The married couple spent the entire night arguing, whatever was so important at 2, 4, 5 in the morning kept most of us up. Between the shelters and the uneven surfaces I’ve slept on this wouldn’t stop me for the day. Packing up silently, I headed back to the store for a Gatorade to hydrate for the miles to come. It would be a half mile long walk back to the trail head before heading to dismal falls. The small town road had a posted speed of 25, but the two or three cars that zipped past were going well past that, causing me to be more cautious than I had to be.
Heading up from the trail lead I found it smooth and flat for once, nothing like it was yesterday. I made it to the falls in no time at all, the slight off trail took minutes to cover. Just before I came to the falls I spied ed on the left and silently walked up to him. His back to me, sitting on the ground, looking intently at something, had no clue I was walking up to him. In an instant I was right behind him, tapping him on the shoulder he turned and jumped. I had starteld him, catching him unaware of his surroundings. He then told me about the bear he had heard in the night and said I was a ghost compared to them. We joked for a bit before heading out to the falls.
Dismal falls were not very dismal indedd, they were not large but they were beautiful. The long flat rocks, gave a steps effect in the falls, creating multiple levels and drops, allowing ultimate sounds and sights to permeate the area. Leapfrogging across the stones, I made my way to the other side of the stream. The best picture would be taken form the rock outcropping on the far bank. Pictures taken, it was back to work for me, I had miles to do and no time to spare. I had eight or so miles of relatively flat terrain, so I thought it wouldn’t take long.
Boy was I wrong, the miles of trail, horribly blazed made for a confusing trail. Coming to an intersection the tree would be blazed with a double white one on top of the other, with no indication of direction. As if the marker said just stay on the trail, but which direction. Looking down the trails you couldn’t see any blazes to indicate which way was correct. The only way to tell was to walk anywhere from a few hundred feet to a quarter mile before seeing another blaze. I made horrible time back tracking and taking possibly the wrong trial once or twice. It took me the better part of 5 hours to go 8 miles, which seemed highly unlikely.
I didn’t even stop at the shelter, fed up and tired I pushed on up and over the mountain. The steep, rocky, washed out trail made walking a bit more strenuous than normal. I was definitely beginning to think Virginia wasn’t as flat as people mentioned. Reaching the top of the ridge I was rewarded with an old logging road that allowed me to rest while I walked. This was a brief victory, the trail soon changed to large rocks sticking out of the ground. The topsy turvy mammoth stones could only be passed by going from to the other like a short dance.
On flat spots of the trail the rocks aren’t too bad but when you’re going down hill it can become a burden. All I could think of was falling, my pole snapping and punching through my side. There I would be broken leg or ankle with a snapped off trekking pole sticking out of my side. These thoughts kept me alert and aware of where step I took. Feeling tired I couldn’t afford a lapse in my mental game at this point, injury could take me off the trail completely. The long downhill of rocks finally led to the first of two gaps. Here I sat and relaxed, tired from the 15 some odd miles I had done already.
Sitting on an exposed root, my back pressed against my pack and the ground, I rested for a moment. Just a moment before I took off my shoes and propped my feet up. Here I saw Mr. Doyle starting the trail late in the afternoon. I yelled to him “Oh Captain, my captain.” Greeting me back as he walked over we chatted about his day so far and why he was starting so late. I am beginning to look forward to our small meetings each day, all though it seems I am out distancing him a bit. We talked about his calling in life and how he’s been fulfilling it. Before departing I quoted some of Dead Poets Society to him;
“O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
What will your verse be? Hiking the next three miles to the shelter I thought on my words. This time instead of dreading the rocky sure our path, embracing the difficulties and getting rid of my poles. Stepping lightly, trusting my feet and ankles, I floated across the slippery stones, sliding every so often. The stones moving and shifting as I placed my weight on them had no bearing on my pace. My astute ballance and grace remained intact through he precarious trail. Coming to the view I took Ina moment borer heading off again. I had placed my phone in my pocket and without notice it had turned my music on.
I thought to myself I deserved some music, I had hiked hard these at few days and I could use the distraction. My brain of any thoughts or worries, I was free to float, to push myself a bit. It wasn’t long before I was at the shelter. Here I was greeted by two familiar faces from Woodchuck’s Hostel. Chatting and catching up, they showed me their alcohol stove and explained how to use it, I love learning about others gear and setups. They headed down the trail adnb9utnd I took the time to relax and eat. Man did I have to poop, thank god for a privy, other wise it would have to be some time in the woods. Sitting there I picked up an age old magazine and read. It was an article about Taylor Swift, that girl is doing it right, she is on top of everything right now and no chance of stopping.
I debated over the sound of thunder if it was going to rain or not tonight. My thoughts again, What will your verse be? Starring at my fire, looking into the flames, my brain swirling with thoughts, Taylor Swift, miles, time, storms, distance between my brother and I. Not focusing on anything just letting them swirl around, my brain clicked, it was time to go. I had maybe a half an hour of light left and I’d have to move to get there before dark. Punching the music I put on my upbeat playlist and headed out. I let the music take control, the beat controlling my feet, letting go I took off, like I had been shot out of a cannon. Taylor Swift, John Newman, Calvin Harris, Rudimental, leading the way up and over the roots, rocks, and streams.
My adrenaline in constant flow I blew over and up the next mountain. I must have looked like a machine, my feet in rhythm, my hands and poles moving in unison, each part working in perfect harmony, a well oiled machind. My senses heightened, my heart beating like a metronome, steady breaths long and slow, I moved down the trail effortlessly. The thick vegetation of rhododendron, favored spots for thirsty bears, lined the trail. The light fading, so dark in the trees that my headlamp would have to light my steps, my red light burning just bright enough to see the rocks. Each and every time I came to one I listened intently. Then I heard it, the huffing and grunting coming from my right. Instinctively, fueled by adrenaline and anger, I let out a roar, loud enough to quiet my music and echo in the distance. There was no response from the dark corners of the trees.
I must have looked like an idiot to anyone watching, to someone listening on the other hand it was probably the opposite. I was back to speeding up the mountain side. Pushing hard and feeling the beat, I came to a set of rock steps, with visions of light piercing through the trees at he top of the hill. Could this be the end, the clearing I was pushing for? Stepping out I found myself free of trees and the same two familiar faces looking at me, welcoming me again. Checking my watch I had done the past four miles in one hour and five minutes uphill. Four miles and hour, music was my drug, with it everything floats away, I’ll have to use this on harder days to push myself. More than twenty miles done again I set up my tent and slept, tomorrow would be town, tonight would be a feeling of victory.