Hiking Alone and Inspiration (June 9)
This morning I call home and one of the first things Mom and Dad say is, “So you think hiking in the Shenandoahs is mundane?” Dad says, “Don’t you remember our family vacations there?” I remember that was the year I just wanted to go to the beach, is what I remember. “Don’t you feel any nostalgia?” I feel no nostalgia.
Mom and Dad are both surprised that I would find this section of trail unexciting, but the funny thing is, after we finish talking, my entire perspective is brighter. I don’t know if it’s the funny stories they told me or that I’m wondering if they have a point (how could the AT here be boring) but something changes. The next view I come to seems better than the ones before- looking out across less development and more seemingly untouched mountains.
It is amazing what a good phone call home can do. My day is full of surprises, no matter how small, instead of another long day of hiking to slog through. All day I stop and watch the squirrels and chipmunks for entertainment. I’m actually serious about this! Squirrels are so amusing; often they scramble away and then stop to watch me, tail twitching away furiously like a separate entity. Should I climb higher? Is she really still watching me? I just can’t stop this tail! Obviously I’ve seen squirrels before, but I’ve never spent so much time standing around studying them!
I hike by several piles of bear scat on the trail, which always adds something to the wilderness experience. There was a bear here at one time not long ago…
A couple at the Wayside snack shop spontaneously buys my dinner for me. We sit and eat together. Another fun part of the day.
I listen to the soft sounds of a summer breeze in the leaves, high above my head. It is such a comforting sound. It took me a couple months of thru hiking to really hear it this way.
The pace of my days is slower this week. I’m hiking alone. My friends are ahead or behind me, and the trail has been lonely sometimes. Fortunately, after calling home, I’m better able to appreciate this season on the trail. It can be lonely, but it can also be full of awareness of what’s around me. As Warren might say, dance with the changing rhythms of the trail! Don’t fight it, get up and dance with it. I feel lucky to experience what’s around me today, and lucky to have a good family who can brighten an entire day.
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