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shifting drishti

Hike Your Own Hike

The phrase “hike your own hike” is used a lot out here. The idea of worry about yourself and do your own thing. A lot of hikers have mixed feelings about the phrase because it is quite often used to bully other hikers. If someone is being loud and keeping an entire campsite up they’ll tell those being kept up to “hike your own hike”. In place of “FU”. 

The other day I was at a hostel waiting out a snow storm. One of the guys at the hostel is an ultra marathoner who at mile 393 had hiked 17 days and taken 18 zeros. In the middle of our small talk he looked at his phone and his mood abruptly changed. He had already paid for the night, but asked for the owner of the hostel to immediately take him back to the trail. He was going to hike out that night. 

He had been holding up for a girl and she had sent him a text to go on. Explaining that she felt it was time for them both to “hike our own hikes.” 

All the ways I had seen that phrase used that was the first I had seen it used to say, “I’m not that into you.” I keep wondering if that phrase will work for me in my post-trail life the way that girl used it. Presumably I’ll start dating again at some point. I see myself in a beginner improv class in a mid-size city in he middle of the country. Make out with one my classmates after we all hang out one night. Then when he asks which level 2 I’ll be signing up for I just look past him and utter, “I think it’s time you hike your own hike.”

I’m sure he’ll get the hint… 

Pushing Through

The other day as Leo and passed over grassy balds the wind gusts were over 80 mph. This is the most exposed stretch we have experienced so far on the trail. I have been waiting for there be a stretch like this where we would be able to see mountains for ages. Unfortunately the timing came with scary wind speeds. 

We were trapped in a situation where we had to keep moving forward. There was no safe space for us unless we could get 6 miles ahead to a big red barn. Everywhere behind us was just as exposed.

We had to move.

As one other thru hiker passed us, with his nose down, trying to keep his face from being torn off by the wind he hollered; “HAVING FUN?!” 

I didn’t even look at him as I shouted back

NO!!!!

Right before reaching the shelter one of my trekking poles officially broke. 

We were broken.

We trudged on and made it to the barn. It was our shortest day yet, with only 6 miles of hiking. However, it was more exhausting than many days that were 3 times as long. As we laid in the barn I was thankful to have gotten through the scariest hike we have had. I thought about how often we have to push through challenges and danger to get to safety. 

After my attack many people, who love me, wanted to keep safe. They didn’t want me to go alone anywhere and to stay in when its dark. For me the goal is always to be safe, I feel that’s most people’s goal. However, sometimes we are in a spot where the only thing we can do is stay on our feet and push through. Safety will be on the other side. You have to make the decision if you will make it there or give up. 

Slowing Down

I love hammering out miles. 

Whether on my bicycle or on the trail I love going past the limit of most people’s norms. It’s the same reason I have grown to love Baptiste yoga. There is this place of exhaustion where you no longer think about all the bullshit in your life and you’d simply are moving. No longer worrying about those who have wronged you, pondering presidential history (this one might be specific to me), or dreaming of your future chill ass billionaire husband who does yoga and finances your travels around the world.  

You move. You breathe. 

That’s it.

 I find when I can reach this place I can be so much more present once I am given a chance to rest. Once I am sitting and chatting with someone, I am truly listening to them. I’m just there. Existing. Just existing.

Earlier on the trail I was able to get those kind of miles. Push and push hard. I walk slower than everyone else, but I could push out more miles. My body felt fine and I could push. Then I switched out my shoes.

I had Saucony trail runners that were fantastic. While others complained of foot pain I just kept moving. After 265 trail miles and 11 days of rain I thought my trail runners were done. When they got wet they stayed wet, I could feel ever rock under my foot, and my trail runners felt flimsy overall. There was a pair of broken in Merrell boots I had waiting for me and I wanted the switch. This was a big mistake. These shoes have destroyed my feet. Everything hurts. It has messed up my feet so much that it has messed up my legs and now my hips. I can’t pound out miles anymore. I’m slower than anyone else on the trail and I’m hobbling along.

This has been humbling. I don’t reach that place of being. I think and I think alot. I think about how much pain I’m in. I think about my frustration with these boots (or sandals- I have had to hike over 40 miles in sandals since getting the boots), I think about how all my friends I have made on the trail are not just getting miles ahead of me- they are getting days ahead of me. 

The pain has knocked my mileage down from 15-18 mile days to 8-12. I’m currently taking a zero to give me feet a real break. It’s snowing in the mountains so I used the snow as an excuse but the reality is my feet are killing me. 

More than my foot struggles, its the feeling of being left behind. My friends are up in Virginia as I’m still chipping away at Tennessee. It feels like so much of life. I’m doing my own thing. I’m taking care of myself. My life doesn’t need to look like others, but there is still an irksome feeling of left behindness. Or not doing it rightness.

There is a saying on the trail: The Trail Provides. 

Right now as I’m slowing down I have to say to myself, The Trail Provides. It’s providing me the opportunity to explore instead of hammer. It’s providing me with opportunities to meet new people. It’s providing me with the opportunity not to compare myself to others. To hike my own hike. I’m not left behind. I’m not slow. I’m not doing it wrong. I’m experiencing this trail in my own way. At my own pace. In my own time. Just because my hike, my life, and my experience doesn’t look like others it’s not wrong. It’s my own. I’m still moving forward. In my own time. 

Revolutionary War Barn that is now a hiker shelter. Leo and I rode out a storm in the barn.

Napping Puppy
Trail Magic
Power lines and Sunsets

Notes to catch up written on the trail

    

Uncle Johnny’s Hostel

Chipping away at the trail. I passed through Erwin Tennessee. I came down from the mountain and showed up at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel to cheers from my friends Frisbee and Middle Brother. They quickly took my pack to weigh it to confirm what they thought, I have just about the heaviest pack on the trail. 

My feet have just been torched by my new boots, so I was in my flipflops. 

It was nice to get some rest after a rough week. Things just did not go my way last week. But I put my big girl panties on and kept trucking. If I hadn’t kept going I would have met this sweet put Jerry Garcia. We are cataracts buddies and we get each other. 

Here’s hoping for some better days. 

Favorite Quote of the Week

“Oh. Wait. You’re No Chill? But people talk about her like she a total Bad Ass.”

Somethings never change

I have really good connection right now. I want to write an update, but I’m so tired so I’m watching clips of Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers on my phone instead. Even in the woods I can procrastinate. 

Oh, I have more questions

“What happened to your eye?”I turned and looked her square in her 6 year old face and said, “I got stabbed in the face.”

If they are bold enough to ask, I’m not going to lie to a child. Quite honestly they handle the truth about what happened to me better than most adults.

She wasn’t phased she now had 1,068 follow up questions about what happened. 

I answered every question.

“Hurt a lot.”

“I wasn’t doing anything just walking up the stairs to my apartment.” 

“A good doctor sewed my eye back together.”

Her mother and grandfather just sat there eavesdropping on our conversation. 

The mother finally had a question, “where did it happen?”

“Savannah Georgia.”

The mother and grandfather looked at each other, rolled their eyes, and then responded, “not surprised you were stabbed in the low country. We have kin who live in the low country and people are crazy down there.”

“I think low country folks say that about hill folk.”

“Yes. But darling where were you stabbed? Was it hill folk or low country folk?”

Fair enough. 
The next afternooni was sitting on the sidewalk going through my large resupply package my Uncle Stan had sent me, the grandfather walked by. We were exchanging pleasantries when he abruptly stopped and said, “I’m really proud of you. I’ve experienced a lot of violence myself and I couldn’t do what you are doing or have your attitude. I’m too fucked up now.”

Squinting in the sun I looked up and smiled at him, “we’re all fucked up. We just gotta do our best to get through this with a sense of humor, little grace, and find a way to throw in an adventure or two.”

“Yeah. Well I want to say thank you for not letting this stop you. Some of us can never come back from the violence. We just stay fucked up. I’m just really proud of you.”

I stood up and we had a long hug. His buddy drove up and he got his pick-up. 

He rolled down the window.

“Don’t quit.”

“Never.”

We half waved.
For those who don’t know how to come back from the violence, I’ll keep hiking for y’all. Survivors still have big stories ahead of us. The violence wasn’t our final chapter. 

Theatre Geeks on Mountain Tops

Brutal and Beautiful

The Smokies were an absolute slog. It rained for most of my 4 days booking it across the peaks. 

Morale for the most part in Smokies were low. Many people got off in Gatlinburg and did not get back on. 

It was difficult to focus on much other than the sorrowful weather and all these spectacular views that had been built up to us and we were completely missing. For the most part Visibility while I was in the Smokies ranged from 5ft-100ft. I was hammering out miles in the Smokies and almost created a zen like hike for myself. I was alone, it was cold and rainy, and there were no majestic views. 

So, I focused on the deep earthy smell the rain brings out. The combination of dirt and evergreens that is so special and unique to a wet forest. I delighted the greens of he moss popping out of the grey of the fog. My heart filled everytime I came around a corner to see a mountain side covered in tiny flowers. I felt relief when I saw a rainbow.  And would take a beat every so often to smell the blossoms. 

The Smokies were brutal, but they were also beautiful. Sometimes, we can have a grand idea of how things are going to go. We feel we deserve a reward for the hard work we are doing. Yet it does not come and if we don’t pause and take in what we do have we will miss the beauty around us. 

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