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

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?

Sleep on it

September 2, 2016

We are 52 miles from completing our goal of walking the Appalachian Trail twice! Camped just 1/2 mile from Manchester Center, we’ve positioned  ourselves to get down to the road, hitch into town, pop into Food Chopper for  a bite to eat, shop at Eastern Mountain Sports, pick up our last food box at the Post Office, then hitch back out to the trail with enough time to walk 10 miles.

We have a choice to make, though! When we reach Sherburne Pass and celebrate our second traverse of the AT, we have to (get to?) choose what to do next?

Here are the choices we’re seeing right now:

1) Go to Ohio for my  cousin’s funeral. I found out this afternoon that my 76-year old cousin, who had been in hospice care for the past week, passed away last night. The funeral would be next week, and there would be time to finish the AT walk and get there.

2) Go on hiking. Our completion point is very close to Maine Junction, where the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail diverge. The AT turns east and continues its route to Maine. The LT continues north for another 178 miles to the Canadian border. Although we wouldn’t have time to do all 178 miles before my next family visiting date, we could walk for about 8 days.

3) Split up and go separate ways, me to Ohio and John to the trail.

4) Something else we haven’t considered. There’s ALWAYS another  choice! 

We’ll sleep on it tonight in our cozy site that’s partially hidden between a couple of boulders, and see what the morning  brings. In fact, we can wait until we complete our AT walk and choose then! 

RideĀ 

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!

Chapter’s End

July 6, 2016
Delaware Water Gap! It’s 9:30 a.m. and here we are at the Pennsylvania-New Jersey state line!

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It’s halfway across the bridge across the Delaware River – on I-80! The trucks rumble by, inches away from us  beside the concrete barrier, the bridge shaking. Only on the AT! Oh my!

Our three-hour walk this morning included the last of the Pennsylvania Rocks, a lily-pad pond, and a tunnel of rhododendron flowers! What a fitting flourish for the end of this section of our walk!

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430 trail miles, three complete states (WV, MD, PA), 36 days.

Now, for a month of family visits and preparation for our next section from Delaware Water Gap to Killington, VT and completion of a second traverse of the Appalachian Trail!

Thanks for reading my blog!!!
Stay tuned for the next chapter starting in August.

In joy,
Regina

Completion

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July 5, 2016
This is our last night on the trail for this section walk. Tomorrow, we’ll walk an easy 6 miles to Delaware Water Gap, rent a car, and drive back to Virginia.

The rocks are waning, Pennsylvania is falling behind us.
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Today’s walk gave us a chance to exercise one of our “trail mastery” skills: moving on from an undesirable social situation. Let me explain.

We arrived early at our day’s goal, just nine miles from our starting point, at a shelter with easy access to water. A couple of hikers were already there. They pointed us to the water. We noticed a picnic table on the trail to the water source, in a shady clearing behind the shelter. Nice! We could set out our stuff there! I suggested that we share the fire the other hikers were tending at the shelter and took our pot over there. No problem.

During the next ten minutes, we received a barrage of social behaviors that encouraged us to move on for the night! That’s my choice when I encounter folks whose behavior seems unfriendly, aggressive, self-righteous, or simply unpleasant.

These folks exercised their “freedom” to do what they wanted on the trail, including burning their plastic hotdog wrapper, chopping saplings for an all-day fire with a machete, playing loud music at the shelter, setting up their tent inside the shelter, and bragging about their free stay at the church hostel in the next town since church people “wouldn’t take a hiker’s last food money.”

Although I made brief attempts at “authority of the resource” conversation about each topic, my statemebts were met with vociferous argument and judgement:
“Everyone else burns their trash! I’m not going to pack mine out either!”

“I have blisters from hacking wood all day! We took a zero day to dry out our wet gear, and want to keep the bugs away!”

“Do you suppose anyone will mind if we set up our tent inside the shelter?”

Enough. Sometimes creating community at a shelter can wait for another day, another group. I feel sad, and wonder if I’ve let the bullies win, but proud of myself for offering the chance for discussion.

Perhaps I provided some food for thought without confrontation. Mostly, I felt sure that I can choose to move on from an undesirable situation, no explanation needed. That’s a useful trail skill, I believe.

Calzone Day

July 6, 2016
There are only two people in the world who celebrate Calzone Day! That’s me and my hiking partner, John. The first Calzone Day was July 6, 2007, when John bought a calzone in Monson, Maine, couldn’t eat the whole thing, and shared it with me!

We didn’t know at the time that we would become hiking partners, but now celebrate the day we met!

Today marks nine years since the first Calzone Day!

A New Idea

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July 2, 2016
“Pennsylvania has rocks!!” says my baby grandson. His mom sends me photos that keep me laughing! 16 days ’til our next visit!

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