Hangovers, Highlands, and Ponies: The Push Out of Damascus.

Day 46

9 miles

Earworm of the day: …Baby one more time, The Marías

It was a late start today due to a late night. I was exhausted from staying at trail days, drained from lack of sleep due to the party, and just kind of done with being off trail. I wanted to be away from people and back on trail.

It took a lot to get going and get moving, we didn’t get out on trail until at least 1:30 pm. The section getting out of Damascus is long and up… Mostly up… The people who say Virginia is so easy past Damascus are dirty liers. Let this be known, that post Trail Days you will feel like death from lack of sleep and probably nursing a hangover (I wasn’t, but many were). So the section getting out of Damascus will be an extra special level of shitty. Also you will be surrounded by a post Trail Days bubble of exhausted drained cranky hikers. So be ready for crowded shelters and sites.

The day was uneventful, few views, and extra humid. I mostly walked and chatted with other hikers.

Dreamsicle has decided to continue to hike with me, which I really enjoy. It is nice to have the company. He is incredibly kind and so incredibly observant. His attention to detail and his surroundings is incredible. As an academic, I am constantly looking for answers an efficiently as possible, trying to avoid the extras. But watching how Dreamsicle, an artist, interacts and takes in the world is so fascinating and in such contradiction to my own senses.

As someone with ADHD the world can be overwhelming and exhausting, your brain is switching between topics and stimuli so quickly that you miss the little details. It is hard to stop and smell the roses or really enjoy the little things on trail. Its hard to be present because your brain is working so hard to try and keep up. But, just watching Dreamsicle interact with his surroundings makes me try to enjoy the smaller things and be present in the moment. I only get to live once (I think) I might as well learn to really love and enjoy it.

Day 47

19 miles

Earworm of the day: Maneater, Blue Eye Blondies

Today was a lesson in pushing through tough sections. Everyone brags about how easy the trail is comingnout of Damascus. What they do not tell you is that there is a climb back up to 5000ft elevation 20 miles in. It isn’t called the Grayson Highlands for nothing. It was really tough getting back on trail. I was struggling with doing the bare minimum; drinking enough water or eating food. Those three days off have really thrown me off my game. I felt slow, tired, and behind.

Hiking with new people makes me feel more insecure about my pace. I just always feel slower and like a nuisance. I know it is an irrational feeling, honestly it speaks more about how I view myself, but I can’t help not wanting to inconvenience someone elses hike. It never crossed my mind that someone would want to hike with me (Me, an entertaining person? Shocking!).

I think the Grayson Highlands might be the most slept on section of trail. Gorgeous views, rugged landscape, and PONIES. While the terrain can be a little difficult, this section is the first in a while with nicer shelters, bear deterrents, and is steeped in history. The rugged landscape reminds me of some of the areas of North Western Nebraska, such as the areas near Fort Robinson and Chadron Nebraska. Incredibly rugged scenery that conjures the image of the wild west, pioneers, and wagon trains.

A famous part of the Grayson Highlands is the wild ponies, which are used for land management. The park has signs that clearly state “Do not harass the ponies”. From my experience, the ponies are more likely to harass you as many if them are clearly fed by park visitors. Dreamsicle and I had an encounter with a mare and foal that wanted nothing more than to be pet. In fact, they would not let us pass by even after what we thought was sufficient petting. I did not mind the pony harassment, as I spent 17 years of my life riding and showing horses, so I welcomed the attention.

Either way go visit the Grayson Highlands, get harassed by a Pony. It’s probably worth it.

Day 48

19.6 miles

Unattainable, Little Joy

Today was mentally rough. Physically it was long, not too aweful, and hot day. It is that time in spring that is too cold to swim, but hot enough to be uncomfortable. I just really want to swim, for the joy of it and to feel a little cleaner. Getting back into the groove of things is not difficult, but challenging.

It was nice to lounge around without a goal at trail days and while the removed pressure of getting to trail days on time is freeing, it was a grest motivator. As much as I like to joke that spite is my major motivator, I might need to find something else to motivate me. I can understand why Virginia is blamed for the “Virginia Blues”, you have been hiking for a long ass time and the routine is no longer novel. It’s beginning to feel a bit like a 9 to 5 job. You wake up. You eat. You walk. You eat again. You make camp. You sleep. Then you do it all over. It’s hard. You no longer have the excitement of everything being new.

I’ve noticed on the longer days that it is hard to tune out the harder thoughts. Today I cross mile 500… That’s a big fucking deal and the one person I wanted to share it with is dead. In a box ony bar, next to a bottle.of whiskey.

I let my thoughts take turn. I imagined what he must have felt in those last moments. Fear for what’s to come and what he is leaving behind? Peace at not being in constant debilitating pain? It overwhelmed me and I just started to sob. I didn’t want anyone to see me in this moment of vulnerability. I didn’t want them to think that I was crying over the miles or the hike. I didn’t want to tell anyone because of how vulnerable I felt. I was far enough away from those hiking with me, that I just looked out of breath.

As one might imagine, keeping it together didn’t last long. As I was at camp when I got misty eyed. Dreamsicle was worried that we had pushed too hard and too much, when in fact I am just mental.

In the end, I know these days are fine, but it’s just hard.

Day 49

15.7 miles

Earworm of the day: Sycamore Tree, Kali Uchis

Today was a mix of things. We were going into town today and I was very excited to get a margarita and food. we have been pushing really hard since Damascus. I was angry at myself that I have minimalized my experience on trail because I want to be likeable. I have allowed myself to trivialize my experience because I wanted to palatable to others.

How mother fucking infuriating is that!? That this dumb trauma has followed me here. That I was so expected to be palatable and easy to like, that I have learned to mold myself to fit their needs and expectations. That I have been taught and expected to make myself into this pygmalion like existence, existing out of the desire of others and not my own.

It made me so angry that I trivialized and minimalized my experience on this trail. This behavior has been ingrained in me a very long time, exacerbated by higher education, where you are being observed and judged at every moment. That I spent my energy and time worried about what will other hikers, new friends, think about me? Even worse, I am not sure what is authentic to me. How do I discern my own organic experience versus the perfectly crafted and curated “person” I have created? How do you relearn to be yourself?

So many tell me this trail breaks you down to build you back up again. Maybe this is just one of the many break throughs (not just break downs) I will have.

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Comments 1

  • thetentman : May 26th

    You are doing fine.

    Relax and thx for the post.


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