Click on this link for my album of photos from my week in the Mt Rogers, VA High Country from August 3 – 7, 2017:
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!”
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 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.
#777 covers Springer Mountain part way through Georgia.
#778 covers the north Georgia section
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”)
Thruhikers Companion and other planning guides from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
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.
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?
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The comments function isn’t working right now, and I can’t fix it on the trail.
June 11, 2016
I have a list of small mishaps that we’ve been able to deal with and keep going. HeartSinging walking reflects how gracefully I can dance with the little things.
**Broken watchband. My cheap fake leather watchband snapped. Irritating! The good thing was that I noticed that it had fallen off. I threw away the band and stuck the watchface in my waist pouch where I can still get at it easily. Keep moving!
**Melted food bowl. Drat! My favorite lidded Glad bowl where I rehydrate my food on the trail was NOT microwave safe for repeated uses! I like this solution! We made an extra stop at Food Lion on our way out of Front Royal and bought small bowl of hummus. The container fits perfectly inside our cooking pot, and the hummus was a fine extra snack for the afternoon. We might even switch to PLANNING it this way, getting hummus to pack out and a new bowl! Keep moving!
**Minor shoe breakdown. John’s shoe lining, a little foam piece around his heel, was bunching up and rubbing a hotspot on his heel. It’s too soon to get new shoes! He used my tiny Swiss Army knife scissors and successfully cut out the irritating fabric. Keep moving!
**Hot shirt. The air temperature rose today, into the 90’s. Whew! My long-sleeved shirt was too hot! John let me wear his spare shirt, a woven fabric button shirt with short sleeves. Better! Keep moving!
**Crowded camp. And the irritation that is just barely a “small” one occurred this evening as we were wrapping up our walk for the day. We knew the terrain and vegetation in this section would make finding dispersed camping difficult (that’s when we find a flat spot in the woods where no one else has camped before). We aimed for a shelter for tonight, planning to tent nearby. Surprise! When we reached the shelter turnoff at 6:30 p.m. there were people and tents everywhere! A Boy Scout troop of probably 25 people had taken over every tent spot AND the shelter! Grrr! We filled our water containers at the spring – and KEPT MOVING! That was the way to solve this dilemma. Keep moving! About ten minutes north of the shelter, we found a flat, rockfree spot without much poison ivy. Not bad! Ahhh! We can stop moving for the night!
Little things come up often on a long walk. But, with patience and ingenuity, they can be resolved, and we can keep moving!
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!
May 16, 2016
Why does it matter to me so much that I feel balance and ease and beauty on the trail? I’m reading the blog of a woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Her feet hurt. It’s hot. She thinks she has to walk further every day. She lost her first toenail and believes that just goes with the territory. Snakes. Poison oak. Poodle Dog Bush.
Her writing is alluring because I keep wondering how much worse it can get. Cold. Dirt. Fog. And all of it is baneful, and somehow necessary for pushing through.
Where is the beauty? Why not learn to breathe and meet the mountains? Walk a distance that feels good? Must it be a battle, an ordeal, a lonely, hellish march?
That’s not what I want my long walks to be, and yes, I have had tired feet and focused on making miles. I don’t see much point in walking 12 hours a day except to revel in Nature, however. For me, the athletic part is purely in service of drinking in one more view, another forest, another mountain.
Maybe this is all easy to say while sitting at home, and yet I’ve been where she’s suffering. I walked her hot stretch in the cool of the night marveling at yellow flowers lit by a brilliant full moon. I paced my steps and breathed to let the long climbs unfold like meditations, singing or reciting poetry. I want walking to be a fulfilling, enlivening way to move between heaven and earth, blending myself with the Oneness of everything.
That’s HeartSinging Walk. I believe it and strive for it.
I read this hiker’s blog today. She seems to be discounting her purpose, saying she doesn’t know why she’s hiking, and that’s OK.
To me, it’s a missed opportunity to avoid or discount anwering this important, formative question for a fulfilling walk.
Knowing – or inventing- a purpose for embarking on a journey can help a hiker make important choices about all five essential areas of planning as well as provide quick clarity when challenges arise during a hike.
Better to alter one’s stated purpose during a walk than to skip the enrichment of choosing one on which to build from the beginning.
When I decided to commit to planning my 2007 Appalachian Trail thruhike, two focusing statements arose: I wanted to finish the trail and I wanted to do something that really mattered to me, even though my husband didn’t want to do it with me.
Together, those purposes kept me on the planning path and on the trail once I began.
Deepening these motivations through the walk nourished an inner courage that fueled significant revision of my self confidence and my worldview. When I fulfilled my mission, I knew myself as a heartsinging walker, as a hiking partner, and as a wife who was willing to take a stand for herself in her marriage.
I didn’t know at the beginning that my hike would give me this expanded clarity. That experience grew from my foundational, if simple, purpose to finish the trail and honor my personal dream.
What purpose are you willing to claim for your walk?
My PACK brain, that is! In my constant effort to lighten my pack and still have what I need I took out a few items in Monson, Maine. It’s been a week without them and all is well! I sent away my pack brain, knitted scarf, extra pack liner bag and didn’t miss them.
At Caratunk, I took one more step and ordered a lighter sleeping bag. What’s more, I wore my short sleeved shirt instead of my long, hot shirt. I could even wear the short one at night, so maybe don’t need a second shirt! I sent the extra shirt away from Stratton, Maine.
Lightening my pack gets done one piece of gear at a time! Trying a few days without things. Taking chances. Trusting.
Gear I sent away is on the left. John’s jettisoned gear on the right.
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
January 2 – 22, 2014
What a lovely walk John and I had for 6 days in the snowy mountains of Pennsylvania! Enjoy this 5-minute slide show featuring Barbara Hotz singing “Wild Wind” and a few words of explanation from me! Highlights of this walk included:
- Super Trail Angel help from my sister, Betsy!
- Fireplaces with split wood in every shelter!
- Beautiful snow starting the second day!
- Crisp, cold, fresh water from mountain streams
- Moderate walking on a well-marked trail
Please comment after you watch! Post your questions too!