I awoke out of my haze of confusion about just what was weighing me down, arguing in my mind, blinding me to the beauty surrounding me, stabbing my knees with pain. It was one of those Old Stories bubbling up to be felt and acknowledged – and transformed! I had embarked on this two month journey on the Appalachian Trail to use walking in Nature to clarify my relationship with my hiking partner. Wasn’t THIS a pivotal moment in that intention?!!
The past twenty miles had been hard! In fact, this section is often viewed as the hardest of the entire Appalachian Trail. Between Gorham and Pinkham Notch NH, the trail crept up and down the four peaks of Carter Mountain and the five peaks of Wildcat Mountain. Even though the trail started gently out of Gorham, it was equally paved with steep slopes of smooth rock faces and rugged rocky stair steps that seemed a few inches higher than my legs easily reached.
Although my Meet The Mountains technique kept me going without getting winded, my legs got a tiring workout that dampened my usual high spirits. We had made a short stop in Gorham, just long enough to resupply our food. Laundry, bedrest, and phone battery charging had been skipped in service of a quick turnaround back to the trail. A clear weather window for crossing the White Mountains had beckoned us on! Perhaps that strategy jeopardized the trip.
We weren’t even sure of exactly where we were on the trail south of one of the peaks of Wildcat Mountain, on our second day south from Gorham, NH. Difficulty dominated my thoughts, though I wasn’t certain what the problem was. It made sense to push on the seven or so miles to Osgood Campsite to set ourselves up for a two-day traverse over Mts Madison and Washington. But, my knee hurt a little, I felt hungry, and I had concerns about lodging at the mountain huts. To top off my burden was the aggravation of my phone shutting off again, draining the fifth of my six batteries. “Three days in the White Mountains without pictures?!! What a bummer!”
I plopped down on a log and pulled the rehydrated sweet potato snack from my pack. At least THAT was something good! I searched my mind for what it was telling me. “You have to do what HE wants and not what YOU want! You’re wimpy and give up too easily! You should be able to keep going without a break! Who cares about your pictures anyway?!! So your knee goes out, THAT will show him! He’s right. You should just hike on your own!!”
Bing!! An equally strong voice, more gently powerful and warm said, “Regina, listen to your heart, your wisdom, your generous, sharing soul. You can have a partner AND a fulfilling walk. You can BE vulnerable and athletic and moderate all together. You can rest, recharge, and adjust your course in any number of ways. It’s ok to acknowledge your physical needs.”
I listened to THAT voice.
That’s when I could hear John’s Old Story playing perfectly with mine. “I’m not a good partner for you. I push you too hard. I make you do things you don’t want. I’m the cause of your upsets.” I could easily hear the fiction in HIS story. Maybe mine is equally fabricated. Just maybe!
That’s when the Trail showed us our clear path. We reached the point where in 2007 I had made a precipitous choice to go down a cliff instead of around a boulder that crystallized my resolve to have a hiking partner. I had been so shaken by the realization that I had made that treacherous choice that I had asked John at the snack bar at Pinkham Notch if he wanted to walk with me through the White Mountains. On this journey in 2015, we reached that cliff together, agreeing that it, indeed, looked like a plausible way to go. The correct way really didn’t look much safer!
“Let’s stay together and help each other wake up to these sabotaging beliefs. It’s better to have a partner even if we bring out these stories for each other.”
Just one more mile to the Visitor’s Center at Pinkham Notch gave us time to reaffirm our choice to go on, AFTER a night’s rest. We found that easily at the Joe Dodge Lodge right here at Pinkham Notch.
Two full meals, recharged batteries, a long rest, and reframed stories later, we’re ready to walk on – TOGETHER!