The day was the longest day in the year and that meant hike naked day. Diesel and I continued our getting to know each other as we climbed the mountain. We were both feeling down and trying to motivate the other, he was missing his dad on father’s day and I was deep within the Virginia Blues. Climbing to the best view of the day we found just what we were looking for. Here was this little note weather and pinned under a rock, like a gift from God. Reading it he started to well up a bit and I felt it in my soul. We stood there looking at the view, taking in the message. At the top of the mountain he called home leaving at emotional message as I looked into the distance giving him space and getting lost in my thoughts.
The two of us hiked up and over toward the top of Punch Bowl. Passing our friends we reached the summit, learning of the fate of Little Ollie Clint Powell. In 1891 this five year old had wandered away from school and hiked up to the top of mountain, when he was finally found he still had his hat on. A memorial marks the spot where the boy was finally found months later. Paying our respects we hiked down to the shelter, I remained behind as Diesel headed out. It isn’t a rare occurrence that I see memorials along the trail, lost loved ones, angels, rangers and hikers.
Reaching the gap at the bottom I was welcomed by a bit of trail magic, fruit and a soda for the weary. Here I caught up with Chicago and we chatted before she headed back out. These days I seem to be hiking more and more alone, the solitude of the day sinking in. I desperately crave companionship, with Roland I never felt that way. It’s different hiking his remains than hiking with him, in the end I’m still alone, just me with my thoughts. Sinking deeper into the Virginia Blues, swimming with Chicago at the river didn’t pick me up much, just sustained me for a few more miles.
Passing the 800 mile mark I whooped and continued on alone, back again in my thoughts, I knew I was getting depressed when I just walked past without taking a photo. The small things were only keeping me afloat now instead of picking me up. I came across the sweetest little spring, dripping off moss like out of a movie. Taking a drink I rehydrated and pushed to the gap, my spirit was and has been waning. Small goals to keep afloat were all I focused on. Get to the next shelter, the next gap, dinner, whatever it takes to get through the day.
Reaching the gap I look at two other hikers, greeting them and chatting for a moment. Just as soon as I told them I was heading to two a car peaked over the horizon, looking back over to them I told them I had to go. Walking out to the road I put my thumb up as the car immediate pulled over and told me to get in. The two of them looked over in amazement as I joking looked back and said that’s why my friends call me Sweet Legs. Off in a flash we were on our way to town to get some Milkshakes and Gatorade. The driver a wonderful woman was lost and I told her I’d get her back on track as we headed to town.
Refreshed and full I hitched back to the gap. The next six miles of steep uphill only brought me deeper into my depression. Hiking up a Gatorade for Diesel seemed so foreign and small as I fell into my thoughts. I was hating life, the trail and the state. I just wanted to sleep, pushing hard for so many days, I really needed some downtime to recuperate. It just wasn’t in the cards yet. Hitting the field around sunset I was happily greeted by Diesel as I shared some trail magic with him. Both of us were feeling down and being apart from each other allowed us to be lost in those feelings.