Sunday, October 5, 2014

Day 333 - September 29th

September 29th, Day 333

Waking up was difficult. The last 75 miles knocked me out and last night I fell asleep in the woods, laid my tent under trees that will always be home to me now. I received disconcerting news late last night from my phone and I’ve been unable to let it go. The problems we wrestle with can permeate every unrelated thought until associations are built so even the trees seem troubled today. To shake off my ill humor I returned to the dining room where I ate last night for some coffee. I ran into three thru-hikers Sardine, Redbeard and Puddin’. They were as exhausted as I was and we bonded over it. Trading stories, we learned we had knowledge in common, the kind you glean from walking long distances. How to engage strangers, how to walk downhill, that sort of thing. Sardine and Redbeard both have quality Paul Bunyan beards and the same stringy, rugged look of most hikers I’ve seen. Pudding, a young woman was part of their “graduating class” of SOBO hikers; you inevitably see some of the same people if you walk at a similar pace. She camps without a tent (!) and travels super light. I tried to imagine camping in Louisiana without a tent and shuddered. I suppose her cowboy camping is facilitated by the AT shelters though. I wish I could drop the full weight of my tent!

Through collective willpower we eventually hauled ourselves to our feet so we could get walking again. Walking doldrums find everyone at some point, I guess. I couldn’t seem to propel myself more than a couple miles at a time before I succumbed to the desire to sit down. Not in a particularly good mood or possessing much energy, I reached a picnic area and claimed one of the benches. A couple families had fires going and lunch spread out on the tables. I watched a dad and six or seven boys gesticulate over their smoking fire and yammer in French which sounds pretty damn cool when it spills out rapidfire. As I was sitting there probably looking worn out and bored, a man walking by started talking to me. Ron Collins is a local who likes to bring his family up to the Appalachians and that’s why they were here. He then invited me over to have lunch with them, an offer that broke through my overcast mood. I ate a big pork chop, nearly a whole tomato and, most importantly, a plateful of salad. In between bites I told stories and interacted with everyone. The Collins were an easy gang to get along with and I was grateful for their company. They gave me an apple too which I tucked into my bag. Interactions like these seem magical but by now I know that they stem from the common goodness and generosity to be found in almost anyone you might encounter.

Granted new energy from a hot meal I tried to make the last few miles out of the park but I couldn’t bring myself to leave. Not only was I still tired but the problem I had been tussling with all day had defeated my momentum somehow. It reminded me of all that remains uncertain beyond the boundary of this walk that is soon ending. I’ll be away from the woods where I feel safe and delving into the cities where I do not. They tear you apart in tiny ways. So, I stayed. For one last night I threw my tent down under stars you could see and tried to hold some part of the Shenandoah in me as portable strength for when I need it. I sat on a rock overlooking the yawning valley and applied new ink to my flag. Looking for America, it says.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sam, I love reading your scribblings.....btw, you are already an author. Now, the first comment is a suggestion for your further travels and the second is a statement about where I come from.(1) Reading about how much you love the skys colors, made me think of you traveling to see the Northern Lights. (2) Where I went to high school, in Channelview,Texas, the school colors are the blue and gold you spoke about. Best wishes for your continued health and happiness. You are always in our prayers. Love, Badass Senior from Texas, Vickey