My Hiking Partner
4 miles Hawksbill to Fishers Gap
Aka Facing Adversity—real and imagined
To hike the AT, you must get ON the AT. Yesterday’s hike from Hawksbill to Fishers Gap began with a 1.7-mile consequence of starting at the wrong trailhead. My former park-ranger friend and I began at Hawksbill Lower Parking. I expected the trail to intersect with the AT after a few minutes of walking. It was not to be. With every switchback and turn in the trail, I searched for the concrete AT post. After 45 minutes of mountain-goating, we stepped out onto the summit of Hawksbill—not part of the plan. I have never been more disappointed to be on a mountaintop—usually my favorite place to be! The AT is more toward the base of Hawksbill. I could have cried.
From the parking area, we should have walked north to find the AT access. For some reason, we just headed up the trail in sight from the car.
The real consequence—I never found my groove. I didn’t enjoy the vistas across the valley, rock formations looming trailside, the wash of fall color at the lower elevations of the mountains, the singing and entertainment of my hiking buddy. She was blissful, confident. “Whatever. We’ll get there,” she said.
We eventually intersected with the AT and immediately I felt energy shift. The AT has a feel. It is feminine—like mother earth herself. It has flow, continuum, and connection. I stopped in my tracks and remarked about the change of feeling. My hiking partner looked around and said, “Well, look there are the rocks and steepness of Hawksbill Mountain to our left, and a flat forest to our right.”
I said, “No, not physical difference. An energetic difference. Don’t you feel it?”
She searched for the feeling. “No.”
More than a blue blaze, is the white blaze. I was delighted to be on the AT, connected once again. But, my surge faded as my feet began to complain from the 1.7 miles of rock already covered as we progressed through the woods along more rocky sections. Our three-mile hike was going to be a four-mile hike.
She said, “Is Jim going to worry?”
“Yes. He is a worrier.” I texted my husband, doing duty with the car to meet us at our end point at 2-2:30 p.m. I didn’t know if he would receive the message that our pace was slower than expected, but after a while I got a text back saying, “Okay.” That relieved my fear over his worry.
A breeze came up and brought gray cloud cover. My trail buddy said, “Is it supposed to rain?” For some reason this struck fear in me, too. I had a poncho with me, but she did not. I had thoughts of hypothermia and a vision of our stumbling from the woods drenched and shivering. The sun was in and out, the afternoon cooled, but rain was not a real threat.
“Sing a song, Louise!” my buddy said.
Ah, me, I cannot sing. She tried to enliven me.
This hike poked at hidden and not-so-subtle fears. As we trekked closer to our exit point and contemporary life, an additional fear surfaced. Being Election Day, I wondered if my candidate was winning. Are all the people not on the trail, voting?
Two nights before the hike, in meditation, I was told my planned hike in the Hawksbill area would be all right. I questioned that advice, wondering why that was so important to address in my meditation. Now I know. It was going to be a trek through my fears, a veritable workshop of negativity.
We did make it just fine, but my journey was very different than my hiking partner’s. She was fearless, undaunted, and into the beauty and joy of it. Thank you for the inspiration and leadership you provided while I was a weenie.
I even lost the trail map in my backpack for a while. What a doofus I was—all balled up like a coyote chasing her tail—when I could have been enjoying the day as it unfolded. Such is human nature.
Peeling birch bark glistening in the sun.
The view from Hawksbill, the highest point in Shenandoah Park, 4050′.
Approaching Fishers Gap.
Windswept ridge near Fishers Gap.