported back to the original ‘Jurassic Park’, join the club. Most people talk about Pennsylvania’s rocks, but they rarely mention the flat miles. After the roller coaster of VA, the trail becomes mostly flat with dips in and out of town for the next few hundred miles. I have a theory that this is why New York takes a lot of hikers by surprise, but that is also for another post. Sure, my ankles and feet were sore from the constant micro adjustments with every step, but I had a lot of juice left in my legs by the end of the day, so I started to push bigger miles. 15 miles became 17, which quickly crawled up to 19, and still my legs were okay. I had only once hiked 20 miles back in 2019 on my LASH (aka ‘long ass section hike’), and had only once done it by accident this time around. Was it time? Was I ready to start doing 20 mile days like so many hikers around me?
So one morning I made the jump to 25 miles. Go big or go home, right? I used every scrap of daylight and then some, arriving at my chosen camping spot in Wind Gap just after 9pm. Success! Ish. I hated every step I took for the next week. My energy reserves were gone. My feet were toast. I did some temporary damage to my hands from just using my trekking poles all day. Yes, I proved to myself that I am capable of doing a big mileage day. Will I ever do another? Nope. Call me a turtle as you race by, but I will stick back with my 15-18 mile days, please and thank you.
Pennsylvania, I actually enjoyed you and appreciated your lessons. I really wish you had ended with that amazing climb out of Palmerton. After that, you started to feel like director Peter Jackson got hold of you and wouldn’t let you end without briefly revisiting every variety of terrain we had seen in the previous 200 miles. But I’d re watch certain parts again, for sure.
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