This week, I offer up another installment in the “what I did on vacation” series.
Earlier this month, my hiking partner and I took on another short section of the Appalachian Trail (AT), the 2,300 mile uninterrupted trail that continues from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. With our 26 mile effort, we knocked off another 1.13% of the total trail. This is our fourth section hike and we’ve covered around 120 miles total.
With that kind of progress and our progressing ages, we spent a lot of time on this hike gauging the distance between trees and rocks to get an idea whether our walkers will fit through when we’re closing in on completion of the entire AT someday. Maybe our grandkids will be willing to carry our packs.
A prevailing ethos of hiking is that one should “hike your own hike.” Everyone is unique, of course, and all hikers have their own strengths, challenges, and reasons for being out in the wilderness carrying everything they need on their back for days at a time.
A couple of heavy weights accompanied me on this year’s trek. Three years ago, I had to abort a hike after only a day and a half due to a sore knee and two aching hips. We stopped at the base of The Priest, a 4,062 foot peak in central Virginia. Before I started the climb, I quit. I went home and licked my wounds. Over time, I committed to taking on The Priest again with no intention of surrendering again. The need to conquer The Priest weighed a lot.
Another big weight I carried was grief. Since I lost my daughter Meagan in 2018, I hadn’t done anything physical or healthy. Just a few months before this hike, I was completely out of shape. Grief had immobilized me. But even when living with the constant burden of sadness from the loss of a child, one day a morning dawns where you see light again. A little glint at first and gradually a sunny day, and then you rely on bright memories and love to start moving again. Meagan walked with me the entire way. As she does every day.
This is obviously a difficult subject to broach and I thank you for bearing with me. Hiking with grief is hiking my hike.
But I want to be clear, there was joy in this exploit. Joy in pitching a tent and hanging a hammock (we did both) on top of a 4,000 foot mountain next to Spy Rock. Joy in experiencing a spot that’s been used as a lookout with its 360 degree panorama since this part of Virginia has been occupied by the human race. We were treated to unseasonably cool weather on this trip. Temperatures got down in the low fifties at night and made for some chilly sleeping with the breeze blowing under my hammock.
Hiking my hike is also experiencing the joy of friendship and sharing the hike with a good friend on whom I know I can rely. My hiking partner on all four AT section hikes is an experienced hunter and outdoorsman who readily shares his knowledge and experience. He goes toe to toe with me on corny jokes and wise cracks. It helps over three days of physically demanding activity.
There was certainly joy when we reached the top of The Priest just after lunch on the first day. We climbed up over 3,000 feet of rugged trail to top the summit. We conquered that old mountain and lightened our load considerably. Throughout the hike, even the grueling 3,000 foot descent on the last day (I find descending much harder than the climb), we enjoyed the beauty of our world. Our bodies were battered but strengthened by our exertion in carrying our 25 pound packs.
We hiked our own hike.
The joy to be gained from the beautiful views, the worship in nature’s cathedral, the exercise, and the connection to others, are all reasons your Owen County Community Foundation is working diligently with our partners at the YMCA, McCormick’s Creek State Park, the Town of Spencer, and Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District to continue the expansion of the MYPath Trail System. The AT was always my personal inspiration for my dedication to MYPath. We want to share that joy and allow our neighbors and visitors to “hike their own hike” right here in Sweet Owen County.
Your Owen County Community Foundation is committed to helping our Owen County communities become better places to live, grow, and work. We value the beauty of Owen County.
If you’d like to know more about how you can work with this local charity to support our community trail system, give me a call at 812-829-1725, email me at email@example.com, visit us online at owencountycf.org, or stop by and visit us in person at our office on the Courthouse Square in Spencer, 60 E. Market Street.