Day 6, Hightop Mountain Hut

Miles hiked:  11.5, my ankles say much more

What we saw:  black racer snake and still more deer. 

Last night, after I put my blog to rest, robins in the trees were hysterical, yapping nonstop and being completely obnoxious.  While Owl Singer and I were heading to the bathroom, I noticed the robins furiously fluttering from branch to branch. Then, I finally noticed the hulking form of an owl. 

Owl Singer said it was a barred owl. Watching it launch from the tree and slowly fly to another tree to escape the robin-pests, I was awed by its shadowy presence. Its hefty body glided softly into the woods and I stared after it, wishing to experience just once that type of flight. 

Today was easy or was supposed to be easy but the Trail is not about ease. The Trail is about learning, about growth, about change. 

Because of my lack of speed, I spent  swathes of time hiking alone. And in that time, I cursed myself for my slowness, for feeling like an anchor to others. 

I have spent too much of life measuring myself by standards I never created. I keep on writing about being content with my shadow but today I wasn’t. 

That was a hard moment of self reflection. I am 45 and supposed to be perfectly self aware and self content. And today I wanted to run down steep paths if it meant I wasn’t holding up Owl Singer and her son. 

But my speed is my speed. And as I continue to heal (and hopefully not fall), my speed will return. At this point, though, I am eleven miles past the point where I came off the Trail a year ago. 

Today, I hiked up appropriately named Hightop Mountain. It is not the highest mountain I have hiked. It is not the highest mountain in Virginia or even Shenandoah Park.  

But this mountain made me exhausted to the point of…numbness. To the point where I just wanted to toss down my trekking poles and say done. 

But I didn’t. 

Tomorrow is going to be a hard day. 15 miles. 

But after that, it’s almost all ridges and then a short drive home. 

I’m read to go home. 

I am ready never to return home. I do not miss the sounds of society. I am sitting on a rock listening to the wind acting as a soft counterpoint to a distant bird’s singing. 

I…I am at peace. 

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