Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gamble everything for Love

Labor Day Weekend 07 in Grayson Highlands

I haven't done too much since being in Virginia other than cook and hang out with my family. It's strange and disorienting. I have hopes to hike s'more before Christmas but right now things are very fluid. I am beginning to feel a little better physically. My camera was sent off for 2-4 weeks to be assessed and hopefully repaired. "I guess you use this a lot" the Best Buy Geek Squad said... "yeah, I smiled sheepishly... I hike a lot... that's my adventure camera." "You got this in May," he continued "the serial number is worn off".
Geronimo has been the best to bum around with, always ready for trips, rest, or ridiculousness I have a strong feeling I won't return to the AT without him.

A song I first heard from a guy who's become one of my closest fellows on this AT adventure; a happy song

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Painfully Beautiful

Where are you? How are you doing? folks ask me. Generally I like to give people the report they want to hear; I'm happy. I love it here. Weather's great. Company amazing. Heart's alive.
The past few weeks since coming to Georgia have unraveled in an unforeseen manner. I unloaded tired in Gainsville GA from the bus and approached Springer thru Amacoloa. Spent the first night alone in the Springer Mtn Shelter. Awoke to rain, fog, cold, hiked 13ish miles anyway. Since then, honestly, things have been rough.
Anxious/ excited/ confident I went to GA looking to hike strong, fast, happy. By the third morning I was throwing up with a cold and jaded about a sketchy run in with an armed local. I hiked on.
There is an indescribable, ego, culture, occasional confinement that the AT conjures. Mostly it is strength; the desire and drive to try harder when all is lost, the passion to dig deeper when your body aches, the miles are long, nights are cold, smiles sparse, and the echoes of your absent friends whisper in your soul wakeful hours. There is strength in the hardship you know you've come thru, and a courage rising out of the mountains and heavens around you, urging you to move another step, journey on.
That being said, there comes a time, for me anyway, all the strength, grandeur, beauty of the trail is not enough. After many slow long days of being humbled between Springer and Fontana Dam I have retreated to Virginia for some rest and refocusing. I do not plan to "quit" the trail. I do not necessarily plan to continue in the "traditional" form (aka a straight line north Fontana-Daleville). I am not in a place right now to plan period.
I have decided I want to walk Southern Appalachia with my heart. The remaining quarter of the trail I have not traversed I have been saving for years, months, to experience, enjoy, in an all encompassing wholesome way.
I can't do that when I'm sick, so I hope to return to the TC (trail corridor) when I am not sick. I'm also hoping to walk many of those miles with friends who can do a week here and there and possibly Mr.Geronimo himself =)
How am I? Beat up and searching. Where am I? Somewhere safe and warm I want to be. How's the south? Painfully Beautiful.
Despite the nights being 20-30 degrees and days windy and sunny most of the leaves thru the mountains are still green, save an overall tawnyness of a draught-ridden summer (yellows and browns). The light is lovely; a rich, gold-pink saturation of the landscape. I spent a night last week on a bald mountain top Cherokees went to to talk their gods. There were meteor showers, face melting sunset and sunrise, wind, light, fierce frigid beauty.
I have not been totally alone. I have met many groups of men hiking together who know one another from church. I even had the opportunity to participate in campfire bible study one of my first nights in NC; an enriching, comfortable, inspiring experience (some of the first christian camaraderie I've had since moving out of Allendale in April).
So I decided after a day of river walking and mentally wrestling I would meet my Dad in a few days with the intention of putting myself back together before figuring out how the journey goes from here. The day I met him, to top it all off, my camera quit working. I felt like Artex was sinking in the swamp of sadness, NES style. Pretty much on the brink of complete breakdown my dad and I weaved our way back north thru Tennessee country roads.
So that's what's up. Thanks for your love, understanding and support. I'll let ya know what's next when I know, for now however... I'm reaching a peace of existence.

Two more thoughts:
On my shakedown hike in the Dolly Sods with Carrie & Big Al I stumbled upon this verse
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

A lonely sad uncomfortable night between the NOC and Fontana I stumbled upon this verse
"Thus says the Lord: 'The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built..." Jeremiah 31:2-4

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rivers Run Thru it

Shifting my entire mind, heart, journey these past days. I've made it to the Natahala Outdoor Center on the beautiful Natahala River in North Carolina. It has been hard times hiking, pill popping, crawling into my sleeping bag to escape the cold and dark. It is beautiful, it is hard, it is - a driving force to soul search and dig for strength. I'm rethinking my reasons for each step, I'm trying to shake the confines of "the appalchian trail culture" and make this walk, these views, these moments, MINE. So I might be doing some weird stuff the next couple months. Am I sick of the AT? never. I'm only sick of feeling sick and tired. Thanks for your continued love, support, and understanding. Know that all of you are never far from my thoughts, heart, and prayers, especially in these hard times. I love you. As always - I'll keep you posted =)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Southern Comfort

Still in Hiawassee, still sick physically but doing alright overall. In all my philosphy and rambling I forgot to tell you guys a few things. The men who run the Hiawassee Inn make me cinnamon toast and hot chocolate. My first evening in town I dined with 2 other hikers at a family steakhouse... the buffet was chicken pot pie, collard greens, mashed potates, rolls, cornbread, pinto beans, beets, fried chicken, salad, apple cobbler, cheesecake. The waitress was prompt on refilling our pink lemonade, iced tea, and DrPepper. I started looking around the room- wooden craft signs saying "the power of prayer" "god bless you" and other Jesus paraphanalia hung on the walls. Around 7pm the room of mostly senior citizens cleared out, I followed a strange murmer of music to the bathroom. The entire foyer was decorated with collector's plates, paintings, of Gone witht he Wind- even a life size cardboard replica of Scarlett O Hara. The music- an everyone's welcome evening gospel bluegrass session. =) I started noticing this town more after that. Nearly everyone tells me "God Bless you". It is written on the side of car mechanic garages and beauty salons. The baptist church is perhaps the biggest building in town, after Ingles and the hospital. It is sunny and brilliant with chilly nights. Even though I'm sick and in a hotel, it's nice to feel... southern again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You Gotsta What You Gotsta

Hard to believe I've been living AT life for 152 days now. Sometimes as I hike I do calculations.... how many days in a year... how long have I been doing ths... how many more miles to 220... how many days... how many miles each day. Um. I'm an artist- generally... I don't do math. Sigh. Just another thing life on the AT has made me adapt to.
I was pretty amped to get to Georgia. My summit of Katahdin proved to be nothing less than epic. Hot Cheese, Birdbath and I ended up hiking 21 miles that day, from 6am to 1am, I was on the summit of Baxter at 6pm, we descended the 5 miles back to Katahdin Stream Campground in complete darkness, in the rain, with only each other and our headlamps for comfort. It was exhausting, beautiful, it was other-wordly.
My travels after that turned to a whirlwind. Their friends got us to Millinocket, then the Bangor ME bus station. I switched between the stations on my bus seat armrest bob dylan, damien rice, will ferrell movie. The scenery melded from blazing foilage and rain to the metallic tungsten glow of Boston. We poured out of the bus into the subway station. Classical guitar amped twanged thru the tunnels... passengers buried their noses from stinky hikers... Hot Cheese and I laughed till we cried.
After a lovely visit and delicious Indian food I was flying Boston->Atlanta->Richmond. Ben and Dad picked me up and with a great sigh of relief and comfort there I was, back in my beautiful Virginia. Virginia was mostly the same. Still green, busy traffic around RIC, tasty Olive Garden.
The next week I tried to squeeze as much friend/ family catch up time into my trail chores of getting ready for the south. It was restful, ridiculous and busy all at the same time. I went out for drinks, played frisbee with the dogs, was reunited with Martin, worked demo day at ODT and ofter various madness.
Before I knew it I was kicking around downtown Roanoke with Sarah feeling a lot like Angie waiting for a Greyhound. After many hours and stops in Wytheville, Johnson City, and Atlanta I met Josh form the Hiker Hostel at the Gainsville bus station.
Despite some pouting I went to Amacolola State Park and hiked the 9ish miles on the approach trail to Springer Mtn summit... and then... there I was. Alone on the southern terminus a little more than a week after being on Special K.
It rained all the next day. I walked anyway, cruising the beautiful Georgian trail. I have walked every day until today. It was cloudy and windy until yesterday afternoon.
Georgia, like the rest of the trail, is not unfolding like I would've imagined. My left foot is bothering me and my medically attuned friends think I may be developing tendinitis. A lot of the hostels buddies have recommended I stay at are closed for the season until the spring rush of thru hikers. My third morning out I woke up feeling terrible, with a cold, and throwing up. After debating and wondering about my health and the foot, I thought... I'll be damned if I don't get out of Georgia... slowly but surely I will... if Low can hike with Lyme's Disease and Bones can puke all over the Presidential range I can hike Georgia right now. So- I did. A lot of days, miles, thoughts, feelings later I'm here in Hiawassee, the last town in Georgia, 9 trail miles from NC. I am taking a day off.
The sickness is probably just a cold but hiking all day and sleeping outside isn't helping so I'm holed up in a Motel for a second night. It's sunny and beautiful, but I'm wrapping my head around the fact that if I'm not well I will start to break down, and now, just as much as ever, I am committed to continuing this journey, on foot, to Daleville.
It's a hard part of the AT Journey; balancing between mental prowess and physical breakdown. I have dug deep the past few days to sift thru my last three weeks- what a whirlwind: Maine wilderness, snackpackers, Special K summits, cities, mass transit, friends, family, beautiful VA, hiking again- a flip that has been a little harder than I anticipated. Before I left Virginia I was sure to do a few things; love Geronimo, wash my sleeping bag and pack, fix up my MP3 player Carrie helped me out with, and watch the Neverending story. Those have proved to be strengthening in hard times.
I think a lot about my life, my heart, my physical place while the past 152 days. A few things dawned on me.
1. Reaching Daleville is not just a completion of this journey, it is likely my last hoorah in the Eastern Time zone for awhile. Now that I am back in the south that is more sad and bittersweet than I thought it would be while dreaming of Western Montana the past few months hiking in New England
2. Sometimes I consider this trip in terms of what my heart has gone through. While in Monson Maine Burass, Powder River and I watched Charlie's Angels. Kinda silly and a stray from the usual socially active. conscience movies I watch... but there was a line I've been thinking a lot about. Charlie or that other guy tell the girls a heart is a muscle... and just like the rest of their muscles if they want to be strong and smart and able to endure things they must exercise, and sometimes that hurts for awhile, and sometimes it doesn't seem to be worth it, but if they keep at the work out- it will get strong. Well- let's just say this heart of mine goes thru a lot. Aside from the male mumbo jumbo I realized rolling through dusk south on 81 over the New River, Wytheville, Emory, into Tennessee- this journey is a love story. Not about a girl and a boy, not about a woman and a man, not about two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl (although that's all there too) nope, this is a love story about me and Virginia. Virginia always being there, always waiting, always beautiful welcoming strengthening. Stirs my soul. I love Virginia.
So... after a day of rest I plan to walk on... though the weather be fowl and hakken Kraks crowl... because Atrayu from the NES wouldn't give up... and Virginia is just a little further north.

Oh yeah- and a thought on the ever present question EVERYONE asks me-
To wonder. To breathe. To move.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Midnight train to Georgia =)

Okay, so I'm not actually taking a train, and it won't be at midnight... but I am officially headed to Georgia Monday afternoon and should be hiking agin by Tuesday morning. SWEET. As always, I'll keep you posted. For now I've accomplished my tasks around VA and have been taking it easy in the Virginia fall breeze catching up with friends and family. God bless the southland =D