I arrive at the Relax Inn, a hiker hotel by the Atkins Truck Stop. The Relax Inn has not been upgraded for over 20 years. It serves hikers and truckers but gets low evaluations because the rooms are old.
I must decide if I can continue hiking in light of my equipment problems – my sleeping bag zipper is broken and my pack seems close to falling apart. I spend three nights here.
The first day, I walk south on the Appalachian Trail for an hour, considering future plans.
I consider the weather forecast – rain, wind, and cold on the day I plan to leave. Can I get a new sleeping bag?
The wind is cold. I realize that I cannot continue using the equipment that I have and that there is no place nearby to buy new equipment.
I think about buying warmer clothing. Where can I go? How can I get there?
I remember trying to sleep in the cold wind close to Buzzards Rock and the cold night afterward. If my clothes are dry, I might be okay.
I read Chapter 11 of the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell.
“Colors blind the eye.”
“Sounds deafen the ear.”
“Flavors numb the taste.”
I return to the truck stop and walk through a covered bridge that goes north.
“Thoughts weaken the mind.”
I walk north on the Appalachian Trail, north of the Relax Inn. I will be going this way if I continue on the Appalachian Trail.
I pass a sign telling about the early settlers. The Davis Family established a home in 1748 that became a “neighborhood fort.” They had more than just wind and cold to ponder.
The trail goes under Route 81.
“Desires wither the heart.”
“The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.”
I visit the Davis cemetary, established by the early settlers. The graves date back to the 1800s but, on most, the inscriptions are unclear.
The Tao te Ching says, “He allows things to come and go.”
The tombstone reads, “I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness.”
The tombstone reads, “Blessed are they that die in the Lord.”
The Tao te Ching chapter concludes, “His heart is as open as the sky.”
The Tao te Ching text describes a result of meditation – the awareness of emptiness. Bring all your awareness to the breath, the breathing in and out. Let go of all other perceptions and the mind becomes empty – no sight, sounds, taste, thoughts, only inner vision and even that is empty.
I have been to this hotel various times over the past 20 years during my hiking on the Appalachian Trail. I stay at the Relax Inn each time I pass through and the owners recognise me.
I talk with the inn owners and their son. The inn owner’s son, age 34, has just returned from New Jersey where he has visited the Indian community there. He explains the family shrine. He is a follower of the Hindu diety Shiva (the toilet paper and credit card reader are not part of the shrine).
His father, age 72, elaborates – Hinduism began more than 10,000 years ago. He purchased this hotel 21 years ago.
This is the end of my hike this year. I cannot continue this year without winter gear. I will start at this place and walk North in the spring. I have walked 544 miles from Springer Mountain Georgia, to Atkins, VA — not bad for a 70 year-old guy.
I call my wife, Karen, and ask her to come to Atkins.
She arrives the next day and we leave in the morning.