This Way

We started off the wrong way. Pushing uphill off the Parkway a half mile because, well, north is uphill to the right, isn’t it? Because sometimes the map is unclear as you like to say when you actually needed to pull out the map to see. 

Later that night when we do, it’s all so clear. And yes, sometimes you need to go the wrong way to find the right way. 

Thankfully at the top of the ridge, a sign to the shelter and a little South marker pointing down the trail.

Hey, aren’t we supposed to be going north?  

Alas yes, so a half mile downhill to cross the Parkway and begin again.

All week I’ve been thinking about pushing and breathing to find our way. Sometimes pushing when we need to be breathing and sometimes breathing when we need to be pushing. It’s not always easy to get it right. These built-in signals that tell us so certainly what to do, these habits and instincts that can’t always be trusted. Sometimes, just old patterns that need to be released so we can push and breathe or breathe and push to a new way.  

How often I’ve got it backwards. Sometimes waiting when it is pushing that justice demands. Sometimes pushing when it is listening that is required. I do not come easily to the way of the trail. It takes learning through a lot of mistakes to find the way. 

Now breathing our way downhill I find myself pushing ahead for the open vista like I have expected to see in Maine. But the hills here are different hills, the views here through leaves of gold, green and red. There is nothing to push towards. This is the view through a curtain of bright foliage. 

The trails here unlike any I’ve discovered in northern New England, no roots or rocks to trip over, just a wide smooth trail. A new way of walking required.

The pushing and pulling in the wrong way leads in a few miles to sore hips. Not yet used to the way of the trail it usually takes me three days to find the way to a new rhythm and way. 

Perhaps, I’m working too hard. Carrying concerns I can do nothing about and am slow to put down. What if my car is broken into? What if all I’ll have left is what’s in my pack? Will I make it to Kentucky on Saturday? Wondering on the choices and path that have led to this discovery of backpacking in the woods. I never could have imagined this, to have imagined choosing this.  

Commit again to breathe into each step with care.

We pause at the bubbling stream. White clouds drift overhead. A raven caws.  A prayer to settle into autumn, into a release and letting go like this, for the dying of today to be a brightening into yellow, orange, a spark of red.  

Large hemlocks felled along the trail, victims we learn of a hemlock blight. In the 1950’s a small aphid like insect was first observed feeding on hemlock in Virginia, an exotic pest native to Japan and China.  Today half the range of hemlock in the East is infested and the entire range of eastern hemlock at risk.  

Not all of the dying is beautiful and yet all becomes fuel for new life.

The trail quiet, the thru-hikers long since gone.

I keep on hoping around the next bend to see that elusive view.  

Instead, the first hiker we meet who asks about the weather and if we’d heard a report, wondering and worrying about what this wind might be blowing in.  

I stand for a moment amidst tall dark trees. At the upper branches, leaves twirling in the wind, golden leaves gently falling in the breeze. To let go like this, to release what we need no longer carry. If only it were that easy. Perhaps it is.  

I step out on the way.

That night, the solace of peepers lull us into dreaming.  

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