Sunday, October 23 – Five Miles Ending at Fishers Gap
The day’s temperature ranged from 50-60 degrees and the winds blew up the western slope from the Shenandoah Valley nearly constantly. So many leaves underfoot covering the rocks beneath them, that steady footing was assured only in certain sections. Ankles wobbled and boots slipped with each step in downhill sections of the Trail. North of Big Meadows, most notably.
We stopped on a nice flat rock to snack and rest—my hiking partner for the day was my adult son (healthy and fit). We shared peanut butter celery stalks. Our noisy crunching caused two deer to pop up off the ground in the near distant woods. Reminded me of our home in Colorado (2007-2013) where deer and elk would curl up and snooze on beds of soft Ponderosa Pine needles around the house on many afternoons.
A few more stops to rest my legs and my hiking partner declared he wanted to “push through.” So, I cut him loose and off he went. Didn’t see him again until we met at the car in the parking lot. Solo hiking is nice, too. I get to dream as I walk. I realized he had the trail map in his pack, so I asked Spirit to guide me. When I reached the trail marker pointing up a hillside to get to the exit point, I didn’t hesitate to go. Even though it looked like a hillside covered in leaves, I knew it must be the exit trail. There he was!
I think he was glad to see me, because that meant he didn’t have to retrace the last 1.6 miles to find me, but also because he said, “My Fitbit says the hike was five miles,” not the four we anticipated. So, while my toes and bunions ached from the slippery leaf/rock trail, my excitement soared. It was my first five-mile day! He also remarked that the footing was difficult and his legs were sore. Ha! That made me feel better.
Highlights of the day included several expansive views out across the Valley, such as the one from Blackrock; several trickling springs of clear water carrying colored leaves downstream; massive rock formations that must have stories to tell; five white tail deer; and the experience that a smooth, dirt trail can become a rocky/leaf-covered bed of nails.
To be fair, I must include one low point. What is it about dogs sniffing and licking at my crotch that is disturbing? I was hiking along, minding my own business, actually focused on my feet and day dreaming as any good shaman would, when all of a sudden two huskies were on me. When he finally appeared, I disciplined their owner, a man who was probably my age. “Keep your dogs on a short leash! They are supposed to be under your control!” I huffed happily at having allowed such an honest moment and thought, this is the Appalachian Trail, for God’s sake! This is sacred territory, not your damn backyard! I let it go after a few minutes. The dogs had startled me. Yes, I am sure they were wonderful, sweet, cuddly, friendly whatever.
Dogs symbolize dedication. They are loyal. What can I deduce from my unexpected encounter? Possibly it is a sign from the Universe that I am dedicated to myself, doing what makes me happy. As I walk the Trail, my tail is wagging and I am panting. Does that qualify?
I am 65 and making up for the dream I never gave myself—being a fit and trail-worthy outdoorswoman. Somehow it happened that I got an office job right away out of college. That one job led to another one and another one. The indoor lifestyle was chosen. I tried to compensate by spending as much time outdoors as possible, but it was never enough to balance the loss of connection to nature, the earth, and the out of doors that came with long days in high rise buildings under fluorescent lighting and surrounded by computers. After retirement, I wrote and published three books, am concluding a new trilogy, and am now ready to pick up life from where I left my true self behind. That is the journey of the AT for me.
Until next time, a few photos below.
The sound of water trickling from a mountain
spring begs one to stop and listen.
Look at that rock! How did it get like that,
jutting up out of the ground? It must have
a story to tell.