On Trail Time
The Miscalculation of Time
Though I will only turn 48 on the trail (see what I did there), I often find I am caught up in a psychological miscalculation of time. That’s right, I will ONLY be 48. This speeding up of time sensation is inevitable. To a five-year-old, one year feels like a lifetime. To a fifty-year-old, one year feels like less than 5% of a lifetime. Before my journey, time began to feel as though it was slipping away.
Early years equated to many “firsts:” first words, first steps, first kiss, first car, first vacation, first dance in the rain, first ocean swim, first real job, etc… Aging creates a merry-go-round autopilot of routines, habits, and repetitions. We move less. We are more apt to not try new things. We make new friends less frequently. We allow others and society to dictate what we should or should not be doing, or allow others to project their personal fears and ideals of normalcy on us. The younger generation may say we are set in our ways.
One would think that spending time on the trail would foster the “autopilot” setting. But it has done just the opposite for me. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a series of memorable and rewarding experiences that do require 100% attention. It is time spent doing something that one cannot do absentmindedly. It requires attention to be spent in the present moment; which always gives us exactly enough time. Every experience (good, bad, indifferent) fits perfectly into its moment.
The Ever Changing Journey
This section has challenged my ability to accept that the trail is an ever changing journey. How do I navigate relentless extremities in weather, aches, pains, and/or extenuating events that may require me to step away from the journey for a short time? I remind myself that any time spent focusing on things that I cannot do absentmindedly = a long period of time that cannot and will not slip by “unnoticed.”
Time slows as senses are honed: each new sight, the sound of birds welcoming spring, the shift of cool air to warm air on your skin in a matter of seconds as you make your way down into a valley, and the taste of freshly filtered mountain spring water. Your brain is taking in new things with each step; each step is its own moment in time.
My Top 10 Moments in Time on this Section of My Journey:
- Watching the sun set below the horizon at McAfee Knob
- Walking along Tinker Cliffs and celebrating a memory that will never slip by unnoticed; a celebration of hiking the Triple Crown in VA
- Taking time to learn and appreciate who Audie Murphy was and reflecting on family members and all those who have served in our military.
- Waking up to realize that a mouse had spent a considerable amount of time chewing on my favorite wool beanie hat (while it was one my head) DURING MY SLEEP at one of the shelters.
- Walking parallel with the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
- Eating a pizza named “Joanne’s Pizza” during a zero day a Nick’s Italian Kitchen in Buena Vista, VA
- A reminder that no matter what happens on or off the trail – family is number one. The trail waits for all who seek it and welcomes ALL who think they are not capable.
- Trail magic from a group of day hikers who received more out of giving during an unexpected encounter with a thru-hiker than I did receiving. Their smiles and joy will forever hold a special place in my mind.
- Watching the Appalachian perennial Bloodroot come to life, blooming through pre-season dry leaves.
- Crossing the James River Footbridge – the longest foot traffic-only footbridge on the Appalachian Trail.
“Lucky Penny” on the AT 2023
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