To Become A Transparent Eyeball

Hey! I’m Abbigale Evans (Abby), and I will be hiking the Appalachian Trail NOBO in 2023.

What’s up with the funky title?

Last summer, I was explaining this philosophy to some friends as we were climbing Dragon’s Tooth until I almost fell down the mountain. I referenced the Grateful Dead song, The Eyes of the WorldI told them:

“On my first solo day-hiking trip to Mount Rogers, I realized on the car ride as the Dead song played, that I could take myself anywhere. ‘Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world.’ I realized that I was the eyes of my own world. And wherever I took myself would be the extent of what I saw and experienced throughout my life —”

And then I was violently humbled by my knee. It locked up when I was mid-way down one of the rock stairs ascending Dragon’s Tooth. I skidded down the last four stairs and landed my shinbone on a delightfully pointy rock. I will spare you the curse words. However — what a fitting reminder. If I had been a little to the left, my knee lock-up would have lead to a lot more broken appendages. I laughed at myself. In the middle of waxing poetic about this meta philosophy, the trail taught me a lesson:

Make the most of your time here — but don’t forget to watch your step. (You can wax poetic, but remember to remain present.)

My friend and I made it to the top, myself a little more bloody than usual. So, that’s the reason for the term:

One of my first solo backpacking trips to Tinker’s Cliffs (I met some cool folks who took a photo)

The Transparent Eyeball

In short, I want to hike to more thoroughly feel the experience of being human. I want to become, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emmerson, (and kind of the Grateful Dead) a transparent eyeballmeaning that I will walk through the A.T. like the strange eyeball character (below), simply being out on the trail to observe and connect with the world, nature and people I meet — to take in my surroundings and to perceive the interconnectedness in everything I can — from the diverse ecosystems surrounding me to my own two feet plodding along the trail.

A transparent eyeball

Me, on the AT. (In reality, it is an illustration by Christopher Pearse Cranch of Emerson’s “Transparent Eyeball”)

I want to embrace a feeling of connectedness with nature, my body and gratefulness for the life I’m able to walk through on the trail.

On hard days, I will thank my legs and embrace the ache and the solid thumps connecting my heels to the earth. They are things that let me know I’m alive. I will be grounded, sheltered by the arms of trees and embraced by the mud underfoot. I look forward to feeling myself and my problems shrink in front of the ancient mountains before me. To walk along the same footpath as countless others, people I’ve looked up to, whose footsteps I will literally follow. That leads into my next fascination with the trail:

The People

Something about being out on the trail makes people open up more easily — in nature, it seems we are all stripped down to our genuine selves. As our problems from the outside world dissipate like sweat from our brow, I’ve found people to be more open and kind. Strangers quickly become friends — human connection seems like the lifeblood of a trail. Trails have existed throughout time to connect one community to another, and along the way, all the communities in between. This one I feel is similar, but it’s all the steps in between towns that connect us. I will be connecting the path of my 22 years of life — first Virginia, where I went to college at Virginia Tech and found a sense of strength and independence in the mountains (Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee’s Tinkers), then Maryland, where I was born, and finally New Jersey (near the Delaware Water Gap), where I grew up for sixteen years.

I will be connecting the path of my 22 years of life, retracing my steps and my memories of friends and family, walking through the states I grew up in.

Finally, I will finish, sometime around my 23 birthday on August 24 in Maine, a place I’ve never been before. My favorite backpacking song is playing in my head as I write that, the lyric, “He was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he’d never been before.” 

Me and two of my lovely backpacking buddies on the VA Triple Crown feeding thru hikers. (I have the dragonfly tattoo.)

Who am I?

Well, isn’t that why I’m hiking? When I was sixteen, I walked across my backyard in the snow, stomping out I’M GAY in giant letters. That was the first time I went for a walk without realizing the repercussions — the snow melted and the letters were emblazoned in muddy grass on a pristine white canvas. My mother drew back the shades, paused, and asked “Is there anything you want to talk about?” as I squinted over the bedsheets and regretted my hasty stomping. Walking got me somewhere that day — into a more honest version of myself with my family. I am still learning how to be honest with myself and am still figuring things out. (Gender, sexuality, life-path, you name it.) Backpacking allowed me to be myself and embrace it — being in nature is freeing and when you’re standing at the foot of a giant climb, it simply does not matter who or what you are. All that matters is if you can keep going.

I am now going for a longer walk, but it’s still one that will spell out an important part of my identity for me.

If anything, at least I will know I am strong enough to hike 2,000+ miles. I will try to bring this same approach of a transparent eyeball to my inward gaze, radically accepting all parts of myself I discover. I hope to reflect the same acceptance and understanding to others throughout the trail and my life.

My first walk into my identity. My sixteen year old self was BOLD.

Backpacking has allowed me to discover my physical and mental strength. I first got into backpacking when a previous partner wouldn’t take me, so I started taking myself. It scared the shit out of me to go alone onto the A.T. (still does) but every time I do, I realize the strength in my own legs, the freedom of being able to choose your own path and the delight in meeting strangers who become friends.

The things I know for I am for sure: I am a poet/writer, an occasional guitar player, a retired college radio oddity, and soon-to-be long walker.

I’m happy you’re here.

As I’ve said, I believe connections are the reason trails are built, the reasons we keep on going through life, and the reason I’m writing this now. I’m grateful to have an extensive and supportive network of friends and family. I’m grateful for this opportunity to write for The Trek and share this community. And I’m grateful for you, reading along. I look forward to starting my journey in March, and having you all in my pocket.

Happy Trails! 🙂

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Comments 6

  • Michael Brown : Dec 15th

    You have a fantastic voice and style, and I can’t wait to continue to follow your journey. As apertures through which the universe observes itself, I’m sure your eyes will reflect back an entertaining story. See you out there.

    • Abby Evans : Dec 16th

      Thank you so much Michael! I appreciate it!

  • thetentman : Dec 16th

    Thx for the post and the laugh.

    My hiking go-to song was The Loser. Of course, the day it was replaced with the theme to Gilligan’s Island still haunts me.

    Good luck.

    • Abby Evans : Dec 16th

      I’m glad it made you laugh and haha, understandable. I appreciate it!

  • Tom : Dec 17th

    WOW !! Awesome intro Abby. Here’s a lyric from Metallica that may suit you on the AT. ” The earth becomes my throne, I adapt to the unknown, under wandering stars I’ve grown , by myself but not alone “. Look forward to your writing. Good luck Dragonfly on your journey both physically and spiritually.

  • Alejandra May : Jan 24th

    You’re so inspiring. I’m hiking NOBO in March, see you out there!


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