Tag: 2014

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour

The sun set an hour ago and the air has gotten cool – a wonderful change from the heat and humidity of the mid-Atlantic day. It’s no longer 90+ degrees in the air, though it still has the clinging heaviness that comes with being near the water. But the bricks of the old buildings around you still hold the heat from the day – radiating out as you pass your hand near them.


Your own personal sunset as you walk down the street


I’ve been exploring at sunset more and more, walking past buildings that have been home to generations of families, a church that sheltered soldiers during war, graves spanning centuries. Turning down streets with more modern building, condos and townhomes costing more than I’ll ever make a block away from low income housing, children in playground from both sides of the tracks screaming in the summer delight that they don’t have to go to school tomorrow.


So much history here, so many people. I sat and listened to an opera singer as she hit the highs and lows of a great Italian master. What is she singing about? What is the story being told? You can hear happy and sad all in the same song – longing and regret alongside joyous reunion. People pass her by, a few stop to listen – she becomes just another sound in the backdrop; along with buses and cars, music from shops and blasted from speakers, overheard conversations from tourists. She finishes, red faced and sweating in the dying heat. Walks a small circle around her tips bucket and then takes a deep breath to start anew a fresh song.


Across the street are three crusty young punks – they haven’t showered in weeks it smells like – tourists avoid them  and they smell like hikers do after a long stint out. I know the smell, and their needs. I give them some cigs that I was carrying, a pack I never smoke but have for when I go to bars. One offers to swap shirts with me “You’ll get more of a story with this one my friend!” I decline the offer but borrow his guitar for a song, singing about people left behind and the places we wish to go to.


On the walk home the lightning bugs lazily drone over the large field in the park – a city block in size. The twinkle and shine, pinpoints of light in a sea of darkness, alone from the streetlights and windows. The bridge across the river shines into the water, as headlights reflect out into the night. Airplanes come in on approach to land every 3 minutes – the last few of the night. A fat third of a moon shines down, reminding me that somewhere, someone else is looking up and wishing to be somewhere other than where they are.



But even when you’ve known it forever, somewhere you know isn’t that bad at times.

Present Thoughts, Future Tense.

Present Thoughts, Future Tense.

Currently, in a little town in the south-west part of Virginia named Damascus, there is an amazing event going on. A party for hikers, by hikers, about hikers.


I am not there.


It’s a hard thing – not being somewhere you want to be. It’s even harder knowing you could have made something happen that you wanted to, but didn’t. But part of growing up is realizing that just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s good for you to do.

So I’m not at Trail Days, with a bunch of other 2013 AT Hikers that I know. I was not there when they showed Seven’s documentary and my short on Thursday night.

Nor does it look like I’ll be getting on the PCT in 2015.



I don’t think that reality fully sank in until I wrote it down there.


Why not? Maybe I’m growing up a little bit. I’ve got a new job that has me tied to a contract for a year, pays well and has good benefits. It lets me meet new people, be flexible and travel some, all while letting me pay off the bills and debts. Maybe if I play things right, I can knock my debt off a lot faster than I thought I was going to. It also is a job that might let me come back and work somewhere else in the nation after my next adventure in a few years. Just not next year.

I mentioned something Chevy, a 2011 AT Thru-Hiker had said to months ago – “Some people never leave the trail.”  They are walking to find something, or walking away from other things. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know anything different, they understand hiking and the people and culture. It’s the only place they feel right about. I can understand that entirely. When I sit in the cubeland during my current gig I find it hard to relate to my coworkers, I just want to stand up and scream – punch a window out to feel real air, not the same recycled air-conditioning. But I can’t – it wouldn’t get my anywhere. I know I don’t belong here, and as much as I miss the hiking and the people, I don’t belong back there yet either.

There are people I know on the PCT right now and there are people I know at Trail Days right now who I’m jealous of, whom I’d trade places with in a heartbeat. But I also know that I’m not ready to go back to that life yet – physically definetly, and probably mentally too. I learned many things about myself last year, and about those I love. But I have to work at making that person who hiked the person I am back here at home.

That is my greatest challenge. Not money, not love, not injury. But my own self.

So instead I’ll follow their adventures. Just like others followed mine. I’ll support them, just like others have supported me.




Because even though I’m not with them, my brothers and sisters, My Family, are still out there.

And you do everything you can for the family you choose.

Breathing in Spring. Breathing Out Doubt.

Breathing in Spring. Breathing Out Doubt.

We had 5 inches of rain here in VA over the last two days. The walk home from the train station has necessitated the need for my rain jacket – I’m not a big fan of umbrellas – and despite the washing it has received (does that make any sense? To wash a rain jacket?) it still smells terrible.

It smells like the trail.

Rain jackets develop a pungent odor of their own – stale sweat and body odor that is at odds with the crisp smell of rain.

It is spring now here. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom two weeks ago. Now they are on their way out – taken from the trees by the winds and the rain. But the smell of spring persists in every breath you take.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

I stopped to take a deep breath on my way home. In that moment I stood and just listened. I could feel everything around me. This is what I was in those moments.

Breathe in.

I could feel the drops of water on my skin. It had stopped raining and was just misting. I had taken off my jacket. I had taken off my shirt and tie. I was standing in short sleeves, and could feel the wind tugging the shirt, washing the drops of water over my skin.

“We are clean and fresh, unspoiled by the world yet. Can you say the same about yourself right now?”

Breathe out.

I could smell the new life that the rain had brought. Everything was growing. The crisp smell of water, of fresh earth, of life. Flowers and trees. Grass and leaves. All happy to be breathing with me, contributing their own scent to the world in that moment.
“I’m happy to be here right now. I’m happy to be alive. Are you as happy as we are?”

Breathe in.

The bugs are singing their symphony. It’s the noise of dusk – crickets calling to one and other. Katydids reassuring themselves they aren’t lost. Anglewings saying hello. All rolled together, playing on endless loop. Drowning out the sounds of the distant city.
“We’re in our rightful place. Are you?”

The water is rushing, trickling. Carrying away all the cares and worries. Everything is moving. Aimlessly but with purpose. There is power in it and you can hear it.
“We are going to the ocean” the water says. “Won’t you come and follow us?”

Breathe out.

The fox that lives around here runs across the path. She’s done this every day for the last 3 days for me when I’m coming home. Where is she going?

“Come follow me. Back into the woods – into the mystery that is my den here. I am not the trickster that Coyote is in the West – but I will play with your mind here instead.

Breathe in

6 second was all it took.

Breathe out

I question everything I’m doing again.

Endless Rain and The Breaking Point

Endless Rain and The Breaking Point

When I read of new hikers who are coming to grips of the realities of the trail for the first time I think about how we have a tendency to build things up. Put things on a pedestal.

I once heard a story from Baltimore Jack. Of rain that lasted for forever. Grown men would wake up hearing the same sounds that had put them to sleep. The constant drumming of rain on the tin roof. It brought them to tears when they looked outside and saw the grey clouds and constant water cascading from the skies. He said it was one of the wettest springs on the AT – and he saw more people break from the rain than he’d ever seen before. People just gave up and went home.

I can understand that. I sympathize – there are few things worse then getting up for the fourth or fifth day in a row, putting on wet and cold socks with the utmost trepidation. “If I pull them on slowly, they’ll warm up a little more than if I pull them on quick and shock my feet.” Hearing the squelch of water as you shove your feet into your shoes. Packing your things up haphazardly – it doesn’t really matter anymore, everything is at least damp already. The rain jacket has as much moisture in it on the inside as it does the outside, why bother putting it on. You’ve stopped trying to avoid the puddles and small lakes that form on the AT because the whole trail has turned into a river.

You think you’ll never be dry again. I know how it feels. I’ve been there.

It’s odd because looking back now I recognize the same feelings of despair in that scenario of rain that I had with depression. Trapped. Drowning. Overwhelmed. Too tired to care anymore. How do you keep going when it’s like that.

I think some people are just built a little differently. No matter how depressed they get, how awful the situation gets they keep going. I’ve heard some call it “dogged determination.” People have called me stubborn. It’s been described as a coping mechanism, or protective trait. Some call it strength or mettle. But whatever you want to call it – these people just keep going.
They don’t lie down and die, and they don’t seem to ever quit. And when they do quit it’s because they are literally so run down, so ragged that they just don’t have the energy anymore.

I once read a psychology theory that postulated we can all endure only so much. Our capacity for suffering, for the negatives in our life are like a glass for water. It’s only so large. The more things we have going against us, the more water fills that glass. We can only handle so much before it all spills over. You can make your glass bigger by doing positive things, having good friends to share the load or have coping strategies. But there is always a finite amount you can take. Eventually you reach that.
The people who broke down and cried on the 5th day of rain had just reached their limit. Their glass was full. That was all.

What’s the take away from all of this? I’m not really sure honestly- lord knows I rambled on in this post, but I wonder if there really is an answer. On one hand, we’ve gout our dreams, and we want to pursue and accomplish them. But we should always be realistic of the moment, of the adversity facing us. So what should we do? I don’t know. It’s something you’ll have to make up your mind about yourself. I follow this simple advice.

Don’t ever quit until you’ve been completely and fully miserable for 48 hours. Then give it another 24 hours of staying someplace with a TV and Ac/Heat. If you’re still miserable – then you can quit. Because it’s not something you can fix with pizza, Chinese food and beer. And if you can’t fix it with those things, you may be well and truly screwed.

The air was so thick with water you weren't breathing it - but drinking it.
The air was so thick with water you weren’t breathing it – but drinking it.