Reconditioning for Our Hike

Yoga Sister Update: Due to my having found a new job, my sister and I have decided to delay our section hike until this fall. It’s so hard to write that, but it’s a necessary change of plans. Hogpen Gap will wait for us, and we can’t wait for that day…pulling cars into lots stationed along the trail, pulling on our backpacks one more time, and setting off into the woods. We will finish the state of Georgia this fall, and until then, my longing for the woods has found me training on local trails and of course, practicing Yoga.

This week found me back in the woods, albeit not the green tunnel of the AT just yet.

Consecutive hiking: Two days
Trail difficulty rating: Strenuous
Average distance per day: 3.6 miles
Total: 7.15 miles
Hiking speed: 2.3 mph
Hiking location: Paris Mountain State Park

Return to the Woods

Elated, I left the parking lot behind twice this week to venture into the shadow of a forest with pine needles under my sneakers. When the outdoor bug bites you, it bites hard.

I have conditioning to do, but more than that, I have been longing for the healing I always feel in the woods. Y’all, I really don’t know what this is. I know it sounds very “woo woo,” but it’s just true for me. I literally speak to the trail while I’m walking, as if performing some sort of prayer. And the trail provides.

Steep inclines. Root stairs. Ascents to strengthen my hamstrings. Descents to warm up my ankles and knees, all those sinews of tissue holding these old legs together.

Wildlife Sightings

I followed the trail around a bend where I could hear someone chopping wood in the distance. But it was not a six foot tall human swinging an axe.

It was a woodpecker the likes of which I’ve never seen–the size of a small cat, 18 inches long, it clung to the side of a tree hammering away. I stopped to film him, his red crest bopping up and down. I looked him up later, and as it turns out he was a Pileated Woodpecker just feet off the trail, gauging out a 4-inch hole in a rotten tree trunk.

Y’all, that sent me down the internet rabbit hole that is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Not a close cousin to the Pileated Woodpecker, but bearing a strong resemblance to the untrained eye (like mine), the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a breath away from being declared extinct. The last confirmed sighting given universal credence seems to have been 1935, but also, arguably 1944…and he was possibly seen in the 60s. Oh, and also, as recently as 2005.

So, you see, a lot of folks are hanging on biting their nails, hoping to spot one, hoping they still exist.

Am I going to become obsessed with bird-watching while hiking? Yes. Yes, I am.

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Hike Again

I’d forgotten how completely engaged my body needs to be so as not to turn an ankle or trip over a root sewn through the trailway. I felt so clumsy at first. How hard is it to walk over red clay, rocks, and roots along a mostly flat trail? It’s hard when you haven’t done it in a while.

With a little concentration, I tried to remember what it was like over those first 47 miles of Georgia on the AT. How  I became mindful of every ligament, tendon, muscle from my ankle to my core. And that muscle memory returned over just a little bit of trail. When I lost focus, I dropped my weight into my poor knees, ankles, and feet.

And then I remembered “Mountain Pose” and my yoga practice, and how you can’t just dump all the gravity into one part of your body, all parts have to be equally responsible and activated.

Am I Ready Yet?

No, I need several more weeks of hiking slightly longer stretches of trail. But I tell you what, every second of it is rewarding. And I need to step up my Yoga practice as well.

Now is the time to rebuild strength and endurance. I have several months of hiking and camping in front of me before my sister and I step off the pavement at Hogpen Gap and follow the AT all the way to North Carolina.

I can’t wait to tape my toes up again and go for round two.

To You, Reader:

If you trained for the trail beforehand, how did you train? What were your favorite trails and challenges? Next up for this journey, I will be sharing nature inspired Yoga poses that aid in building mental and physical endurance. Stay tuned.

Thank you, Trail!

A Yoga Sister

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Comments 6

  • Dwight : Mar 30th

    Loved the woodpecker info. Fan of the pulalaged. Originally from Pa, but 30 years in Ga. Would be interested in co hiking when you resume. 100+iles of AT miles in Ga/TN/NC.

    • Myrt, a Yoga Sister : Mar 31st

      Yes, what a beautiful bird! I hope to run into you out there on the trail. We don’t know our new start date, but fall will definitely find us outdoors 🙂

  • Kelli Ramey : Mar 30th

    Pileated woodpeckers are the best.
    We have them here in N GA.
    It would be awesome if the ivory billed were not extinct, but they most likely are ….or at least Nessie/Bigfoot status.

    • Myrt, a Yoga Sister : Mar 31st

      Gosh, they really are awesome birds. It was such a nice surprise–I had never seen one before! Yes, I really wish the Ivory-billed were still out there somewhere. It does seem like they are a bit more like Nessie these days.

  • Walkie Talkie : Mar 31st

    Walkie here! Before our 2022 hike, I started to ramp up my exercise routine. Specifically, putting a focus on weight lifting. Cardio has always been a strong presence in my life, but weight lifting not so much. At best, I have spurts of pumping the iron. Fast forward, to now and I’m still lifting weights. I know from running a marathon in 2017, it’s easy to stop training after the big event. I probably didn’t run for 6 months after that race. So I am very proud of myself for keeping up the weight lifting even though our 2022 section hike is over. A plus for section hiking, you always have another section to look forward to and conditioning to do.

    • Myrt, a Yoga Sister : Apr 1st

      This is something we definitely discussed in our time on the trail in Georgia. “Now that your calves look so awesome, how are you going to keep up your physical training when we get home?”

      Myself, I just wanted to live in the woods after I got home, so I was kind of discouraged for a while and didn’t work out as often. I’m really impressed that you kept up your “pumping iron” game! That took a lot of motivation, I’m sure!

      I’m back on my game now, already see some change after hiking my bootie off this week. 🙂


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