I think there are ghosts that follow us. We have these relationships with people, and then, for whatever reason (perhaps they decide one night to just not answer your call, or contact you at all for the next 2 days), we cut them out of our lives.
But it’s not a clean break. There are ghosts that follow us, memories and wisps of conversations that come to us at the worst times. We can avoid those places where the ghosts haunt us, but what if those places were ours first?
The only thing to do is to reclaim it, slowly and painfully. And for me, I’ve found the best way to do that is to hike hard and fast and long miles.
Most of my spring break was spent stuffing my face and being sunburnt. We took a cruise to Mexico and I read over 1000 pages of fiction (The Lilac Girls and Americanah, both very very highly recommended). I saw Mayan ruins and swam with a dolphin named Diego, who was 4 years old and behaved about as well as you would expect a 4 year old dolphin to behave. He asked for applause when it wasn’t time to ask for applause.
The mayans in this area created large flats where they harvested salt and fish and snails. They had different marketplaces and several temples, though the last one was left unfinished. Drought came in 1050 CE, and the city population dispersed into the jungle, though they would still visit the temples from time to time.
If you have never read the book 1491, I really enjoyed it. It’s a good look at the American populations prior to western invasion– the simple native was not at all simple. There was advanced math, engineering, and land management in most cultures. I read it several years ago, and it’s stuck with me.
Anyways, the cruise was nice to be disconnected, but I still felt a need to be in the woods. And, frankly, I felt lazy and fat after all of that eating and sitting. I wanted to be in the forest, even if just for a few days.
I looked at what I had left in Virginia. 32 miles from Catawba to Sinking Creek. 102.9 from Pearisburg to Partnership (although minus 8 to Stupid Chatfield Shelter, I guess, but it’s not really near a road so I don’t know how I’ll get there).
So, it makes the most sense, since I’ll have more time on Friday than I usually will, to do a long section. Something in to Pearisburg, I suppose. (If you’ve ever wondered how I plan a section, this is it). I can probably do 10 on Friday, if I factor in driving and getting a shuttle, then 20 Saturday and 20 Sunday. Double check the elevation profile and see if there’s anything too crazy in there. I’m pretty out of shape, so I don’t want to push past 20. So I need to look for a decent road about 50 miles from Pearisburg.
So, Bland is about 42 miles from Pearisburg, on a major road with parking (for my next section). This means it should be a cheaper shuttle (small, back roads are usually more expensive). There’s a shelter 10 miles in for Friday night. I’m all set. My next step is to call and set up a shuttle. To do that, there’s a list of ATC shuttles (just google ATC shuttle and it’s the PDF). It’s organized geographically. I try to avoid gear stores or anyone that requires advance notice. I’m a spur of the moment person.
And just like that, I’m off at 5am to meet Don in Pearisburg by 11am. I’ve met him before, when I did Pearisburg to Sinking Creek with Gambit. He’s a good conversationalist and very helpful.
Seconds after he drops me off, tiny hard drops of ice start hitting me. They swirl around in the air, suspended in currents between mountains.
I check my timing- still holding to 3mph. That’s better than I’d hoped! It’s hard, but not impossible. Thankfully the trail is a gentle ridge walk (only small climbs and descents, less than 500 ft usually).