Hiking the Appalachian Trail–AAH!

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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.

 

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Peeling birch bark glistening in the sun.

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The view from Hawksbill, the highest point in Shenandoah Park, 4050′.

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Approaching Fishers Gap.

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Windswept ridge near Fishers Gap.

The Earth Sings to Those Who Hear

Excerpted from my book, Rain Makes the Rocks Sing, Inspirations from Nature.

Venturing deep into your relationship with nature, you can discover that the Earth sings for you! Indeed, technology and media can be good sources of information. So, too is the web of wisdom woven through nature.

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Stone 33: Sings Praise

I found this stone on a creek side trail at a local waterfall. It has a diagonal line of white quartz across the “forehead,” two eyes, three dots for a mouth, and a nose that resembles the numeric 5. It is rough, tumbled, and formed of feldspar. I took the 5 as a big hint and asked, “Are you the fifth of a five-note scale?”

Yes, I am
The note A-flat,
Singing tones
Of the Third Eye,
Awakening
Vision of
The Light that
Dwells within.
Water, wind,
Earth, fire and wood.
Five elements, five notes,
Weaving the song
Of the Earth.
Singing praise
For the Light
That dwells within.

The Stone’s Inspiration: Praise Your Own Existence

Seek the Light that dwells within you. This journey, alone, defines a great life. Connect with the five elements and five notes. Let nature inspire you. Your awakening is what the Earth asks of you and what the human race needs now. Wake up your vision. With insight, awaken to the Light streaming through your heart.

See with your sixth sense, intuition, third eye (the fifth note). Sense your true beauty and the beauty of your message. Glow, shine, and transform. Become a warrior of the Light, living prideful and free-spirited at the pace of the Earth.

Find the flow of the five elements and five notes. It can carry and support you in this lifetime and through all time.

–May the music and voices of the stones awaken the Light within and fill you with joy.

Louise

Autumn on the Appalachian Trail – AAH!

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The View from Hazeltop

Four-Mile Section, Milam Gap to Bearfence

The last Friday of October began with a short wait in lane to enter Shenandoah Park. My Senior Pass got me through the booth quickly when it was my turn. Air was clear. Temperatures in 40s and 50s. Gusty wind. Fall color remained on some trees, but mostly covered the ground, opening up views of neighboring mountains and valleys that had been hidden all summer. Oak leaves and acorns everywhere—roller derby conditions for downhill footing on the trail. Nodded hello to about 20 other hikers on the trail, which is a high traffic count compared to other outings. Nearing the end of Fall color, means we are also nearing the end-of-season for many facilities along Skyline Drive. Autumn roams will soon dissolve into winter ways.

My hiking buddy was a woman who had been a Park Ranger for 20 years and knows the lay of the land. As we hiked, she grooved on finding ginger plants and unusual tree formations, and entertained with stories of teaching children about nature. She speaks my language and walks at my pace. We decided we were a good pair.

I’m always ready to be awed by nature and found beauty in fungus and wonder in twisted, aging bark. The rock of windy Hazeltop juts into the air on the diagonal, a sign of the force that pushed the mountain into shape. I could only try to imagine the geologic action that moved the earth—it boggles the mind. I traded my fleece baseball cap for a fleece headband, which kept my ears warm, but freed my hair to fly around and dance in the wind. My hair danced past one dynamic rock formation after another, releasing heat from my body’s effort.

Significant wildlife count for the day was one raven that squawked in the treetops, catching our attention. Hello, Raven, bringer of magic, remind us of the magical side of life.

Most of the passing hikers were young and fit, coming upon us and disappearing out of sight quickly. We silently envied their pace and comfort, but remarked how nice it was to admire the bounty of nature surrounding us, while giving our blister and bunions little rests along the way.

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Fungus pattern on tree trunk

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Lush moss habitat

 

 

 

Connecting Is the Art of Being

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Nature has wisdom for those who listen.

 

Connections says:

Connections says, Everything is about how you connect—with loved ones, difficult situations and challenges, the higher self, physicality, the weather and environment, fear and anger, peace and tranquility, and health and wealth. Be like a bird perched on a wire examining the lay of the land below. From a higher perspective, place yourself at the center where you can simply be and everything else simply is.

Connections’ Inspiration:

There is no need for an emotional roller coaster ride through life, when it can be smooth sailing. Avoid the storms on the horizon and steer yourself into your tranquil inner waters. Empower your position so all things are handled smoothly and all connections are positive from your end. From this place, relax your defenses and over-stimulated mind. Be safe and assured in all situations. Connecting is the art of being.

Excerpted from the book Rain Makes the Rocks Sing, Inspirations from Nature by Louise M. Mitchell.

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Autumn on the Appalachian Trail – AAH!

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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.

Happy Trails,
Louise
esse@laughingwatersway.com

 

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The sound of water trickling from a mountain
spring begs one to stop and listen.

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Look at that rock! How did it get like that,
jutting up out of the ground? It must have
a story to tell.

 

Autumn on the Appalachian Trail – AAH!

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October 19, 2016 – Two Miles Ending at Pocosin Fire Road

A easy Trail day, my mind was free to wander and appreciate the change of seasons that surrounded—yellow and gold leaves on trees and underfoot. Acorns peppered the ground. It was a warm day, though, sweat poured and the gnats swarmed—thought they were gone for this year, but they are still here. Feet felt great in new socks.

Immediately after entering the Trail, at eye level, was a colorful colony of mushrooms growing on the side of a host tree like a happy family.

Passed two other hikers, otherwise alone on the Trail. One determined and pacing. The other running with a dog. Everyone seeking the esse of being on the Trail.

Happy Trails,

Louise

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Wild Mushroom Family

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The Trail Ahead

 

 

Autumn on the Appalachian Trail — AAH!

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The heat of summer relented in September and I had a brilliant idea. (I’m full of ideas, but this one had some oomph.) Out of the blue, I was inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail in Virginia–in short pieces, of course. I am no through-hiker, except in my dreams. The first goal is to hike the Central Section of Shenandoah Park. It is the most hiker-friendly section with many access points and support services along Skyline Drive.

I was proud to complete the 4+ miles from South River Falls Picnic Grounds to Swift Run Gap in two hours. The first mile was @#!%, but after that everything seemed to find a rhythm. Even Bill Bryson would be pleased, I’m sure. (He is author of A Walk in the Woods, in case you didn’t know.) The thin ribbon of a trail was beautiful. The trees were so interesting. Ankle-high wildflowers nodded as I walked by. Lichen was fascinating, as well as the rocks. My post-hike elation lasted for days. I said things like, “Hiking the trail makes the rest of life possible!” “I need to be out in nature!” “The energy up there is something else!” “I have found my way. I need to be on the trail!”

One senior, solo backpacker happened by. I asked her how many nights she had been out. With the biggest smile possible on her little weathered face, she said, “Three of the rainiest nights I have ever known.” Nothing as miserable as rain was going to spoil her delight! I surmised her age to be roughly 65 and thought if she can do that, then I can do this dry, daylight walk. Such an inspiration she was!

The AT speaks to physical conditioning, emotional well-being, freedom, and loss of fear. More on these topics as my hikes continue. For now, enjoy the photos below from several outings.

Happy Trails!

Louise

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Resting under a hemlock at Baldface Mt.

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The Appalachian Trail

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Rainbow across the Valley from Blackrock

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Rocks soaking up the dappled light

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Sunset from Skyline Drive over Shenandoah Valley

Autumn OM Roam Event

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Come to the OM ROAM at the beautiful and serene Delfosse Vineyard, south of Charlottesville in the heart of Nelson County. Admission is free and open to all. Saturday, November 5, 1:00-5:00 p.m. A dozen vendors will provide healing and holistic health-related services under a large tent. An autumn menu and wines will be available.

Get a spirituality tune-up before winter. I will be selling copies of my card and book set, Rain Makes the Rocks Sing, Inspirations from Nature, and giving Reiki treatments with channeled messages.

See you there!

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Down-to-Earth Dieting

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10 Weight-Loss Tips from a Shaman

The first step in formulating a life-changing plan is to align with the advice of our Spirit Guides. Our own Spirit Guides are the source of the specific guidance that will work for each of us. If you’re not adept at hearing your Spirit Guide’s communications yet, then be aware of signs and symbols and suggestions around you. They will communicate with you in a way you can receive, if you are aware.

To create something new in my life, I realize I need to do something differently. The same old behavior will create the same result. So when making choices and decisions related to diet and exercise, I am overriding impulses that are connected with the past and making choices that connect me to the future.

My Spirit Guides have offered me these 10 tips:

1. Mantra: Joy is in the body. I move with Joy.
Joy is an idea in the mind. It is also an energy that flows through the body. I connect with my inner joy and live from it. Focusing on Joy in the body will create beauty in the body. Joy is naturally dynamic and encourages movement.
2. Mantra: I am Love. I eat Love.
3. I release stress and negativity with every step on the Earth.
4. I wash away the emotional traumas of living with water. I swim, I soak, I wash, I wade, I splash, I float.
5. I sleep at night.
6. I retreat, meditate, or day dream when my body signals a need for replenishment during the day.
7. Whenever ideas about weight come to mind, I respond to these old ideas by creating a positive image, specifically I visualize the numbers on the scale decreasing.
8. Whenever I see my reflection, I accept the image and visualize it shrinking to a comfortable, healthy size and shape.
9. I eat green and eat protein.

10.  I activate my will and intention to live comfortably with ease in a healthy, happy body.