Completion!

September 4, 2016, 1:00 p.m.

Tadah! John and I reached our goal of Killington Peak, Vermont, the point that marks where we have walked all of the Appalachian Trail at least twice!

When I set out to do a thruhike of the AT in 2007, my aim was to start in Maine and at least make it to Catawba, VA where I had left off walking the trail in sections with my then husband. I wanted to be able to say, “I’ve walked the whole trail” in one quick sentence.

I reached that milestone in November, 2007. That day, when I reached that nondescript road crossing, I burst into tears. “I’ve walked the Appalachian Trail!”

Then, I kept walking, 693 more miles to Springer Mountain, Georgia, completing a “thruhike”, walking the whole trail in one year.

My original plan was to finish the trail to “get it out of my system” and get on with my next career. I was 53. My husband thought I would do that too. He said something about that a week or so after I got home. To appease him, I dramatically stuffed my beloved thruhiking gear into a big box and stashed it in the attic. “There! My hiking persona is put aside!”

The next day, he excitedly invited me to meet him near his office in downtown Atlanta for lunch. We sat at Olympic Plaza, he expounding on the beauty of the place and the glories of being outdoors. I gaped, stunned by the noise, the garish scenery, the puny trees. “This is my fate as a former thruhiker! Nooo! I can’t do it!” 
And I didn’t.

I did keep hiking. I had realized that I did not get hiking out of my system, but that hiking IS my system.

There are eight years of walks between that day and today, many other trails, and even six summer seasons of paid employment on the AT. 

Today’s fulfillment signifies another milestone in claiming hiking as my system. I am brimming with gratitude for the privelege of getting to choose walking this amazing path, both its physical aspects and its spiritual ones.

There’s a lot more to say, and to reflect upon, which I’ll do in the upcoming months. For now, I’ll bed down for another night out, then open a new chapter.

Thanks for reading, affirming, and cheering me on. I’d love to hear of YOUR own life’s discoveries, milestones. What’s your “system” that you had thought you would outgrow yet found out is fundamental to your authentic expression?

Reply by email to

regina@forgivenesswalks.com

The comments function isn’t working right now, and I can’t fix it on the trail.

In joy,

Regina

Stay or Go?

July 1, 2016
We easily walked from last night’s camp to Eckville Shelter, arriving at about 2 p.m. The trail today was scenic with views from Pulpit Rock and The Pinnacle, winding from Blue Mountain to Eckville Rd on a smooth, old dirt road. Not so many rocks at all!

Eckville Shelter is a remodeled garage behind a big farmhouse next to the road to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, where hawks gather in great numbers during spring and fall migration.

The shelter features a caretaker who lives in the house, a solar shower (cold today!), a charging strip for electronics, and six bunks.

We enjoyed our semi-private visit, with just one other hiker, until others started walking in around 3:30 or so. We started to consider our options.

There really wasn’t much  advantage in staying for the night. Six bunks would mean that many of the dozen hikers would be camping in the grassy lot across the street. There was no laundry, minimal cell signal, no wifi connection, no access to extra food, which meant we would be depleting our trail food without making progress to our next resupply.  In addition, the growing number of hikers meant no privacy either.

This time, the choice to cook our dinner on the huge picnic table complete with conrete slab stove pads, allowing a full three hours of phone charging time before walking out for a couple more hours of walking, was easy!

Our three hours provided rest, a cold shower, dinner, and some good conversations with other hikers. The guest caretaker surprised us with his delight that he could meet the renowned Mssnglnk of Pacific Crest Trail fame.

That was my trail name in 2008 when I walked the PCT, the same year a hiker named Jester walked as well, making a movie of his trek in a group called The Wizards. John and I walked at a pace that loosely coincided with the Wizards. I showed up in the movie a couple of times, and we shared a PCT finish photo with Jester and some of the Wizards. The caretaker is a good friend of Jester’s and loves his movie, The Wizards of the PCT. He’s been trying to meet all of the hikers in the movie, and marveled at his good fortune to meet one right here at Eckville Shelter. “You’re my hero, MssngLnk. You’re one of the great ones.”

Flattery was fun for a few moments, but we still packed up and hiked back out to the trail a little after 5:00, climbing back up the ridge toward the night’s camp further north on the trail, Eckville Shelter behind us.

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Pulpit Rock

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The Pinnacle

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Rhododendron Flower just opening!

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Box Turtle on the trail!

In joy,
Regina

Port Clinton

June 30, 2016
A popular hiker hangout in Port Clinton, PA is Frank’s Barber Shop. The barbers are a father-son team who’ve been running the shop for decades – $8 a cut. They had a steady stream of customers for the 2 hours we stayed while sorting our maildrop and charging phone batteries.

“Would you like to cut my hair?” I asked the younger Frank. He looked at me, “No, not really.” I think he just cuts men’s hair. And they just really enjoy having the hikers visit.  They offer everyone coffee and cookies – vanilla amd chocolate  sandwich cremes – and find out our trailnames and where we’re from.

Another local guy, their friend, offers shuttles to nearby Hamburg where the services are.

We got a ride to Hamburg for shopping at Wal-Mart and Cabella’s (because Wal-Mart was out of fuel canisters!) from a guy named “The Regular” who is updating a 1960 Ford Falcon – red. “I have to drive it around to test it, so I may as well be driving someone, otherwise I’d just be by myself.” I gave him some gas money.

At Wal-Mart, I got impatient waiting for John to get out of the bathrrom, so I ducked into the Vision Center. After Kelli had adjusted my glasses, I said, “You can tell everyone that Regina walked 340 miles to have you adjust her glasses!”

Lori, also at the Vision Center, helped by letting me plug my phone and charger into an outlet near a cupboard where the phone was out of sight. We got to talking about the AT, and she said, “That’s something I’d like to do!” You know me, I got pretty excited about that and invited her to contact me.

And then Cricket, at the entrance, noticed our packs and asked us aquestions about the trail too. It’s fun being celebrities just walking the trail and coming in to resupply!

This time, we decided to “get outta Dodge” and return to the trail without spending the night in Hampton or Port Clinton. Our choices were Microtel, the Port Clinton Hotel, or the town pavilion, a huge picnic shelter open to hikers.

Whewee, sometimes it’s a challenge to leave town! There’s a feeling that there’s something there I need, except I don’t know what. Since we’ll be completing our first section of this year’s walk in just one week, I didn’t really need a night in town. Still, there’s a pull. But, this time we ignored that and walked out of town.

Ahh. As soon as I stepped on the trail and started  walking again, I felt at home!  “I have what I need to be here!”

Well, I did forget to buy garlic, which I love chopping up into my hummus and quinoa. I’ll have to get it next time! And, if I change my mind, there are four towns in the next 70 miles!

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Leaving Port Clinton along the Schuykill River.

In joy,
Regina

Rocks Reprise

June 28, 2016
I said I’d keep you posted about the rocks. Yes. There are rocks here in Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail. Ok. Enough said?

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the rocks, both when they are here and when they are not. Rocks on the trail is one of those topics and experiences that can stir many perspectives. Here’s a starting list:

   *Complain about them
   *Muscle through and ignore them
   *Be mindful of them and go inside with what arises
   *Trip and fall on them and get off the trail
   *Study the geology of rocks
   *Notice the artistic qualities of rocks
   *Dance!

What else? How else can I regard the rocks? I figure, THEY’RE not going anywhere, so I may as well accept them and be entertained in some fashion.

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I am really looking forward to the opening of HeartSinging Walk Community where we can discuss deep, shallow, and hard topics like Rocks on the Trail. I hope you’ll be there!!!

In joy,
Regina

Trail Magic

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June 25, 2016
Most hikers mean “Food” when they talk about Trail Magic, the term for happy surprises on the trail.

My favorite Trail Magic is trail maintenance, and extraordinary care like the Duncannon  Appalachian Trail Club folks – and day hikers who happened to be hiking up to Hawk Rock – who were removing graffiti from the rocks. They had teamed up to carry 70 gallons of water one mile up with a 750 ft elevation gain. It was impressive! Volunteers, families, random day hikers, the handful of organizers gathered a crew and spent half the day coating  the paint with a gelatinous acid product, waiting for an hour, then scrubbing with wire brushes.

Food? Give me THIS kind of Trail Magic any day!

In joy,
Regina

Back to the Mountains

June 24, 2016
(Reading in email? Click “read in browser to see pictures!)
Noon. After a night in the Super8 Motel, we walked back to the trail, 1/4 mile away to the pedestrian overpass on US Rt 11, a 1,185-mile long highway from Canada to New Orleans. The AT crosses it down in Daleville, VA as well.

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2 p.m. we took a break at Scott Farm Work Center, where John and I reminisced about our Ridgerunner Training held here in 2010. The path headed north was lined with daylilies!

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3 p.m. the tunnel under PA 944, a good example of a successful partnership project for constructing the AT. PA 944 is a major commuter route, so the engineers did meticulous planning to shut down the road for only a minimal number of hours to build the tunnel.

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4:45 p.m. Our last view of the Cumberland Valley and back at South Mountain from Kittatinny Ridge.

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Surprise! Another couple of miles through the next valley!

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With a natural bouquet of flowers!

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5:00 p.m. Back in the majestic forest and the mountain.

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8 p.m. home sweet home under the tarp before the dark and the thunder roll in.

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8:30 Before tucking in, we took a short walk to the near by “View”. Look! It’s the mighty Susquehanna River, our destination for tomorrow. Our first glimpse!

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A day of scenic walking on the AT in Pennsylvania!

In joy,
Regina

I’m counting down the days to my birthday and start of HeartSinging Walk Community! If you’ve enjoyed reading my trail blog and want to join in the conversation with me and others who walk in Nature for healing, growth, and personal transformation, you may like HeartSingingWalk Community. Read more here:
HeartSingingWalk Community

Read the Guidebook!

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June 13, 2016
I didn’t notice that the guidebook does say that the “lodge, kitchen, office are open from 5-9 p.m.” in the hostel where we had sent our maildrop box. Hmm. It’s noon, and we got on the trail at 6 a.m. to get here for a rest. There is food in that box to eat for rejuvenation – not available til 5?? Not a happy thought. Hmm.

What a perfect interface between Inner and Outer Journeys!! Click on “Read in browser” to see how this disappointment unfolds into a blessing even better than I had imagined!
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The tiny room at the hostel, crammed with 6 bunks, a couch, side chair, and t.v. looked clean. The one hiker already there talked non stop about his walk to another hiker who had arrived with us.

One thing that was available immediately was a bathroom with a great shower, freshly cleaned. Ahhh! Even towels!

I plugged in my phone and extra battery charger. That made two needs met. Soon, the couple managing the hostel pulled up in their grocery-laden car. All five hikers jumped in to help unpack.

To our delight, the manager said, “Come on upstairs and get your ice cream”. The Hiker Special comes with a bunk, shower, laundry, pizza, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I had planned to pass up that special since ice cream and pizza are on my “do not eat” list. We got our box, though. Third need met!

Now, for a good meal and a quiet place to rest. The best rest spot looked to be the shady corner of one of three lawns outside. Each had a campfire ring and chairs. One had afternoon shade. I set up the tarp in the shady spot.

I was imagining a repeat of that delicious and satisfying dinner of fish and vegetables we had enjoyed in our last stop in Front Royal. Here, with no grocery store within a mile, that seemed out of reach. But look! A poster on the board says “Call Road Yachts for a ride to Purcellville” listing Food Lion. Victory! Although it seemed a little extravagant to get a shuttle into town ten miles away for a meal, I thought, “why not get the best, you know, radiantly fulfilling and all?”

Guess what Road Yachts said? I was surprised. “Oh, I don’t do shuttles until after 8 p.m.” Well, dang! That was unreasonable in my book. That dinner dream was fading fast. But, I would NOT give in to pizza and a headache!

Sleep in the shade and the privacy of my tarp was next, well, AFTER studying the guidebook to learn that there were several easy food stops in the next 70 miles. I could eat anything from our maildrop with confidence that we could get plenty of food along the way. Problem solved. Ahhh. Fourth need met.

Two hours later, I wake up with a nudge from John, saying, “Let’s go. Let’s walk on now.” I groggily focus on his words. “That guy who lit the fire right next to our tarp was talking trash in the hostel about you pitching your tent near that campfire ring. I don’t want to stay here. He’s talking up having a campfire tonight, and there are twenty hikers in there! There are two other firerings, but he picked that one, then talked about how stupid you were to put your tent there! I don’t want to be in a disrespectful situation like this.”

I love that man! He sure stands up for me. He’s right that we can choose our community. Half an hour later, we’re on the trail again, all settled up with the manager and satisfied that our basic needs for that stop had been met. Food. Charging. Shower. Some rest.

Now, here’s the surprise blessing! Two miles out, we stop near a spring to cook the special pasta from the maildrop. At the same spot are three women nursing a fire. They welcome us, and John shares some firebuilding tips. We chat during our meals, and I walk away with contact information for a prospective member for HeartSinging Walk Community!

One of those women had invited the others out for her very first walk on the AT! Her dream is to do the whole trail over 10 – 20 years. She loved my idea of having a coach and meeting others with the same dream!

I’m sure there’s a well-worded affirmation that summarizes this blessing. Something like walking away from ill-fitting circumstances and toward my truth. You can help me with that one.

I’m convinced!

And it even got better! At our camp spot for the night, a German woman asked to stay nearby. She pulls out fresh kohlrabi slices that she’s eager to share! Fifth need met – fresh veggies!

And here’s the next funny part. Next morning, who do we see ahead of us? The campfire guy!! “So, you hiked out without staying? Me too! Some other guys and I decided we would just push on!” I never know what will happen on the trail!

In joy,
Regina

If you would like to be in a community that pays attention to the ins and outs of Inner Journeys within Outer Journeys, all the while getting support for creating YOUR radiantly fulfilling walk, check out my HeartSinging Walk Community!

Frustrated to Confident

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June 1, 2016
Today was a transition day from feeling frustrated with the technical challenge of setting up an RSS feed of my blog to my subscribers and Facebook page to feeling confident that it can actually work!  Thanks for reading!
The second accomplishment of the day was to pack our backpacks! I’m happy to say that my pack, with a liter of water and 4 days of food weighs  in at 20 -22 lbs.

Now, before you gape with too much amazement, I will remind you that one of the favorite qualities of my heartsinging walk is that I have a hiking partner who shares gear with me! That means that I don’t have to carry everything I use!!

I’ll try for a gear list:
Pack – Gregory Jade 60 with no “brain”
Sleeping bag – Western Mtneering 30 degree down bag
Thermarest prolite 3
Silnylon poncho/groundcloth
2 qt pot w lid
1 pint lidded bowl
Platypus water bladder (no hose)
1-liter Smartwater bottle
Rainjacket
Thermal shirt
Leightweight polyester Long pants
Extra socks (mitts)
Powershield jacket (insulation/rain)
Fleece hat
Sun hat
Trekking poles
30 ft cord for bearbag hanging

Waistpouch
Phone + 5 extra batteries + charger
Pocket knife (7-tool swiss army with the plastic cover missing)
3 colored pencils, 2 pens
2 small pcs watercolor paper
Small paintbrush
Toothbrush
Dental floss
15 ml peppermint oil
Credit cards, i.d., thumbdrive
Small notebook

John is carrying the shared tarp and net, sleeping bag coupler, canister stove, fuel canister.

I love my gear!

In joy,
Regina

Refreshed

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May 30, 2016
Today, I visited a favorite spot on the Appalachian Trail -Spy Rock, Virginia. It sports a 360 degree view atop a 40′ boulder scramble. I’ve had many a visit here in the past six summers when I worked in this section as a ridgerunner. This time I came as a day-hiker with no mission to educate anyone.

I couldn’t pass up the chance to remove a few firerings to preserve the untrammeled appearance of the place, but that was it.

Beauty, space, and freedom to move – that’s what the place evokes! Let the colors flow the same! All is well!

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In joy,
Regina

Forestland

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May 29, 2016
The green here in Montebello, Virginia, is vast and encompassing! Nonsenses immersion feels truly immersed, if that’s even a word.
Forest life is so incredibly lush and vibrant, water enabling uncountable broad leaves, ferns, mushrooms, and flowers to fill the landscape with a dense curtain of green. 

Vibrance abounds!

In joy,
Regina