This Open Road

A season walking southbound on the Appalachian Trail

Tag Archives: backpacking

Walking Through Pennsylvania

(Although I finished the A.T. over a month ago, I’m reliving my trek in these blog updates. The following post is a continuation of this entry, which I published on January 31st.)

I continued walking south into the deepening fall. I sensed a new kind of solitude. The few southbounders that I felt connected to were now far ahead. I would not be able to catch up. I acknowledged the loss, knowing this was a defining aspect of the trail. Hikers literally walk into each other’s lives and share a few, or many, miles together. Some hikers make a unique connection and find they’re compatible in terms of pace, schedule, and trail lifestyle, and may decide to stay together for as long as they both remain on the trail. But many (perhaps most) partnerships that form are short-lived. The variables that make up a successful hiking duo or group can be too disparate, and eventually people separate, decide to hike alone, or connect with others.

As I began my hike, I felt an unexpected liberation. In the midst of this three-month journey, I was beginning again. All I had to do was walk, as fast or as slow as I wanted. My body had recovered from the half marathon and I had renewed focus. From here on, all I needed to do was hike south to Springer Mountain. I was ready to go.

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The only thing I was racing was the weather. It was mid-October and fall was intensifying. As if I needed a reminder, snow flurries and attention-getting temps welcomed me back to the trail on my first night out. Here we go, I thought. As it turned out, it did not get that cold again for several weeks, but I was on alert. I was hiking in the Appalachians in the fall and it was supposed to get cold. Hike faster, winter’s coming.

The hiking was solitary and exhilarating. My days were mostly clear. Occasionally I’d pass another hiker – a section hiker or day hiker – but I did not pass or get passed by another southbounder. The last northbounder I had met was “Scrabble”, in southern Massachusetts. I wouldn’t see another nobo until I got to North Carolina, when early starters were beginning their 2016 thru-hikes.

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Rocksylvania

Pennsylvania is one of the flattest states on the A.T., although very little of the trail is actually “flat”, as most people perceive “flat” to be. It’s also the rockiest state on the trail and is thus called “Rocksylvania.” Hikers will always have something to worry and complain about on the trail. In PA, it’s the rocks.

Certainly, they can be annoying. In some places the rocks are big and it takes long, stairstep-like strides to move over them. Most of the time the rocks are small and pointy, making it easy to turn an ankle or trip. It’s often difficult to find a good hiking rhythm. A hiker must always carefully watch for the next step. Because if the rocks won’t get you, that snake hiding just beneath them might.

Rattlesnakes, copperheads and black snakes are prevalent on the trail and especially in Pennsylvania. I’ve hiked approximately 7,320 A.T. miles since 1994 and have encountered one rattlesnake and about a dozen harmless black snakes. The rattlesnake that warned me off in 2010, was occupying trail real estate near Rice Field Shelter in Pearisburg, VA. I think I’m one of the few hikers who has never even seen a poisonous snake in Pennsylvania.

I talked to other hikers on this trip who saw several snakes among the rocks of PA, and I was always watchful, but never saw one myself.

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Lehigh Gap is one of many iconic places along the A.T. There is a long ridgewalk which eventually begins a steep descent down a rocky precipice into the gap. Some hikers think this is one of the most dangerous areas of the trail due to the exposure along this section. In bad weather this scramble could be uncomfortable. The weather was on my side the day I went down to the gap, and step-by-careful-step I made it to the bottom. The trail crosses the Lehigh River and gradually gains the elevation back on the other side.

The fall colors were becoming quite spectacular. Locals said it wasn’t a good year for the colors due to the lack of rain in previous weeks, but I was in awe every day. I loved hiking in the fall and this was one aspect of a southbound hike that I had been looking forward to before I started.

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Looking down to Lehigh Gap.

 

One evening, I stopped by a spring to get water near Eagles Nest Shelter. As I was finishing, another woman hiker, “Shelob”, walked up to also get water. She was going on to the shelter which was .3 miles west of the trail, too far to go, in my opinion, when there was water and plenty of camping available right where I was. After chatting a bit with Shelob, I went back to the camping area, and began to set up my tent. I invited her to camp with me if she didn’t want to stay at the shelter.

A while later, just as it was getting dark, Shelob came back to the campsite. No one else was at the shelter and she seemed more comfortable tenting near another hiker. I made a fire, we ate our dinner and began sharing our stories. She had started at Springer and was walking north as long as the weather would allow. This was not her first time on the trail. Shelob had hiked southbound a couple of years earlier, and I asked about her experience hiking south into winter. I was daunted and impressed by her answers. She told me stories of crawling on all fours when the trail was too icy to walk on. She said there were many mornings when her boots were frozen and she could barely get them on. She and other southbounders would hike four days at a time, then find lodging to wait out another storm. Still, she was able to log 20-25 mile days on a regular basis. I took these markers as my guide and accepted that the conditions she described would be repeated for me.

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“Anywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.” – Steven Wright

If one keeps walking, day after day, eventually they’re going to cross big milestones. My first big milestone was getting to the 500-mile mark way back in Vermont. That seemed like ages ago. Then, at another quiet place on the trail, I was suddenly reminded, by these rocks, that I had walked 1,000 miles. That felt like something.

* * * * *

Two days later I walked into Duncannon. I must admit, Duncannon has never been my favorite trail town. It’s a popular one because the trail goes right through town, and past the Doyle Hotel, an easy and almost unavoidable stop for hikers. The Doyle is an old hotel that was one of the premier lodges in the early part of the century. Now it’s run-down and in need of some upkeep. The buzz on the trail is that it’s not a great place to stay overnight, but one of the best places for hiker food.

Early in my trip, Ben, a social media friend and fellow 2010 hiker whom I’d never met in person, contacted me to say he’d like to possibly meet to help in some way, and maybe hike a few miles with me. Our schedules never coordinated, but he sent me a message telling me to check at the Doyle for some trail magic he left there.

When I arrived, there was a card for me with $20 and a note from Ben, saying to enjoy a meal at the Doyle, his treat. We’d never met, but we shared a common bond through the trail and I was happy that he could be a part of my trip in this way. His generosity was so appreciated and I had one of the best burgers I’ve ever enjoyed!

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I was well into this feast before I remembered to take a picture.

 

My stop at the Doyle was important because it was here that I would meet another dear trail friend, Michele, or “Mitch”, as we know her in the A.T. tribe.

Mitch and I have known each other since our ’98 thru-hikes. Along with our friend, Hawkeye, she was one of the first people I met that season. For the last several years, Mitch has been a caretaker at the Scott Farm Trail Work Center, which is an A.T. property. (I stayed with Mitch here on my 2010 section hike as well.)

Mitch met me at the Doyle and took me to the Farm for the usual luxuries that mean so much to hikers – a bed, a shower, laundry facilities and good conversation. We have many common friends and shared experiences and it’s always good to reconnect with her. It just doesn’t happen as often as it should.

Since the Scott Farm is on the trail, staying here allowed me to slackpack in this section. I took most of my gear out of my backpack, kept only the things I’d need for the day, and set off to hike about 24 miles. Mitch would meet me at a road crossing later that evening.

Toward the end of my hike that day, I came upon some people during a photo shoot, who were definitely not dressed like hikers. I quickly realized I had just photobombed a couple getting their wedding pictures taken! There was a sharp turn in the trail and I had suddenly walked upon them from behind. I apologized and tried to move on. But they got so excited and asked me to be in their pictures with them. They said they were hoping a hiker would come by. The best part: the bride and groom were wearing hiking boots! They were just about to leave for their wedding, but took time to take extra pictures and asked what my trail name was. They were so fun and sweet and loved the spontaneity of it all.

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I was afraid to get too close to her beautiful dress!

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The photographers get photographed.

 

A few miles later, Mitch met me at the place we agreed upon and took me back to the Farm for another night of civilization. It was wonderful to spend this time with my friend!

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Halfway(s)

There are a few “halfway” points along the A.T. The psychological halfway point is where the ATC’s (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) main office is located in Harpers Ferry, WV, and where I’d be in a few days. There is the actual halfway point, which can change year-to-year, due to relocations along the trail. And then there is Pine Grove Furnace State Park, where hikers can take part in the Half Gallon Challenge at the general store. To mark reaching the halfway point (generally speaking), hikers buy a half gallon of ice cream and eat it in one sitting. A lot of hikers are successful in this endeavor. I have not done this in the past, and didn’t get a chance this time, because the store was closed the morning I came through.

I had camped nearby but didn’t have enough water for breakfast, so I took a break here, got water which was available from a faucet, and ate breakfast before moving on for the day.

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Pine Grove General Store

 

This is also the location of a hostel called the Ironmasters Mansion Hostel. It was built in 1829 and was the residence for the ironmaster at that time. Apparently, there is a room in the mansion that was used as a way-station for the Underground Railroad during the slavery era.

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Ironmasters Mansion Hostel

 

Another interesting building here is the Appalachian Trail Museum. It contains many artifacts related to the A.T., including some gear used by early thru-hikers such as Earl Shaffer, Grandma Gatewood and others. It was also closed this day, so I didn’t get a chance to visit.

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Appalachian Trail Museum

 

Finally, later that day, I reached the actual halfway point for 2015. It was at the unfortunately-named Dead Woman Hollow Road. Fortunately, there were no dead women to give validity to the name.

I gave the sign a high-five, snapped this picture and realized that from now on, there would be fewer miles in front of me than there were behind me. I had walked 1,094.6 miles. Only that much left to go!

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I was almost finished with all 229 miles of Pennsylvania. Most hikers believe this is the hardest state because the rocks can really beat up their feet. I didn’t mind the trail here. There are other sections that I’ll be happy never to go through again (like Mahoosuc Notch in Maine). Pennsylvania, I like.

28 miles later, I said “Goodbye” to PA and “Hello” to Maryland.

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Pennsylvania (But First, a Half Marathon in Yosemite!)

Dear Reader, I finished my southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on January 19, 2016! I hiked 2,189 miles from Katahdin to Springer in just under six months. I did not mean to leave you hanging, but I found it increasingly difficult to keep up with the blog, conduct my online lessons and do everything I needed to do in town (laundry, resupply, rest, talk to people at home, etc.) and still hike. At the end of October I suspended my online lessons until January, and decided I would catch up on the blog when I finished the trail.

I knew that I would need to stay as focused as possible in order to finish the trail before it got too cold. As it turned out, it was a fairly mild fall and winter. I had some cold days, but not as intense as I expected and not cold enough to force me off the trail.

The Appalachian Trail is so much a part of my life and who I am. To have been able to hike it three times is a blessing and something I’ll always treasure. I’ve walked northbound (1998), section hiked (2010/2011), and now, hiked southbound. (I also began a thru-hike in 1994, going almost 700 miles before stopping.) Writing about this journey after I completed it will allow me to process what transpired, relive it and share the experience with you. Thank you for your patience.

* * * * * *

At the end of January 2015, shortly after I returned from Japan, and before I made my plans to hike the A.T. again, I committed to run the inaugural Yosemite Half Marathon with my good friend, Jannele. Some people from her job were forming a group and she invited me to join them. It took me about five seconds to make a decision. I was ready to train for another race, I’d never been to Yosemite, and I would get to spend time with Jannele, whom I’d not seen in several years.

Later, I realized a thru-hike was possible and although I’d have to leave the trail for a few days to go to the race, I decided to do it all. It would be an adventure within an adventure and I was ready for it.

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Back on the trail… After crossing into Pennsylvania, I walked to the Church of the Mountain Hiker Hostel in Delaware Water Gap, a hostel that has been serving hikers since the mid-70s. It’s located in the basement of the church, and has a bunkroom, shower and common area for hikers to use. One aspect of a southbound thru-hike, is that there are very few hikers still around at this time of year. The northbounders have long passed through Pennsylvania and most southbounders are well into Virginia. There was only one other hiker staying at the hostel when I was there. This was where I would leave the trail for the next nine days.

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Getting from the Appalachian Mountains to the Sierras was not as complicated as I expected. From the hostel, I walked about a mile to the bus station, took a bus into NYC, then a shuttle to the Newark airport, flew to Kansas City (by way of Atlanta), was met by Jannele and spent the night at her house. The next morning we flew from KC to Fresno, CA (via Phoenix) and drove a rental car to Oakhurst which is the nearest major town closest to Yosemite.

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The weekend was wonderful. It was fantastic to spend that time with one of my dearest friends, whom I’ve known since college. Ours is a friendship built on ease and gentle camaraderie. We can be talkative and we can be quiet. Our shared history, respect for each other and mutual sense of humor create the foundation of our relationship. And we both like to run.

Yosemite National Park was absolutely more astounding than I imagined. Even after seeing many pictures of iconic features such as Half Dome and El Capitan, I was still amazed by the magnitude and grandeur of it all.

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We both ran better than we expected. The morning was cool, the course wound down a curvy, tree-lined road and we glided easily toward the finish line. I had not run since mid-July, and was a little concerned about how I’d do. To my advantage, I had strong hiker legs and that helped me maintain my sub-two hour goal for half marathons (I finished in 1:53:02).

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Jannele also did really well, but we both paid for our efforts after the race. By the end of race day we could hardly walk. I had made plans to visit my family in Colorado after the race and I was glad for the rest days. It took several days before I felt normal again.

After the race weekend, I did all of the flying activity in reverse. By the time I was back on the trail nine days later, I’d been on 10 flights due to the stopovers each flight entailed. Not complicated, it just required organization, timeliness and a little luck (only one flight was late in this whole itinerary).

Finally, I was back in Delaware Water Gap ready to resume my walk south. I stayed another night at the church hostel, got a shuttle to Wind Gap and started hiking. It was a chilly morning and it was the first time I really knew the rest of the hike would be a race against winter.

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Back on the trail at Wind Gap.

 

The Colorado Trail: Week Two

Before I began the Colorado Trail, I had registered for the Revel Rockies Marathon. I would have to take a couple days from the trail to do the run, but I was excited for challenge. It was the last chance I’d have this year to run a Boston qualifier and I felt that I was in peak condition after training for the Morgan Valley Marathon, which I ran three weeks earlier, and backpacking for the previous week.

After meeting me at Wheeler Flats, near Copper Mountain at the end of my first week on the CT, my folks and I stayed in their RV at a nearby campground which was close to the location of the race. I enjoyed a rest day and the anticipation of another long run.

The route began at 10,000 feet and ended 26.2 miles later where the canyon opened up near Morrison, at Bandimere Speedway. It was beautiful, following a winding, forested, two-lane road, through tiny mountain towns and neighborhoods as the sun rose over the eastern horizon. I struggled in the final few miles, as the elevation dropped and the heat intensified. The final mile, which funneled runners across a busy intersection and onto a gravel parking lot, was not the most inspiring end to a long race, but at least it was over. Although I ran 18 minutes faster than the last marathon, I still couldn’t break the 4-hour mark (4:04:09) and missed my chance at qualifying for 2015. As in my other races, my parents and Chris were at the halfway point and at the finish to cheer me on. Knowing they would be there was such a boost and gave me something to look forward to when my energy began to drop.

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The run was painful, but I felt pretty good considering the physical demands I had put on myself in the last two months. After training for a half marathon and two full marathons and backpacking 118 miles of mountainous terrain in one week, my endurance was at its peak. Still, after returning to the RV post-race, I kept myself curled up in a fatiguied ball for hours, not able to find an ounce of leftover energy to shower. My mom kept bringing me snacks and rubbing my poor feet and legs, working the lactic acid out of my system. Eventually, I was able to get cleaned up and begin a bit of recovery. The thought of putting my pack on the next day was not appealing.

But I did it, and in slow, tenuous steps I resumed my hike.

First night back on the CT. Six miles beyond Copper Mountain.

First night back on the CT. Six miles beyond Copper Mountain.

Janet's Cabin below Searle Pass.

Below Searle Pass. Janet’s Cabin is part of the 10th Mtn Division Hut System. For more info check out huts.org.

I hiked through those mountains on the horizon. Searle Pass.

I hiked through those mountains on the horizon. Searle Pass.

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Camp Hale.

Camp Hale.

Barracks at Camp Hale. This was a training area for the 10th Mtn Division soldiers during WW II. They trained in climbing, skiing and high altitude survival. Some of the veterans went on to establish some of the major ski resorts in Colorado after the war.

Barracks at Camp Hale.

This was a training area for the 10th Mtn Division soldiers during WW II. They trained in climbing, skiing and high altitude survival. Some of the veterans went on to establish some of the major ski resorts in Colorado after the war.

Just a swing on the trail.

Just a swing on the trail.

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The magic was gone when I got here, but I loved the intention!

The magic was gone when I got here, but I loved the intention!

Highest peak in Colorado.

Side trail to the highest peak in Colorado, Mt. Elbert (14,440 ft.). Several of the 14ers can be accessed via the CT.

Aspens.

Aspen grove.

Coming into Twin Lakes. CO.

Coming into Twin Lakes. CO.

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Hiker hangout at Twin Lakes.

Hiker hangout at the Twin Lakes store.

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It was a long, uphill, seven-mile slog in the rain and fog.

It was a long, uphill, seven-mile slog in the rain and fog.

Beautiful chaos. Lightning strike area, most likely.

Beautiful chaos. Lightning strike area, most likely.

Buena Vista valley.

Buena Vista valley.

One of the many streams the CT crosses.

One of the many streams the CT crosses.

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After reaching Highway 50, my trip for this season had come to an end. I hitched a ride into Salida and stayed at a hostel in town for two nights.

I ended my trip after 253 miles after a 27-mile day.

I ended my trip after 253 miles and a final 27-mile day.

I slowly made my way home by a series of buses. I was in deep need of rest and had two weeks to recuperate and prep for my return to Japan. It was a good time to leave the trail for this season.

During this hike, I saw people every day. There were other hikers – day hikers and thru-hikers. There were mountain bikers, and I shared the trail with riders from two different races. I usually camped alone and I was never afraid. I love the trail. I love the woods. I am at home there and know how to thrive. To walk in the wilderness is one of my greatest pleasures. I love the feel of the pack on my back and watching the sun cross the sky as I move through the day.

For now, I’ve put my backpacking gear away. I’m in another wonderful place, but as far from the deep woods as one can get, that is, Tokyo, the most populated city in the world (37,126,000). These dramatic changes in surroundings are not hard for me. I transition easily from one to the other, appreciating each for the curiosity and wonder they inspire.

I’ll continue to post about life in Japan for the remaining two and a half months that I’m here. And then… anything is possible!

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The Colorado Trail: Week One

I’m finally catching up on the last of my post-Laramie, pre-Tokyo adventures.

(I stalled out a bit on posting from Japan as my camera quit working during my first week. I recently bought a new Canon and am excited to document the next three months of my life here, following this post.)

*

Just a few days after returning from the Americana Road Trip, I sorted my gear, packed my backpack and headed to the northern terminus of the Colorado Trail.

I had a month left before I was to fly to Tokyo and couldn’t think of a better way to spend the late summer days than to hike through the Colorado mountains. I’ve done the CT twice before (1991 with friends, 2000 solo) so I knew what to expect and was thrilled to begin this trek. The trail winds 480 miles from the foothills west of Denver, over several ranges and passes, along rivers, and through open land to the southern Colorado mountain town of Durango.

It was my intention to do the whole trail in three and a half weeks, but soon I realized that was too ambitious. I’ve hiked many consecutive 20+ mile days on other backpacking trips on much more difficult terrain and thought I’d be able to do that on the CT. But I didn’t have the time to acclimate to the higher mileage. I had recently run the Morgan Valley Marathon and was still recovering from that. I was also registered to run another marathon a week into this trip, which I did, but was very fatigued for the next week. I also needed more time to regroup before going to Tokyo, so I let go of having to do a thru-hike, and hiked just over halfway and will finish the second half another time.

On August 9, my folks drove me to the trailhead at Waterton Canyon, we took pictures, and I began my journey into the woods. My dad walked the first few miles with me before turning back.

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The first six miles of the CT follow a dirt road through Waterton Canyon.

The first six miles of the CT follow a dirt road through Waterton Canyon.

Bighorn Sheep are common here.

Bighorn Sheep are common here.

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After leaving the road, the trail enters the trees and begins a gradual ascent.

 

I didn’t have to wait too long before I was rewarded with an amazing meal and a visit from a good friend! Chris met me at the end of my first day with steak, salad, dessert and a fun night of conversation and car camping. Thank you, Chris!

Trail magic!

Trail magic!

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I couldn’t get too used to this as this was only Day 1 and I had a long way to go in a short amount of time. The next morning we packed up and Chris and her pooch, Mia, walked a few miles with me.

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For the next week, I enjoyed nicely graded trails, beautiful skies, and the gradual climb to the Colorado high country.

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Going over Georgia Pass, heading toward Breckenridge…

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The Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail are the same trail for about 100 miles.

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Share the trail. Racers competing in the Breck Epic.

Share the trail. Racers competing in the Breck Epic.

Descending into Breck.

Slash piles left from the Pine Beetle infestation.

Spent a night in Breck at The Bivouac, a new hostel in town.

Spent a night in Breck at The Bivouac, a new hostel in town.

 

The next day, I hiked over Ten Mile Range and into Copper Mountain where I met my folks at Highway 91.

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Looking back down the trail.

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Marmot posing.

Marmot posing.

Heading down the other side.

Heading down the other side.

Copper Mountain and beyond.

Copper Mountain and beyond.

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Two days later I ran the Revel Rockies Marathon and returned to hike for another week.

End of Week One.

End of Week One. Wheeler Flats Trailhead.

Week Two, to be continued…

Engagement with the Wilderness

I am part of an eclectic tribe: Those who need the wilderness like they need air, the ruggedness of the backcountry trails and the unpredictability of the mountains.

Backpacking, and specifically backpacking the AT, is never far from my mind. During the winter months, I think about the excitement hikers are enjoying as they prepare for their hikes. They’re researching, evaluating and purchasing or making their gear. They’re reading blogs and websites, learning as much as they can from other hikers’ experiences. They’re lining up renters for their apartments and figuring out storage for their belongings, or better, selling it or giving it away. It’s all preparation for their soon-to-be minimalist life on the trail.

In the spring and summer, I’m often thinking about the hikers that are on the trail, immersed in a temporary livelihood they will never forget, and, for many of them, will impact their future lifestyle choices. The friendships that form in the midst of a self-imposed, arduous, multi-month trek can be some of the most intense and unique of a person’s life.

In the fall, hikers are moving into the final weeks on the trail, and I empathize with their elation and despondency of finishing their journey. Some will be more than ready to be done and will believe, down to the bottom of their worn out soles (and souls), that they will never again step foot on such a path. But within weeks, the siren song of the trail beckons and the planning begins again.

Thru-hikers are often asked why they do this. Financial, professional and relational sacrifices are made. It’s hard. It’s dirty. You’re dirty. You sleep on the ground in your tiny tent or in a three-sided shelter with a bunch of other dirty, stinky, snoring hikers. You get rained on. You get hot. It’s buggy. You hike up steep trails and straight down the other side. Your pack is heavy. (It doesn’t have to be, but most traditional backpackers carry 30-40 pound packs.) And you chose this. Against everything that makes sense about a comfortable existence, you signed up. And if you’re like me, you’d sign up again. Thru-hikers get this.

Franconia Ridge, N.H.

Franconia Ridge, N.H.

But most normal people don’t get it and they’re the sensible ones. If asked by someone who has no experience with the trail, it’s difficult to explain the insistent call of the trail. But I’m going to try.

All that uncomfortable stuff I just mentioned, doesn’t really bother me anymore. On my first few backpacking trips it did. But I adapted and grew to love it. I learned how to prepare better, what to expect and how to get tough. When you’re hiking in the rain and there’s nowhere to go, you learn to accept it and continue on because you have no other choice.

And it will not last forever. There will be a reprieve and you’ll regroup, make adjustments and go again. Somewhere along the way, you realize you’re persevering in fine fashion, and you actually like it. Something in your core being is changing.

I accept all of this as part of the adventure and I welcome it. I adore it.

Engagement has happened.

September in Maine.

September in Maine.

I’m never bored on the trail. Every action requires my complete attention. Every step I take is important and can be the difference between a successful trek, an uncomfortable hobble to an access road or an evacuation. I have to be aware of my surroundings and movements in the woods. I have to make sure I have enough water and know where the next source will be.

When I make camp I have to judge my location: Is it level? Am I in a low-lying area that might flood if it rains or is too close to the stream?

Am I still on the right trail? Where was the last blaze or signpost? Is my mileage accurate? What is the weather doing? Are storm clouds blowing in? Can I get to a good place to set up camp if necessary?

I have to budget my food and fuel to last until I can resupply. I have to be responsive to pain and sensations in and on my body. Too often I’ve ignored hot spots that turned into blisters. Am I dehydrated or overly tired? Am I eating at regular intervals and not waiting until I feel hungry?

Awareness of our environment is imperative in “regular” life as well, but routine and predictability make it easy to lose focus and operate on autopilot. We rely on the assumption that if something goes awry, we usually have easy access to help.

On the trail, everything is ramped up a few notches and convenience is nonexistent. Paying attention is vital, not just a good idea.

Maine.

Maine.

I love this necessary engagement on the trail. My senses are alert and everything that is, is even more. I’m more attentive to the play of light and shadows on the land as the sun moves across the sky, changes in wind and temperature, and the minor adjustments my body has to make as I negotiate ascents and descents.

Nothing else so captivates me as life on the trail, in the mountains.

The call of the wilderness is profound. It requires my best and most focused work. It makes no promises but the rewards are the severe and ageless beauty of the deep mountain country.

 * * * *

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
– John Muir

View from Killington Peak, VT.

View from Killington Peak, VT.