Having worked with young people for most of my life, I have always been able to see strength where others may see challenge. The bossy child was a natural leader, the needy child was warm and loving, and the stubborn student was persistent. It’s not just about coating something with seeing it because the glass is full, but recognizing the good even when it’s hard. This last stretch of trail from Damascus to Dalesville gave me many opportunities to practice this on myself and this experience.
I had read that a lot of people stopped in Virginia because maybe it was too long, flatter or not as exciting. I think the challenge comes in hoping it’s going to be one of those things because maybe that means it’s going to be easier. Virginia is where a hiker realizes it will never really be easy. Even when you reach 1/3 of the way, you wonder about your sanity choosing this difficult adventure. Yes, a lot of things are getting easier. You are stronger and more skilled, but there is always a big hill to climb or come down, a new pain or a new blister, and you miss your old comfortable life before you walked on the track.
Here are some of my reframes that keep me going:
- Heavy package = delicious food to eat! Every day lighter at the next replenishment
- Cold weather = no bugs!
- Warm weather = woods come alive, spring flowers and trees bloom
- Rain = better water supply, less forest fires
- Terrain is hard (uphill or downhill, rocky or just tired) = mother earth is fair and I’m always rewarded for my efforts: great views, a great campsite, town or my traimily waiting to share the hiking stories of the day .
- All the aches, strains and pains = my body is incredibly capable of healing
- I miss my family, my friends and my bed = this is a unique opportunity for me, they support me and how lucky to live in a time when you can text, call and face the weather!
Here is a list of my last iconic trail moments:
- Wilburn Ridge Ponies
- The snakes on the trail scare me to death
- Spring then last (hopefully) unexpected snowstorm
- Dragon’s tooth was a hard day’s climb. The Mcafee Knob and personally I thought the most impressive was the Tinker Cliffs.
- Trees falling in strong winds…the big crack and boom quickly got me out of my bag one morning
- Hostels: Alpaca Farm, Bear Garden, Four Pines, all great
- Stopping at noon to soak up the sun and laze by the creek AND so our traimily injured limb could catch up with us
- Things I didn’t think I would do: asking strangers for walks, having dinner at the gas station, drinking unfiltered water (crazy thirsty and super safe source), hiking 18 km so I could order a pizza delivery to a shelter (Partnership)
As the trail changes, so do I. Winter gray gave way to spring green, with wildflowers, butterflies and centipedes. My runway mate offered me a new runway name Spitfire and I take it. Steamboat worked at first, but it seemed to be more about where I was from and not who I am. Spitfire has many meanings and references but it was given as a reflection of the skater’s brand. I love this connection to the skater subculture which also embraces diversity, creativity and a break from mainstream society. I may also have a reputation for spitting fire on endless climbs or on any number of topics I’m passionate about 😬
The novelty and excitement hasn’t worn off for me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m very tired and feeling physical effects on my body in the afternoon. I wonder what exactly I’m doing here. Then I remember my why and my why now. I’ll leave you with a great quote that I’ve kept on my wall above my computer at work that I love and repeat to myself often on the track:
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.
-Mary Anne Radmacher
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