How to Start Your Appalachian Trail Walk

I’ve walked the Appalachian Trail twice, plus another 2,000 miles working as an Appalachian Trail Conservancy ridgerunner for seven seasons.. How did I start all this? By locating the nearest trailhead to my home and setting foot on the trail. That one hour greeting let me hear my call to the trail “If I just keep walking, I can get all the way to Maine!”

Next step: a half day walk with my husband, exchanging the car key in the middle as we walked in opposite directions. Over the next four years, we built up to a full month on the trail, two trips per year, from over night to three nights, a week, two weeks. There are landmark steps, I think:

  • Connect to the trail.
  • Stay out overnight.
  • Do a resupply and go out again.
  • Walk 100 miles.

I would focus on training on the trail, itself. What I discovered by talking with thousands of hikers is that those who have a connection with their Inner Journey more than the physical athletic accomplishment of the trail feel fulfilled by their walks. In addition, those having a true connection and an enjoyment of Nature seem happier and more fulfilled.

So much to talk about! Oh! One thing that makes a big difference is having a method for easily climbing mountains – a breathing technique. Contrary to a familiar saying, which I will not repeat here – “Virginia is not flat!”

Here’s the method I came up with:

forgivenesswalks.com/reginameetsmountains

Oregon Coast Trail: Journal Anthology

September 29, 2019

“Done is better than perfect”

Read my Oregon Coast Trail anthology:
Oregon Coast Trail Beach Walking Discovery

Since John and I completed the Oregon Coast Trail and drove south through  California to Borrego Springs and our winter home at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, I’ve been compiling the blogposts that I wrote during our journey. I’ve edited the glaring errors caused by “autocorrect” and attempted to arrange the content and pictures in a book draft form.

It’s not perfect and I wanted to send it to you in case you’d like to read it as an anthology of my journal of the walk.   I’m willing to let this go for now because today I start my sixth season as Park Interpretive Specialist at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park!  There will be plenty of projects to work on there!

Here’s the link for Oregon Coast Trail Beach Walking Discovery! As always, I would love to hear your responses! So, hit reply when you’re finished reading and comment or send me a quick email at regina@forgivenesswalks.com or even better a long email that shares what’s going on with you on your journey!  I walk in service!

 

In joy,

Regina

P.S. I you’re the proof reading and editing type, let me know! I can share an editable copy with you!

 

Oregon Coast Trail: Amanda

August 28, 2019

Although I have been disappointed by the roadwalking along 101, my suffering pales to that of Amanda, the Yachats woman, and the thousands of others, who were cheated out of their homeland here, tortured, murdered, and forced to walk along the lava rock coast to an encampment. It would have taken great foresight to preserve a natural coastal corridor for our trail, yes. Even better would have been to ratify the treaty in 1855 giving the original people their twenty-mile wide coastal area.

Today’s walk took us off of US101 for quite a number of trail miles. Trail advocates had arranged for several miles of the trail to wind around through the coast houses, vacation homes, and resorts. The route is called The 804. On this day, it was well-populated with day walkers enjoying the cliff lands, staying back from the edge where signs warned of fragile cliffs, and a memorial reminds us that two “strong young men” had been swept off to drown by a “sneaker wave”. We stayed back and watched the crashing surf billow over the rocks.

The 804 Trail

Stay back!

Later, another trail wound up a steep hill on the east side of the highway. The signs admonished us to respect this private land where we had permission to walk on “Amanda’s Trail” to Cape Perpetua. Along the way, we visited the statue commemorating Amanda, the Yachats woman who had been forced away from her daughter and white, unmarried spouse when the cavalry came to drive off the native people in the 1850’s. No one knows if she lived or died, but her story reminds us of the genocide our America has perpetrated more than once.

Amanda now adorned

We talk somberly about the topic as we climb the rest of the mountain to another period monument at the crest of Cape Perpetua – a CCC rock shelter.

Cape Perpetua Rock Shelter: window to a gray sunset

By this time, it’s late afternoon, and we still have a few miles to go to the Cape Perpetua Campground. The overlook is suddenly rain, dark, and windy so we don our rain jackets and hats. Twenty minutes later, we’re peeling them off because it’s dry and warm below! We learn that this effect is peculiar to the high elevation spruce forest that traps moisture that drops off the trees like rain!

We descend quickly, and soon drop off into the USFS campground, our destination for the night. We see the Hiker-Biker site listed and head for it. However, we meet the campground manager on our way. He takes our ten bucks and we walk back to site #11, unusually far from the entrance, but closer than our other option, site #29A!

To our dismay, though, Site #11 is literally a blocked car slip with a picnic table on it next to a ten-foot wide strip of grass. Although we look at other sites, we decide to stay there, grumbling about the layout. I held my tongue, but wanted to say, “We come without a car, so we get to BE a car and have our table in the parking slip.” I add this to my growing list of quandaries for the makers of this trail. Just what are/were they thinking hikers are like? I sleep with my hat pulled over my eyes to block out the headlights that go by during the night. It’s yet another chance for me to do The Thirteen Steps to Radical Forgiveness. Grateful for the tool, I choose peace.

Parked table at site#11

Journey to the Oregon Coast Starts Today!

August 10, 2019

We’re headed to Oregon!

Today, John and I will wrap things up in Ohio and begin our cross-country drive to Oregon. John has been researching the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), learning that it’s quite different from the Eastern US trails we’ve walked!

  • It’s relatively level
  • It goes through or near towns frequently
  • Many state parks along the way have sites for hikers
  • It frequently follows a road
  • It’s along the coast, which means beach walking!

We still have to choose our gear. We’ll probably take the free-standing tent rather than my all-time favorite tarp because it will set up more easily on the beach. We’re also discussing whether or not to take a stove. It could be difficult to find canister fuel, although the tiny stove itself is lightweight and easy to carry, so we might just have it in reserve. We’re counting on having lots of wind, so will be sure to have our windshirts or rainjackets. I’ll keep you posted on our other gear choices!

One gear item I’m sure to take along is the Waist Pouch I wear every day! It contains my phone, credit cards, tiny art supplies, toothbrush, pocket knife and a fairly long list of essential items that I want safely at hand!

I’m hopeful that connectivity will be good, so I’m dreaming up all kinds of ways to connect with you while we journey down the coast! Stay tuned! We might just be able to be together virtually to:

Stay tuned for updates from the road – and the beach!

 

In joy,

Regina

 

 

Deepening Practices

June 9,

In everything I do, I strive for deepening my sensory and spiritual experience. I’m pretty sure you do too!

I’ve picked up on some techniques from John Muir Laws (his real name!) through his Laws Guide to Nature Journaling. Two years ago, I launched a program at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center to provide a platform to practice what I’m learning.

Notice and Wonder is now a frequent listing in the Park’s Interpretive Schedule. In it, I offer five simple techniques to

  • observe more closely,
  • remember what we see, and
  • stimulate questions for further consideration.

Visitors love the deepening experience! And, I get to enjoy a couple hours of pure delight doing it, fulfilling my mission of enticing people to come outside and invigorate our hearts and minds, deepening our connection with nature and ourselves.

One of my challenges with Nature Journaling is having supplies on hand when I’m out. Cumbersome notebooks and pencils get left behind! As a backpacker, all of my gear has to be lightweight! I’m happy to report that on this week’s trip to Big Sur I had something that worked! A tiny bag with tiny pencils and a stack of tiny papers to draw and paint on. Oh, and one fine ink pen!

The tiny papers limited my focus to a small part of the expansive landscape to focus my attention. John Muir Laws calls this a landscapito.

I’m so impressed with myself for doing ten landscapitos on the trip! Here are two favs:

Mill Creek Picnic Area: what we thought we’re otters was Kelp!

Black Rock jutting out of the surf.

These tiny watercolors are valuable, not for what they are, but for what they do for me: deepen my observation, strengthen my body memory of my nature experience, and stimulate questions to consider!

What practices for deepening do you have? If there’s one you teach & want to share, by all means tell me about it!

If there’s a practice you wish you were doing more, tell me that too! We can support each other in doing it!

And, here’s another question! If I offered a virtual week of sharing Nature Journaling techniques with supplies included, coaching and support, would you consider it? Reply to this email and say yes or no!

To your deepening!

In joy,

Regina

https://johnmuirlaws.com

 

 

 

 

 

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