Learn to be Still: A Story of Change and Growth
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”― Henry David Thoreau
An impromptu visit from home
As I write this post, OneFoot is closing in on mile 850. Our last post ended by noting that we’d next see each other in Harpers Ferry on Father’s Day weekend. Early last week I decided I missed OneFoot and couldn’t wait almost three more weeks to see him. When he called on Tuesday I announced, “I’m coming to see you. Don’t alter your hiking plans. I’ll slackpack you. Whatever you want. See you Friday.” He welcomed the visit and we spent a few days together in beautiful Lexington, Va. What a great place to visit. The history, shops, and restaurants had OneFoot feeling quite comfortable in the role of tourist.
These shoes are made for walking
Our Lexington visit followed what was a challenging few weeks on the trail for OneFoot. As I’ve said before, if it’s challenging for OneFoot on the trail, it’s equally as stressful for me at home in a different sort of way. Foot issues continued to plague him. The rain just wouldn’t let up. His spirits were low. Hiking day in and day out in pain just isn’t fun. When he reached Daleville, Va., it was time to reassess. He expected to receive new shoes I sent but REI, once again, let us down. For a company whose business is outdoor adventure, they sure have dropped the ball on this trip, repeatedly. We did some quick research and found that a Fleet Feet store in Roanoke, Va., carried the shoes he wanted. We love Uber! A couple of hours later, OneFoot had been properly fitted and was very happy with his new Altra Lone Peak shoes in a half size larger than what he had been wearing at the start of this trek. The next day he did a lower mileage day to allow himself some time to adjust. Pain-free walking is a beautiful thing. Those familiar with a Zero Drop shoe may question his decision. OneFoot is aware of the potential downside in wearing this shoe that places the heel and forefoot at the same distance from the ground. He is happy with the choice and now, nearly 100 miles later, he reports that they feel like clouds on his feet. Wahoo! Even with continued rain in the days that followed, I could hear in his voice the dramatic improvement in his mood.
Highlights of the past weeks
One of the most anticipated milestones of this adventure was McAfee Knob. This is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail and OneFoot had a good day for his visit there. The rain gave him a bit of break for the traditional McAfee Knob photo shoot.
This next story is quite amazing. Three years ago OneFoot was section hiking the AT in Vermont near Stratton Mountain. He met a southbound thru-hiker named Dream Catcher. I remember him telling me about her and the great conversation they had over a shared bottle of wine that he had packed in. Quite unbelievably, their paths crossed again at Stanimal’s Hostel in Glasgow, Va. I think this encounter can go in the magic from the trail column.
Nothing says love like a resupply box from home. If that box has Paul B’s return address on it, well then, you are in for a treat. Paul, trail name Seven Stops, and Ray worked together in corrections for many years. While they always had each other’s backs at work, some of their best times were spent section hiking the AT. They share the same warped sense of humor as well as a love for the trail. One never knows what will be found in a resupply from Seven Stops but, be assured, it’s gonna be unique and it’s gonna be good. A recent box included a corn cob pipe because Ray had mentioned missing his from home. I know they are both looking forward to doing some miles together when OneFoot makes his way to New England. I look forward to hearing the stories from that adventure.
Up next? Shenandoah National Park!
This last trip to see OneFoot included a fairly lengthy solo car ride from Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., to Glasgow, Va., where I tracked him down. During the three-and-a-half-hour drive, I had plenty of time to think and reflect but instead I found myself rewriting lyrics to songs that came on the radio. The lyrics to “Rocket Man” have now been updated to suit OneFoot’s current adventure. Here’s the chorus:
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
Till I see Katahdin written on a trail sign
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a hiker man
Hiker man walking on a trail that’s way too long
Let’s review that list of whys
In our Nov. 14 post on The Trek, OneFoot listed his reasons for embarking on this adventure. At nearly the halfway point of the trail, we can all agree that he is checking the boxes on that list. I certainly have seen a new man emerging more quickly than I thought possible. I believe that the separation from the responsibilities of home have allowed for the acceleration of this transformation. Although we have almost daily contact with each other, I try to keep home stuff away from him. This is his time for this journey. I do wonder how this will play out when he finishes this trek and returns home. After experiencing this level of independence, freedom and change in thought process, how does one adapt to life off the trail?
For my part, I am really proud of the strides I’ve made in this just-me-for-now life. I recently embarked on my first solo Roadtrek (motor home) adventure. I loved it! Ray left videos for me, in his typical goofball way, to demonstrate how to operate various systems. Happy to report that my first trip was a success. I’ve also enjoyed the time I’ve spent on the road tracking down OneFoot. This is particularly impressive given my history of being completely navigationally challenged. I’m becoming an expert on I-81 and that’s a good thing. There is some truly amazing scenery along this route and I don’t get blisters by seeing it all from the car.
So, with the changes we’re both experiencing throughout this journey, where will we land? We’ve long talked about and planned for a life on the road full time in our 23-foot motor home. We’ve taken some pretty solid steps towards that goal in recent years. I am hopeful that this experience will push us closer to that life sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.
Learning to be still
After my visit with OneFoot, there was a song that kept creeping into my head. “Learn To Be Still” by The Eagles is an old favorite that seems to fit this time in our lives right now, both on and off the trail.
There are so many contradictions
In all these messages we send
(We keep asking)
How do I get out of here
Where do I fit in?
Though the world is torn and shaken
Even if your heart is breaking
It’s waiting for you to awaken
And someday you will
Learn to be still – learn to be still
I feel like we are both learning this lesson.
Until the next white blaze,
OneFoot and Should Be Good
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