Day 4, Big Meadows Campground 

Miles hiked, 8 miles 

What we saw:  LOTS of deer. A mama bear and her two cubs, a ringneck snake, chipmunks, and monarch butterflies. 

Time stands still on the trail. I find myself taking steps while seemingly standing still. I know that my feet are moving. I have to stare at and gauge where I put my right foot to keep from twisting it or causing pain to shoot up my leg. 

Sometimes, when the trail smooths and the loose rocks give way to stretches of sand, mud, or pine needles, I can afford to raise my eyes and look around me.  

Today, I have walked through woods  on which the ground was swallowed by ferns. My steps were cheered forth or cajoled by birds. And I paused beside mammoth boulders to luxuriate in the cool air emanating from them. 

For the first two hours of hiking, I am frustratingly slow. My ankle has stiffened overnight and many steps are accompanied by me covering up a groan or gasp of pain with either a cough or a raspberry like sound. 

I count steps. I pray. I hobble in steps to songs and curse my clutziness which has prevented me from always keeping up with Owl Singer. 

She is a fabulous hiking partner. She is a Master Naturalist, meaning she is educated in local fauna. When the birds are calling, she can recognize them and describe them to me so that I might appreciate them as well. 

She is kind, forgiving, and patient with my slowness. When I fell on Friday, she was there, trying to remove weight from my pack, offering comfort. 

We live in a self-centered world and she is a wellspring of compassion. 

I am sitting at the picnic table in Big Meadows while the sun is setting. I am surrounded by tourists and yet I am in isolated serenity. As the night is falling, I keep hoping the clouds will dissolve and the light pollution will fade enough that I will be able to see the Milky Way. 

I want to see the silver belt of stars and feel the silence of the world. 

In terms of miles, I am halfway done. I have seven more days, one of which is a rest day. 

I somewhat miss my family. I do not miss television or the noise of the world. 

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