Training My Mind

Day 68: Daleville to Bobblets Gap Shelter (18.6 miles, marker 748.9)

The hike out of Daleville was much like hiking out of any town. A good amount of uphill to get back to the ridgeline and a zigzag around larger roads. None of the climbs today were too rough, and the trails weren’t overly rocky either. The second half of the day the trail paralleled the Blue Ridge Parkway, and came up to meet it at three of it’s scenic overlooks.

At one, I met a thru hiker from a previous year who was dressed a little too similar to me. It was strange, but he was very nice and offered me a Mountain Dew.

Even with a three day resupply in my bag, I was still able to pull off an 18+ mile day. I’m trying to average 15 miles per day right now. I know I will go a little slower than that, especially considering wanting to take a couple double zeros when I get near home in New Jerseyz and that some parts of the northeast will slow me down just based on terrain. A 15 mile per day average is actually 17.5 for six days and then a day off. This pace finishes my hike at the end of August. I have a touch longer than that to get it done, but it leaves me wiggle room should something go cattywampus.

I’ve also begun a new exercise today. While hiking, I took 30 minutes to actively partake in walking meditation. This is focusing my conscious mind on my breathing in and breathing out, just as I would in a sitting meditation. I’ve always held that meditation is one of the tools we can use to gain mastery over our minds. When thoughts come up, I acknowledge then, label them as thoughts and return to my breath. On this way, I get used to not giving my thoughts so much weight. Amazingly, I was able to do this practice while my body just knew how to step. This is definitely something to do early on the hike, as I find by late afternoon if I’m not focused on my footing I often kick rocks… and the rocks always win. Over this next couple weeks I will see about increasing this practice to an hour.

Day 69: Bobblets Gap Shelter to Cornelius Creek Shelter (18.3 miles, marker 767.2)

Looks like the trail is running along the Blue Ridge parkway for a while. This has been very pleasant because it keeps it from going too far up and down. I spoke into some previous hikers who even said that once we hit Shenandoah there are places where it’s good to yellow blaze because the views are actually better along Skyline Drive. While I appreciate that, I’m going to be a bit more of a traditionalist and stick to the white blaze.

Those who don’t know, thru-hikers refer to different types of blazes and hiking in different ways. The Appalachian Trail is marked with white blazes all the way from Georgia to Maine, so staying the traditional route is considered white blazing. There are also side trails that sometimes are shorter or longer, but take different routes around the Appalachian Trail. Hiking these instead of along the white blazes is is referred to as blue blazing. Yellow blazing is either taking a road walk or even possibly riding in a car along the yellow lines to avoid pieces of the trail. Then there is aqua blazing which is available from multiple locations to canoe a section and therefore cutting out a piece of the trail. I was very tempted to do this close to Damascus on a section I had previously. hiked. Ultimately, I decided not to as I want my thru-hike to be a true thru-hike, covering all of the AT. The final two types still fall within traditional hiking, and those are platinum blazing and pink blazing. Platinum blazing is hiking from hostel to hostel and hotel to hotel, keeping your accommodations as clean and pristine as possible throughout your hike. I would consider myself a partial platinum blazer. The other is pink blazing, which is adjusting your hike to connect with members of the sex to which you are attracted. I have nothing against any of these methods of travel except maybe getting in a car and riding part of the trail. As far as I’m concerned, if you get from Georgia to Maine or Maine to Georgia by your own power and mostly on foot, you are through hiker.

My walking meditation went well today. By that I mostly mean I didn’t kick any rocks. I found the stickiest thoughts were around bears and how I would write this blog. They tended to suck me away from my breath for about 2 minutes at a time. Everything else I would catch myself within a couple seconds.

Highlight of the day… Walking beneath The Guillotine.

Day 70: Cornelius Creek Shelter to US 501 / Stanimals Hostel, Glasgow, VA (20.1 miles, marker 787.3)

Today’s hike was incredibly easy for going more than 20 miles. It rained lightly on and off all day, which helped to keep me cool. There were a couple of big uphills, but nothing overwhelming, and my pack was getting lighter as I was almost out of food. I started my hike a couple hours earlier than usual today, 7:00 a.m., so that I could get to the shuttle around 4:30 p.m. Turns out we are not running alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we are staying close enough to it that we still cross it occasionally.

My meditation was difficult today. My mind was very distracted and I had a hard time keeping focused on my breath. You would think that when paying attention to the trail it would help you to not have extraneous thoughts, but turns out that is not the case. This is okay though, the point is not to always be with the breath, but to catch yourself when you’re not and redirect.

Upon arrival at the hostel, I discover they overbooked and since I was the last bunk person in, I instead got a nook at the top of the stairs. This didn’t bother me much since I’m a heavy sleeper. I was able to go out and get some good food and a resupply for the next few days before coming back and having some social time before sleep.

Day 71: US 501 / Stanimals Hostel, Glasgow, VA to Stealth Site after Reservoir Road (15 miles, marker 802.3)

Beginning the day with blueberry pancakes at 6:00 a.m. was definitely a good start. I opted to take my time this morning and get on the 9:00 a.m. shuttle, giving me a little time to relax and eventually eat my cheesesteak before getting dropped off at the trailhead. The hike was pretty easy, starting along the water, and then eventually ascending into the mountains. The trail is slowly training us to carry water for longer distances. Today included a nine mile water carry, which for me is a liter and a half. I originally started out carrying a liter for every two miles, but at this point I’m finding that a liter for every five miles is plenty. I also camel up (drink a liter) whenever I’m getting water. Toward the end of today’s hike I passed the 800 mile mark. The miles really are beginning to fly by.

Day 72: Stealth Site after Reservoir Road to Behind the Big Boulder, Piney River, North Fork (18.9 miles, marker 821.2)

Today started off very wet. I got a little moisture in my tent from all the rain last night, and everything was driipping outside. I had signal, so decided to connect with Angela a little while. I had breakfast and packed up. Then, just before I was ready to go, a beautiful yellow moth decided it wanted to climb on my bag and would not let go. I let him come for the ride with me for the next couple miles, but eventually decided he needed to dislodge. I was about to enter the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest and didn’t want to move wildlife from one area to another since I have no information about any of these ecosystems. A little research let me know he is an Io moth (Automeris io) named after Io, the mortal lover of Zeus.

Upon entering the national forest, there was an almost immediate 2500′ climb over a course of 3.7 miles to the top of bald knob. This was a little anti-climactic, as the knob was bald, but that was about it. They were no views. The best part of the hike was coming in and out of the clouds as I walked, and the changes from sun to rain over and over again, through gorgeous grassy fields. I don’t mind the rains when it warms up enough to dry out my shoes afterward, but multiple days of soggy shoes starts to get old (and smelly) real fast.

I’m still meditating as I walk for a half an hour each morning, and it’s getting more natural. This type of practice usually takes a while before it feels comfortable. Just as I finished my meditation today, I passed a triple trunked tree of which one had cracked, wish made me think of the Fates. Though I couldn’t tell you for the life of me which one could be the maiden.

Day 73: Behind the Big Boulder, Piney River, North Fork to Harpers Creek (15.9 miles, marker 837.1)

Today was a very straightforward day of hiking. There were ups and there were downs. I spent much of the day leapfrogging the same four other hikers. I spent a nice 40 minutes on the ledges of mountain and had an opportunity to take off my shoes and socks and let everything dry in the sun.

The afternoon hike with more ups and downs, punctuated by a very cool suspension footbridge.

Meditation time was full of thoughts, but they didn’t bother me.

Day 74: Harpers Creek to Rock Point (11.7 miles, marker 848.8)

Fantastic day so far. Started with a big climb. Pretty rocky and technical, but since it was first thing in the morning I had a ball. Got to see a large black rat snake and a groundhog along the way.

Eventually the trail came down to a road crossing where I did my first attempted a hitchhike. Met a couple nice ladies from the Adirondacks in the parking lot and attempted to ask them if they knew which direction the Devil’s Backbone Brewery was. After some extensive figuring it out, they offered me a ride of 5 miles to get there. I gorged myself on two lunches and a bunch of beer before heading out to hitchhike back to the trail. Got picked up within five minutes and spent the afternoon meandering 4.3 to a lovely cliffside where I shall spend the night.


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Comments 3

  • Sabrina Marie Chase : Jun 3rd

    It’s fascinating to read your blog and follow your development internally. I’m learning more about walking meditation through this particular episode in your blog. 💖

    I continue to love the pictures and the way you include the thoughts that emerge as you walk the trail. The photos add so much! Love the Three Fates tree, and your near twin in his fabric, hat and kilt.

    Finally, I’m glad to hear about the people you meet. Bless those ladies! So glad they offered you a lift. May you meet many more kind of people along the way, dear heart.

    Thank you for continuing to share these details. They are so tasty and delightful to read!

  • Angela : Jun 3rd

    That moth is so so beautiful! I probably would have tried to pet it

  • Charlotte : Jun 6th

    Marvelous blog Zen. Thank you for sharing!


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