Journey Photos

October 17, 2017

Days in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park begin with radiant sunrises in a huge sky. Mountain vistas, rocky routes, and rare oases delight my senses and exercise my body! Here are a few photos from my first week here at my fun job as Park Interpretive  Specialist.

Today, my ardent fan, a regular Junior Ranger, came in to see if I’m back. He has come to most of the Saturday Junior Ranger sessions for the past three years! Our most common activity has been to head out the door and climb a kid-sized mountain we call “Junior Ranger Mountain”. I count this as one of my best contributions to the Park and to the local community! 

What an honor and a joy to share the desert with a boy who can’t sit still!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/zPlXcigF4Dz1upQl1

In joy,

Regina

Majesty Transforming

August 24, 2017

What caught my eye on my walk this week through the Grayson Highlands, VA in the Mount Rogers Reccreation Area were decomposing tree trunks. I first noticed one on my ascent up Balsam Mountain, the actual mountain one climbs to reach Mt Rogers, the high point of Virginia. I took a photo of an array of wood planks that reminded me of a hand of cards, spread out on a table.

As I walked, many more trunks stood out, each with a story to tell of a once majestic tree melting into the soil. Their patterns, colors, and shapes were mesmerizing.  The closer I looked, the more intricacies I saw. Soon, I had a collection of photos, which, of course, only suggest the complicated, delicate, yet rugged transformation of these forest creatures. Enjoy my photo album – then go out and find majesty transforming on your own walks!

Here’s the link to the album:

https://goo.gl/photos/PPzgyAbLHSxqGVox8

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

It’s Not Him

May 11, 2017

Feeling unfulfilled has nothing to do with him. Being solo has shown me that. It’s clear that my disappointments, low energy, scattered focus and distraction are not caused by him. I’ve done it to myself!

In my solo month, I’ve hardly accomplished any of the things I thought were so important – doing touch for health, painting, journaling. Tiredness has pervaded me. Attraction to the political drama playing out in the country saps my time and dominates my attention.

On the other hand, I have been delightfully focused on my schedule of evening programs, spending quality time with a handful of visitors in the evenings. That, at least, has been an admirable focus. I have done my job well. 

I’m willing to love and accept myself and honor what I HAVE done, accepting that my list of desired activities just may exceed the capabilities of my current schedule.

And I do have a quandary about Life energy. It’s been good to be solo to sort out what’s my responsibility to myself in contrast to my responsibility to another.

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!”

Desert Sage

April 25, 2017

Solo, walking resolutely toward Maidenhair Falls, desert wanderer interrupts my inner conversation about how to entice others to desert enlightenment. 

His words blend with and expand my own with refreshing validation and nourishment!

“Between the context of stillness and the occurrence of thought the noticing is the knowing.” Unknown

“I love the crunch of walking in the desert. Enjoy the crunch!” Thomas

I did notice the crunch and not I ed that I don’t enjoy it because it sound a noisy and disruptive to me. I’ll consider it.

I let myself stop to sketch a couple of times, and thoroughly enjoyed my personal pace. I loved my solo walk!



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