The Trail: Day 4

Wednesday, September 28: Prayer 

When a painful emotion comes up stop and take care of it. Put your hands on your belly and breathe. When you look at a tree in a storm the leaves and branches swing and blow, looking so vulnerable. But when you direct your gaze to the trunk, you see a stability that can withstand the storm. When you have strong emotions, be like the tree. (Thich Naht Hahn on being present with strong emotions.)

Rain drips dripping on the tent. Sometime about 6 a.m. I wake in the dark tent with a silent prayer for all the people in my life, those who have been in my life and remain in my heart. It feels good to begin the day with just saying thank you.

I know that the news of the hurricane and my concerns about Dad’s health have something to do with these prayers. The precariousness and preciousness of life have found their way here to our hike in the woods. It’s not been my practice to pray on waking but it feels a good way to begin a day and I hope it might stick after I return to town. 

I slept well again which always feels to me a miracle when I’m in a tent in the woods. How many nights have I lain away listening for every scratching and footfall outside the tent, sure that a bear is out there somewhere. 

It doesn’t sound like good news from Florida with the hurricane. Pat says her husband who is never worried is worried. He calls from a friend’s apartment in the city. The power has gone out and with it the air conditioning and coffee maker. Not a good way to start the day. The predictions are a direct hit on their home in Sarasota. Winds predicted at 160 mph.

We head up Smarts Mountain in the morning fog. The gift of a stream not far from our site. I eagerly fill my water bottles. A steady climb up the trail. We are grateful we didn’t push on and attempt this last night. The woods are dark, uninviting. We haven’t seen another camp site. 

At last the top of the mountain and just up from the trail, a fire tower. I climb up the metal staircase to a beautiful view of fog in the trees below. Check out the cabin where we might have spent the night and pick up an apple from a little collection there on the shelf. What a gift to have an apple on a mountaintop to begin the day. 

A long beautiful slope down Smarts. Gorgeous views, the best yet we’ve had. A water stop at a bridge going over a stream and lunch of granola and blueberries. So delicious. 

And then the trail turns to go up Cube. Our smooth dirt trail turns to rocks and roots. Cube is definitely a White Mountain wanna-be. Lots of rocks. More and more rocks. We keep climbing, one false summit after another through the fog. Before us, a long slab of granite that I confidently walk right up and then with one step left to the ledge, slip. Fall back hard on my left wrist. Same wrist I fell on in August backpacking. 

I lie there humbled and chagrined. And grateful I did not slide all the way down the slab. What are we doing out here? This is dangerous. When will the mountain end?  

Drizzle turning to rain. The ascent goes on and on. The climbing hard and slow. At last a long slow descent down. We are both weary. 

Tonight wisdom finds us again and we find a beautiful stealth site by a rushing stream. It will be much better camping here than a few miles more down by the road.  

Pat says its her hardest day and how could it not be? No cell service and no news from Florida. Everything we carry is wet and heavy laden, saturated with weariness and grief.  

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