Friday, August 19, 2011

Slow and Deliberate

This post is written for Dave's Summer Trip Report contest over at Bedrock and Paradox. The more people that enter the more fun trips we get to read about.

Breathing in, I'm breathing in. I feel the cool mountain winds in my lungs. Breathing out I'm breathing out. I feel the Sun's warmth on my body and the trail under my feet. 

         I've been here before a few times. I've been in the habitation of these mountains and my feet have blistered themselves on these worn trails. I've felt the presence of these very balds and gaps, but they've never felt my presence. Not like now.  I'm fully here. Each step is slow and deliberate. Each breath is equally so.

      "Fast and Light" is often a phrase used among my hiking peers. At least I have half of it right today. The lightness on my back enables the lightness on my mind. I am conscious of nothing beyond this moment. This moment is on these balds and this moment is among the grasses and flowers surrounding me and the vistas beyond them.  The evening light bathing everything in warm hues as our shadows collectively stretch out. I'm going at a snail's pace enabling me to enjoy every small step.

        I have no goals for this hike. No place to get to. I have nothing invested in this walk. No expectations. No ideals. I'm not thinking "This long climb up the mountain will be worth it and rewarded by the sights." I give myself permission to enjoy the walk up under the trees. The infamous (and underratedly beautiful) "green tunnel" of the Appalachians. I have nothing tied into this hike. I have no thoughts of "this will be enjoyable when..."

      My last trip had too much invested in it. I set out to thru-hike the Benton MacKaye Trail last month. Something I had wanted to do for a few years. Once again I could get out for more then just a night or two and get back to my love of a thru-hike. When I didn't enjoy any of the that trail it devastated me. I had too much riding on it for myself. I identified too much with the circumstance of being on a trail I had a big goal to do and spent years daydreaming about. I was finally doing it! But I hated the trail and I wasn't having any fun. It felt like it wasn't the right place for me so I got off after less than 50 miles. It broke me financially and emotionally. I had set many goals and expectations for the BMT and didn't live up to any of them. I didn't allow myself to not tie myself into the 'success' of that hike. I didn't allow myself to just enjoy my self and be present despite the way things turned out.

          I wake up to the sound of rain on my tarp overhead. I spent the early hours of morning drifting in and out of the waking world and sleep listening to the drops of water surrounding me. I hike out under cloud cover, and drop below the bald in to the trees. One thing I enjoy more than hiking through the woods in the rain is hiking through the woods on an early foggy morning directly after a good rain shower. The water running under my feet, the smells of the wet vegetation and the spaced out sound of the drops falling from the leaves and branches above.

       As I leave the trees behind for more balds the Sun breaks through the grey clouds. The light dances through the beads of water clinging to the tall grass. I slow my pace and I smile as I make my way back to the road back to the house, but knowing that I'm already home.

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