High Country Week

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:20170804_075955

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!

Crew Work
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!20170805_131944

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:

Beliefs:

  •  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!


20170808_092535

 

Raingear Success

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!

Empty Space 

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! 

In joy,

Regina 

Connection


Grayson Highlands,VA

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 th.IMG_20170721_123315rough 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!

In joy,

Regina

 

 

 

 

Updates Renewed

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!

 

In joy,

Regina

My Message

Here’s what I said to a woman struggling to lighten her pack. 

“And now, if you’re game for an even deeper exploration, it has helped me immensely to delve into clarifying my purpose for walking. I realized that the trail is a blank canvas on which I paint my own journey, design my own fulfillment. Sure, a popular way to engage with the AT is to backpack long distances. That’s not the only way it can be visited, and, conversely, hiking might not necessarily be the best way to fulfill your dream. It might open up a whole new journey to explore what you’re thinking that hiking the Shenandoah section will provide… ultimately, in my own hiking, I want to create something that makes my heart sing!”

Maps for the Appalachian Trail near Springer Mtn., GA

I received a text message from a friend: “My sister and I want to begin a hike at Springer Mountain in mid-July. Do you have maps we can borrow or recommend the best maps?”

My maps are in storage in Virginia while I work out in California! Besides, once you step on the Appalachian Trail, you’ll fall in love with it and want your own set of maps for fanning the flame of your new passion and recording your memories!  Here are my recommendations

MAPS

Maps are helpful for spatial orientation, road crossings, and for locating nearby towns and highway routes. They can also show topography, shelters, and points of interest along the way.  I also enjoy perusing a good map for bedtime reading! Here are suggestions for maps for the southern section of the Appalachian Trail:

The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps are excellent with detail and scope. A new series since I walked the AT has come out: the Appalachian Trail series (#1501-1513). 13 maps cover the entire trail.  Before this series, it took two maps to cover the trail in Georgia.  If you’re planning to walk trails in Georgia in addition to the AT, including the Benton MacKaye Trail, Brasstown Bald, and Bartram Trail, among others, you might prefer #777 and #778.

#1501 covers the southern 200 miles of the Trail.
http://www.natgeomaps.com/appalachian-trail-springer-mountain-to-davenport-gap-georgia-north-carolina-tennessee

#777 covers Springer Mountain part way through Georgia.
http://www.natgeomaps.com/springer-and-cohutta-mountains-chattahoochee-national-forest

#778 covers the north Georgia section
http://www.natgeomaps.com/brasstown-bald-chattooga-river-chattahoochee-and-sumter-national-forests

GUIDEBOOKS

Guidebooks are good companions for maps because they round out the information on the maps  with data points specific to the trail, distances between landmarks, shelters, and water sources. In addition, current guides also include details about trail towns, post offices, shuttle providers, gear vendors, and even trail profile guides.  Currently, there are two popular guides available. Both are updated annually and have dedicated followers who swear to the accuracy and helpfulness of the guide they chose.

The AT Guide  (“The AWOL Guide”)
http://www.theatguide.com/

Thruhikers Companion and other planning guides from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
http://atctrailstore.org/official-a-t-guide-sets-1/

 

MOBILE PHONE APP

If you prefer a digital guide to the Trail, the Guthook Guide has become quite popular since its first release in 2012.  The app and the demo guide to the Approach Trail are free. In-app purchase of 9 sections gives hikers everything they need to navigate the entire 2,189.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail and 273 miles of Vermont’s Long Trail. Each section costs $8.95, with a bundle price for all the sections.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.highsierraattitude.atcomplete&hl=en

Almost Silent

September 3,2016

It’s so quiet this morning in this Vermont forest! It’s 7:30 a.m. and I’ve heard just one bird – a bluejay making it’s squeaky one note squawk. And I can’t tell if the almost imperceptable constant chirping sound in the background is insects or tinnitus.

Occasionally, tiny tapping sounds indicate the falling of tree detritus on the tarp or branches further away.

And, there! Distant motor of some kind.

It sure is easy to sleep here, but why is it so quiet?

Ride 

August 27, 2016

“Let’s go to Guido’s at Rt. 7. We could get apples, lots of apples, to bring out.”

At Rt 7, we stuck out our thumbs to hitch. Dozens of cars went by with no ride. “On this road, they probably don’t know about the trail.”

We walked a bit, thumbs out. No ride. “Too discouraging. Let’s see if we can get water at that Garden store over there, then get back out on the trail.” That worked! Cindy welcomed us into the workshop and offered fresh water from the water cooler.

Back outside, we tried hitching again, this time right at the ‘Appalachian Trail’ sign. A handful of cars went by. Just about to turn to the trail, I heard a beep, then looked around to see a car pull over to the right side, then turn around. The driver was turning around to pick us up!

He lived across the road and often took hikers to Great Barrington. Yes, he would take us to Guido’s, no problem. “How are you getting back?” he asked. We had planned to hitch a ride. “That might be hard” he said. “I’ll wait for and bring you back. I can go to town later.”

“Anything you want?” I asked. “Oh no, but maybe prime rib or lobster would be good!” he joked.

We shopped lickety split. Apples. Coffee. The sushi caught my eye, so a got a tray of it. Bread. Bread would be good. John found a nice loaf of banana bread. Done.

One more thing. “Please add $5 to this gift card.”

When our trail angel, whose name I never learned, dropped us off at the trailhead, I handed him the card. “This will get you started with that lobster.”

“You didn’t have to do that! ” he said, seeming surprised. “Well, you didn’t have to drive us to Guido’s either, so we’re even! Thanks for your generosity!”

That sushi was amazing!

Trailhead Sushi!