It was slow today, we didn’t have much work to do so my mind wandered between jobs. To and fro, from this person to that, always coming back to the trail. I could not concentrate for the life of me. I have been feeling out of place lately. Lost, a feeling of not belonging, that at any second everyone around me would realize, at any instant, that I wasn’t suppose to be there. This charade would be over as one by one they would all turn around silently and stare, till everyone was looking at me. The gig is up they know, get out, go! Today I did just that, I left, said I was feeling ill and went for a hike to clear my head, to refocus my internal compass.
I quickly left work, it took only fifteen minutes to get home and another twenty to find my gear, out the door I went. I had about five hours to get a good hike in, before I needed to head to my next job at the balloon store. I quickly drove to White Clay again and decided to hit some trails I had yet to connect to each other yet. I parked at The Nature Center and grabbed my gear. To all the mothers with infants and kids I must have looked like an alien. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit to myself, even here, now I felt a bit out of place as they all stared at me. Had they never seen a man before, let alone someone in the middle of the day go hiking?
I hit the trail as fast as I could, setting a good pace, poles in hand. As I descended the small embankment it became clear that the trail had been washed out again and this could be some what interesting for the day. I passed many patches of fresh mud, that had been deposited on the trails, from the height of the water or rain. As the trail passed under foot I felt myself coming back to my center. I could have sworn there was a bridge here. No mind, No matter; No matter, No mind, I slid down into the stream and climbed the other side with out a thought.
It was not till I reached Pennsylvania that I felt at home, all the feelings from the past two days had melted away and I was back to my unified self for the time being. I kept pace while staring at the water, so clear, still almost as if it were a sheet of glass, the occasional leaf would float by and break up the perfect image. My mind wandered to my finances and how I was doing with saving for this trip. I need to be more diligent in putting money away. This thought, inner monologue, conversation lasted mile after mile. If my math serves me correct I should have close to five thousand put away if I get really strict about it, when April comes.
April, it seems so far off, yet it is right around the corner. I must stay the course, stick to the path, this is proving to be harder for me than I thought. My friend Aaron was right, the hardest part for me would be the waiting and saving, once I’m out there it will be easy for me in this regard. Thoughts of my friends follow and lead me to my brother as I come to a crossing in the creek in PA. Wow, the water was low, I couldn’t believe how dry the creek was right now. In the height of summer, I’d crossed here and it was almost up to my waist. The water had to be only about two feet at the deepest part.
Poles in hand I stepped carefully along makeshift damn, they were probably the best investment I could have gotten. One foot in front of the other I stepped, each rock more and more slippy, coated in slime and algae. Tricky it had just become, there was about two feet between rocks and I didn’t want to hop it. As I pondered what to do, my decision was made for me. Sliiiip, my left foot slid right off the rock and into the water. At that instant I pictured a boat being swallowed up by the ocean, as the water rose up and over the top of my boot, pulling it down to the rocky bottom. SON OF A…. MOTHER….. Aaaaargggghhh. Well I am wet now, so who cares I plunged my right foot into the cold water before I realized how deep it was. Dumb dumb, your phone is in your pocket, if it’s wet, it is too late now. Only a dozen or so steps and I was out of the water and climbing the other side to the trail head. Splosh, splosh, splosh, my feet went as they squished out the water with every step, no matter, no mind.
Shortly after my fall into the water and down the trail I came to another crossing, without a though of getting wet or dirty I drove through it, hell I was already wet. What could more water do? Make my shoes wetter? I drove on along the creeks edge, the trail soon took a gradual left away from the creek. I watched as the water slowly disappeared from view, replaced by a dry over grown creek bed with little water. Wait, I remember seeing, well mostly hearing other hikers and runners from that side over here. I stood there for a moment using my hands to rearrange my thoughts. To anyone walking by I would have looked like either like a crazy person or a symphony conductor as my hands moved my memories around. In my mind I was searching for images of maps, trails, pictures, anything that had the name, Yeatman Station Rd. My hands moved images left and right bringing anything pertinent to the front of my view.
This collage of images formed a map allowing me to see the trail in its entirety. No wonder I wasn’t sure, White clay at this point was split into two sections, the main water fare and the flood plain. As I focused my eyes and ears I could see the other side off in the distance and hear the sound of the rushing water. Off again my feet pulled me, I would eventually have to cross again but that was miles away. Taking in the sights and sounds my thoughts brought me back to my brother, Can we really do this for Cancer? Will we be able to raise a significant amount of money? Will they even back us for our journey? I hope my brother is doing well and making head way with the American Cancer Society. Lost in these thoughts, I didn’t even notice the trail dead ending in the waters edge.
Still wet from the previous crossing, sliding down to the water, I went on. I only paused for a moment to take pictures of the foundation of an old bridge, that had long been removed, washed away, or what have you. Feet wet again, trekking poles in hand, I made my way across the water. The only thoughts at this point were of how much I needed to get out, how much I had needed this afternoon to myself. The next two miles were a blur as I zoned out. Upon approaching the final hill before the parking lot my thoughts returned to the tasks at hand for the day, balloons, work, money for the trail. This afternoon was a come to Jesus moment for me. If I truly want to go on this venture, I must be diligent about saving money. Stay the course, make sacrifices, and keep my eye on the prize, four to five months of just me, Roland, in the woods doing what we love. What better way to call out sick than to get an afternoon all to yourself, refocus and regain that momentum.