Having been stuck at home for the past month unable to hike I have empathy for Rue, home on medical restrictions, unable to hike. Hiking is my chance to connect not only to nature, but to myself. It is the space to quiet my mind, seek connection, rest, reset, and breathe freely. It is a sacred space, whether it’s a short 3-4 miles or a multi-day backpacking trip this time away from societal expectations and responsibilities where I find my freedom. I crave the wind against my face, the rocks under my feet, and the end of day exhaustion following a day of miles.
During this past month I have gazed longingly out my window wishing to put on my boots and tramp through the snow. I have read adventure books, getting lost in the dirt, heat, and ruggedness of the PCT or the challenging terrain of the Whites in New Hampshire on the AT. I find myself swept away into the stories of hikers gone before me, while at the same time wishing I was writing my own tale.
I reflect back on my last day hike on the AT. It was blustery, cold, with wind gusts creating temperature drops into the single digits. The sky was a crystal blue with wispy clouds, the terrain rocky as Pennsylvania likes to be. I hiked south to Knife’s Edge and traversed along the top the wind pushing at me, challenging me to stop. I ducked behind rocks and a lone tree that found a home in the midst of this rocky line, finding a break and my breath in the endless wind. I laughed at myself, laughed at the silly white blazes pulling you forward, for where else could you go on this ridge-line of rocks but forward? Reaching the end of the edge I climbed down, marveling at what I just traversed, then laughed at myself knowing I had to climb right back up and cross it again to go back to my car. My return was faster, easier, fresh with the knowledge of some of the secrets of the rocks, yet even with the immediacy of my knowledge the trail and the rocks still held secrets.
The trail carries secrets, small overlooks only seen during winter when the green tunnel of the AT is barren. As I hiked back to my car I found small wildlife paths leading to vistas not seen on the trek earlier. With my exploration I uncovered a few secrets of this small section and left behind my own secrets, my own trauma, finding healing and solace in the path I walked. I walked that day seeking solace and solitude, a path to find forgiveness, and after a double traverse of Knife’s edge each step back towards my car granted me healing, peace, and deeper connection to myself. Forgiveness found.