August 22, 2017
My Eclipse story. We decided at 6 pm on Sunday to go for a location in the path of totality rather than stay in the Mt Rogers area for a 90% eclipse. I resisted traveling, wanting to avoid the trouble and shame of contributing to traffic. We made all sorts of bargains about what would make us abandon the plan. We packed for the worst case scenario of being stuck for two days by loading up with 6 gallons of water and our whole box of backpacking food, five or six days worth! We can sleep in the van.
Originally aiming for someplace west of Knoxville, TN, we realized instead that we could choose exciting spots on the Appalachian or Benton MacKaye Trails by going southwest via Asheville, NC.
We chose Wayah Bald, NC. It’s on the Appalachian Trail about 230 miles away. There was no traffic! We arrived there at midnight and maneuvered our van into one rare spot available on the top of the mountain.
Monday morning, I was impressed with the quietness and focus of the hundreds of people there. After a short walk on the AT, in the morning, we positioned ourselves to watch. A thoughtful, generous man gave us viewing glasses. Clouds teased us with intermittent blockage, helping us keep cool, until a couple of minutes before totality, when the sky cleared and stayed clear ’til the end of eclipse.
I felt a bond with all the people as the crowd dispersed – slowly! We took another walk on the trail, talking with people and stopping often to watch the waning of the eclipse until the very last passing of the tiny black thumprint.
We left the mountain at 4pm, arriving back in Sugar Grove, VA at 1am. We did encounter traffic, but didn’t mind it terribly because it was for the sake of that grand experience. Trying to avoid the bottleneck at Dillsboro, NC, we headed west to Cherokee, TN, and through Great Smokey Mountain National Park. That was a bonus, as it put us in touch with that beautiful drive – and another favorite long trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail, at Smokemont.
I remain happy for our choice and blessed by the experience! What stands out most was the flood of emotion I felt when the first sliver of light returned and the sky was lit by an eery, dim light.
While preparing for the eclipse I was considering it’s metaphorical considerations, believing that I would see meaning for life in the event. I was surprised to notice, however, that the pure physical observation and it’s scientifically factual occurrence captivated and satisfied my mind – and my heart! I thought, “That’s the sun with the moon’s shadow going over it! It’s not an omen or a metaphorical ending or beginning. It’s a rare celestial event and I’m so grateful I can watch it!”
August 9, 2017
Today, I walked from Dickey Gap to Fox Creek, 8 miles. The weather was utterly pleasant and I saw just one family group of five hikers. During the last 3 miles of the forest walk, I started taking photos of some of the fascinating specimens that caught my eye. There was an endless supply! Here are a few:
See the whole album at this link:
Notice and Wonder
August 3, 2017
My Ridgerunning walk this week focused on what’s called the High Country of the Mt Rogers Recreation Area in Virginia. My first night out on Thursday, I camped at a spot I’ve had my eye on while I walked through there other weeks. It’s on Stone Mountain, just south of “The Scales”, an open, grassy field where cattle ranchers would weigh and sell their cattle before driving them down the mountain. The story goes that they realized that the cattle weighed more before they made the descent to town! Now, The Scales is a favorite car camping spot. I prefer to walk a mile south on the Appalachian Trail, up Stone Mountain, to camp. There, the grassy, and bushy bald stretches for a mile with expansive views. The low vegetation is broken by groups of short trees, bonsai-like stands of beech trees, just 5″ in diameter and fifteen feet tall. They create inviting rooms of shade, where the wild ponies can cool off. I walked away from the trail a couple hundred yards and set up my tarp under a sprawling oak tree in a patch of grass. In the morning, the view across The Scales and the valley below inspired me to take time to do a quick watercolor sketch of the distant Wilburn Ridge, where the trail would wind its way south.
One of the programs I do during my winters at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is called Notice and Wonder. It’s based on the three prompts that naturalist, John Muir Laws teaches. He encourages teachers to take their students outside and practice journaling in Nature, making notes and drawings of what they notice, what they wonder, and what their object reminds them of. This past winter, I used my weekly program to motivate my own regular journaling. On Friday morning, this week, that Wilburn Ridge scene caught my attention for a session of Notice and Wonder! Here’s what I came up with:
Notice and Wonder is not so much about making a beautiful picture but about spending time with a scene to integrate the shapes, colors, and details of something I observe in Nature! I noticed that the coniferous trees stood out individually on the skyline. I noticed the various shades of green. I noticed the unique and specific shape of the ridgeline. Recording it would help me remember and internalize the shape of that mountain! I wondered if I would be able to recognize each of the points I observed when I walked there later that day.
Paying attention to the mountain in that way did, indeed, make it become a more deeply experienced and memorable relationship! Now, in my mind’s eye, I can see the Wilburn Ridge, even after I’ve left it!
August 5, 2017
Today, I joined the volunteer trail crew from the Mt Rogers Appalachian Trail Club to build a fence. Stephen, from the Forest Service, the partner agency for this section, had brought the needed supplies and tools up in a truck. In three hours our crew of nine, with no boss, just cooperation – and luck – tore down the dilapidated fence and replaced it with a new wooden fence and metal gate. I had a fun and satisfying time of volunteerism and cooperation. That’s how the Appalachian Trail works!
Resonance on the Trail
August 7, 2017
On Monday, my last day of the week on trail left me a few hours to walk alone – in the rain! I reveled in the beauty of the trail and let my thoughts drift to imagining a fully developed and full-time Forgiveness Walks fantasy.
The business is thriving, with a team of assistants to help with online marketing, program implementation, and logistics. Women come regularly for custom coaching throughout the year, and on-trail programs, including a walk of the Appalachian Trail, uniquely focusing on creating fulfilling walks for each client. What’s unique and wonderful about Forgiveness Walks is that our focus on fulfillment in deference to accomplishment provides the creative space for each woman to delve deeply into her own heart’s singing. This listening shapes her relationship with Nature, the Appalachian Trail, and whatever venue provides the best canvas for her personal creation.
I walked for a couple of hours in this revery, reaching Old Orchard Shelter just as the rain let loose in perfect time to take a break in the dry shelter. Two women were there as well. One greeted me with “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” And she was serious!
Over the next hour the three of us chatted, getting to know each other – easily like hikers do! Amy’s story resonated with mine as soul sisters choosing fulfillment over expectation, letting go of unfulfilling relationships during the course of our thru-hikes. April, too, has divorced and teaches young children to recognize, acknowledge, and move through their feelings. These women understand Forgiveness Walks! Amy, too, knows her walking and breathing rhythm that makes climbing mountains easy! April talks about giving children space to “have their feelings” without rancor, special attention, or admonition.
The rain abates, we exchange contacts, and I walk on to my car parked a mile and a half away, my week’s walk complete. Affirmation that Forgiveness Walks resonates in the world lightens my steps. Its timing is guided by the Universe, allowing me to hold it gently with trust in its unfolding.
Solo Time Wanes
August 8, 2017
Next week marks my last solo week at the Ridgerunning job. John, having completed his project of climbing four state high points out west, bagging him all 48 of the lower-48 state high points, is on his way back. The ones he did between July 11 and August 7 were Mt. Hood in Oregon, Ganett Peak in Wyoming, Mt. Rainier in Washington, and Granite Peak in Montana. It was a major accomplishment and scheduling surprise for him to get to do all four of them during the month! I am very excited for him, knowing that he really wanted to complete this project. I have mixed feelings about getting back together, though! I’ve realized over the past year, now that we’re actually living together and not just hiking, that I tend to discount my personal preferences, defer my passions, and take a back seat to his choices when we are together. Being solo this month gave me unfettered opportunity and space to pay attention to my own choices without interference from someone else. For the month, anyway, I really enjoyed it!
I noticed that I’ve been making up a S.T.O.R.Y. (my acronym from Radical Forgiveness for a Sustained Tale of Repressed Yearning) about my assumptions about how my relationship with John has to be! What’s really bothering me is that I see some of the same characteristics that I developed in my marriage with John Reiter! First of all, this makes me see clearly that I am the one who is creating this as my reality, so I’m the one who needs to change it. In fact, what I now know about relationships is that none of this has much to do with him. The troubles originate with me! That means that it’s my responsibility and my opportunity to choose a different way of being! But what options do I have???
Satori Means Awakening
That’s the quandary that woke me up this morning! I decided to start my day off with a game of Satori, the Radical Forgiveness board game, to give me new vocabulary and ideas to address that question. As always, the game was a perfect fit for the story I was acting out!
Before I drew any of the cards to start the game, I wrote out the S.T.O.R.Y. that I was bringing to this game. Here are the basics:
My story is that I fear John’s return. I have thoroughly enjoyed my solo time, being at Konnarock Trail Camp and on the trail solo. I have enjoyed doing my choices of activities – resting, watching the political scene, writing posts, working on forgivenesswalks, playing Satori. I believe that when John is with me I must choose to do those things solo or drop my interests and do his choices. So, then I wonder what partnering provides except an inconvenient unpleasant choice! What do we have to do together that outweighs or includes my personal choices? Can I have both? Can I feel ok with separate interests? I assume that partnering means relinquishing my interests and choosing his. Is there another way?
Here’s what the game brought!
First, the Event card I picked read Someone betrayed you big time.
“How perfect for the story I was telling!” I thought.
Second, the Context card I picked read: Career!
“Perfect, again! I want to choose my career with my partner!” I laughed.
The game unfolded, as usual, with cards and moves that helped give language and possibilities to a different view of the situation that I could choose if I wanted. Here are the cards I picked as I moved my piece through the transformational spiral:
- I am invisible and hardly ever noticed.
- I am not worthy of money.
- I just don’t look good.
- I simply cannot trust myself.
These beliefs certainly fed my S.T.O.R.Y. Then, the turns took me to the New Story gateway.
My New Stories:
- I have everything I want now. I am a powerful manifester.
- I am the luckiest person alive. I am so grateful.
I could certainly see, as I reached Satori, the place of Awakening to a New Story, that there could be other ways of seeing my situation. I affirmed in the Gateway to Surrender that I have released my attachment to my Old Story and I refuse to put any more energy into it. The game helped me get words for new possibilities that I can focus on if I choose!
Click on this link for my album of photos from my week in the Mt Rogers, VA High Country from August 3 – 7, 2017:
July 28, 2017
Rain pelted down outside Thomas Knob Shelter, high on the ridge near Mt. Rogers, VA. Redhat, my companion for the week, and I sat happy and dry in the shelter at one o’clock in the afternoon!
That’s pretty early in the day to settle in camp, but the continuing rain, predicted to persist until 11 p.m., made the dry shelter quite attractive!
We stayed. Redhat had changed into her dry clothes. Long johns and a shirt, plus a “puffy jacket” comprised her carefully stashed dry wardrobe. She also had a pair of dry socks. Everything she had worn for our five-mile walk in the rain was wet. She hung it out on various nails and hooks around the shelter, reveling in our luxury of space being the only ones there.
“It’s all wet” she lamented. “This rain jacket did no good! I’m soaked through!”
I, by contrast, simply pulled off my wet socks. Everything else was dry or just damp. I hung up my damp shirt, and pulled on my one warm layer, a thermal shirt plus a fleece hat. Even in summer, covering my head with a warm hat is crucial for retaining body heat. Although I was disappointed in NOT having a second layer of insulation, like the lightweight wool sweater I often pack, I was warm enough. My choice to leave behind my extra socks proved to be a discomfort as well, but again, I was in no danger. My rain gear had worked!
Through the afternoon, ten other hikers arrived in pairs, peeling off wet shirts, jackets, shorts, and socks. None had stayed dry in the rain, I noticed. What had I done differently that provided me a basically dry rain walk?
Here’s what had worked for me that day. Now, I’m not smuggly saying that I would never have an issue with getting wet, just that my rain gear worked in today’s conditions!
The gear I had chosen for today’s rain were basically two items: a cheap umbrella and a silnylon rain skirt. The umbrella kept my top ventilated and mostly dry. The rain skirt covered my shorts and kept them dry. If the wind had picked up, the umbrella would have been useless, so I was lucky there.
I did have both a rain jacket and a poncho packed along, but was able to keep them in reserve for those possible windy conditions. Not wearing the rain jacket allowed my torso to dissipate the sweat that can get trapped by a rain jacket – even a breathable one. Since my rain jacket stayed dry, I had it available to provide warmth in lieu of that missing sweater.
I will consider bringing along those extra items next time. It’s a tough choice for summer hiking, when I can most easily pack light, but this experience nudges me to pack for extremes like this. I’ll check the forecast for my next 5-day walk and consider packing the extra socks, sweater, leggings, and maybe, just maybe, my 8oz “puffy jacket.”
This time I had rain gear success -with no margin for extremes!
August 2, 2017
I got up early this morning eager to meet Janet for a Satori game. It’s quiet, unbusy, and energetically unfettered at this time of day at the Konnarock Basecamp.
My blue puffy jacket keeps the slight chill away from my body. Ginger tea wakes up my belly. Ready.
“I need to pass on the game,” she greets me. “I just need to sit quietly. I hope that’s ok.”
“No.” I respond frankly, then move on quietly into the community kitchen. Inside I fume, “Of course I get stood up! Most people are afraid to get real! She’s just afraid to be with her own life. Afraid to move through her story! And just yesterday she told me how she feels lighter from playing last week. Dang!”
Uh. Hold on here, Regina. Could there be something here for me? Ten years into Radical Forgiveness could open space for me, perhaps. Yes. It does. Guess what? I have this chance to use the tools myself.
The words I’ve been learning and practicing with other courageous souls flood my mind.
Real. Real. I wanna be real. I play Karen Taylor Good’s song by that name.
Janet is my healing angel.
This is happening for me and not to me.
I can play Satori solo! Plenty of my own stories to shift.
And, as always, the cards and moves I picked were perfect! Pretty much reflecting what I said above.
Finishing off my game with Karen Taylor Good’s Perfect Work of Art.
“My block of stone is made of fear and doubt, but the real me is crying to come out.”
Thanks, Janet, for motivating me to get up early today and play Satori! It was perfect for me!
July 26, 2017
Raise your hand if you have stuff in a storage unit! Today, I get to celebrate that my rented storage space is empty!
I admit, I can’t claim complete victory over storage because my stuff has actually just been relocated to storage in my son’s new residence in Ohio, but this is a step. He is using some of the household items that were stored.
I enjoyed poring through one of the boxes that was filled with artwork and writings from my sons’ youth. I got to feel a range of emotions as I fingered each piece and stirred memories of their making.
And now my physical presence in Buena Vista, Virginia, is gone. I’ll always feel connected with this small town on the Appalachian Trail because it was my home for the six summers I worked here as AT ridgerunner. When I sold my house after my divorce in 2013, this was the place that made most sense to store the stuff I couldn’t part with.
Today, I close the door on the empty Unit #71 with gratitude that it safely contained my precious things for four years. Thanks to my son, Simon, for offering me space in his home!
July 25, 2017
Is “connection” something that comes to us or something we choose to acknowledge? When the woman walking with me this week said, “I know I’m connected to God, but I just don’t feel it! Maybe when I feel that connection, I’ll feel more confident out here.”
As I walked through the magnificent forest, then out into an open field, I pondered her quandary. “What if we are connected, no matter what, and at any moment we can say, ‘this is what being connected feels like at this moment?'” I wondered out loud. I invited her to walk for the next twenty minutes reflecting on the notion that being connected is constant and foundational. Simply noticing how that feels is the feeling of connection at that moment. I believe that we can choose to ignore, deny, or deepen that connection whenever we want.
Having said that, I realized that there are many specific connections I can feel while walking the trail. There’s connection to the Earth and the support of the ground. There’s connection to the air, with it’s wind, weather, heat and cold. There’s connection to plants, reflecting on the various qualities of growth that resonate with my emotional, spiritual, and physical growth and metabolism. There’s connection with other people, how our journeys cross, coincide, compare, contrast, or not. The list could be quite long, and a long walk allows for leisurely reflection on the idea of connection.
This quandary was one of many that Diana brought to me as we walked our 26 miles together. Here are a few others:
Pacing, I realized, while coaching her with my Meet the Mountains Technique to easily ascend each mountain, is not only a helpful skill and practice, it’s essential for a joyful walk of a long trail. Discovering our own body’s rhythm of breathing and stepping that supports us to walk up any slope tirelessly, I’m convinced is the foremost skill to master before considering walking any appreciable distance on the Appalachian Trail.
Unless one has an acceptance and ease with climbing, and descending, mountains, a walk of the AT would be grueling every day! By contrast, developing from within a physical rhythm, just like perfect timing in an engine, that we can sustain throughout the day regardless of the terrain, makes going up mountains, walking on level ground, or descending mountains a joy. If we’re not struggling for breath, burdened by a heavy pack, or straining our muscles every time the trail ascends, we can pay attention to our surroundings!
Gear. Diana also helped me appreciate the value of scrutinizing every single piece of gear, choosing the smallest, lightest, and fewest versions of items I carry with me! I know that I started where she was when she came with me this week, following the advice of an outfitter salesperson and investing the smallest amount of cash possible. I remember my first backpack trip when I thought I needed a roll of masking tape. I have no idea why. I just remember being glad that we had mistakenly taken a longer way to our first campsite, happily discovering that we were close enough to our car to dump a bunch of unnecessary items, including the tape, the next morning!
That’s why I was glad that I had planned her first night out to be a single one, with a night off the trail before we went out for another night. That gave her the chance to reevaluate choices, leave a few things behind and find smaller bottles for toiletries. She helped me remember that it took me many short trips to pare down, try different things, replace heavy things with lighter ones, and sew some of my own gear to settle on the reliable and repeatable pack of gear that I now carry, fifteen years and 10,000+ miles later. I still don’t know that I would have invested early on in the best quality, lightest weight gear that I carry now! It makes a big difference in my enjoyment, though!
Thanks, Diana, for walking with me to remind me of what it’s like to be a new hiker. I was there once, too! Keep walking, and learning, and adjusting! Stay aware of connections – and come back again soon!
July 19, 2017
I haven’t shared a post with you in a while – since the end of my Appalachian Trail walk last year! Indeed, my journey of fulfillment walking in service has definitely continued. I just haven’t shared about it!
I’ll jump right ahead to what’s happening now! I have resumed my job as an Appalachian Trail ridgerunner. As I say to hikers when I meet them on the trail, “Hi, I’m Regina and I’m the Ridgerunner. My job is to talk with hikers – encouraging stewardship of the trail and answering questions about the trail.”
This season, I am covering the Mt. Rogers, VA section of the trail. It’s a very scenic area with broad, expansive balds, wild ponies, deep temperate forests, and a couple of wilderness areas. I like it! I have a unique arrangement for the job, too. Neither I nor my partner, John, wanted to do the job for the entire 20-week season, so we requested to take turns. The boss agreed, and John started out the season with ten weeks on the trail while I finished up my season at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern CA and then visited my two adorable grandsons in Atlanta, GA and Charleston, SC. Now, John is off in the western mountains, fulfilling his project of summiting all 50 state high points. He’s accomplished his goal of doing two of the last four remaining on his list – Mt. Hood in Oregon and Gannett Peak in Wyoming. Talk about a happy hiker! He’s it!
Meanwhile, I have been enjoying walking and working solo! The woods is beautiful and my body feels strong! This week, I’m welcoming an assistant who can help me by bringing a second car so we can set a shuttle and walk a continuous section of the portion of the trail that I patrol. Diana is a woman who has been putting off her first backpack trip for fear of hiking alone. Joining me sounds like a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Here are a few pictures of my area! I’ll send out an update every week and hopefully say something that inspires you to step toward your own fulfillment – whatever that is!
Day One, 63 Days of Gratitude
July 14, 2017
My birthday yesterday reminded me of my blessings, so many blessings for my 63 years on Earth that I can write one, at least one, every day for all my years so far!
My first is gratitude that I have lived long enough to raise my three children to have their own children! Those two boys are the best! They bring the best out in their parents, too! I am grateful to have the vitality to be here to watch them, to visit them, and to receive their greetings!