Hiking the Appalachian Trail: North from the James River

I will be hiking the Appallachian Trail, walking from Glascow, Virginia, to my friends’ house, close to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia — a distance of about 220 miles. I will walk about 15 miles each day.

image

I baked a kind of sour dough biscuit, made of raisins, bran, whole wheat flour, and molasses. I also dehydrated food for meals. Then I made up food packages which I mail to myself (General Delivery) to towns along the way.

image
Karen drives me to Glascow, VA — and poses in front of the town dinosaur (this is not trick photography — they have a dinosaur in Glascow even though the only motel has gone out of business.)

image
The Appalachian Trail footbridge crosses the James River — which flows through Richmond, VA, and down past the Norfolk, VA, area (Hampton Roads).
image
I begin the hike — at the place where the Appalachian Trail crosses the James River.

I look back at the James River. When I start off on a hike like this, I always wonder if I will be able to finish it. Will I twist an ankle? Will I become so exhausted that I won’t be able to continue?

Here is chapter 13 from Lao tsu’s Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):
“Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.
What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.
What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?
See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self,
then you can care for all things.”

I climbed over a thousand feet and looked down at the James River.

Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

Lao tsu provides a metaphor — take each moment as it comes.

I reach a historical marker at the top of Bluff Mountsin (over 3000 feet above sea level) — the marker indicates the place where the boy’s body was found.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self.

Through much of life, we think about ourselves — Lao tsu asks:

When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

Generally, we see the self as self. The child’s parents and the entire community were upset by Odie’s death — enough to create a monument.

But walking creates a feeling of harmony — I can forget myself.

The sign states that this is a section of virgin forest, one of the few areas on the East Coast that has never been logged and farmed. There are huge trees in this section — I see that one of them has been heavily carved with graffiti.

Lao tsu says, “See the world as your self. Have faith in the way things are.”

Even with their graffiti, the trees are magnificent…and Lao tsu says — accept things as they are — have faith — just keep walking — you are part if it.

A suspension bridge.

Love the world as your self,
then you can care for all things.

The historical marker tells about the Brown Mountain Creek community of free slaves that used to live along this river. I look at a stone wall built by one of them.

This section is close to the town of Buena Vista where I will spend the night, wash my clothes, and take a shower. From Buena Vista, I will walk to Waynesboro, VA — that takes four days.

I’m back on the trail — past Bald Knob — past Cow Camp Shelter — I walk along the ridge around Cold Mountain. The wind blows.

I do a kind of walking meditation. I’m not thinking of much of anything.

If you walk with me, you can tell me about whatever bothers you and I will listen…but I won’t say that much. After a while, you’ll grow quiet and it will all blow away in the wind.

We have three more days of walking until we get to Waynesboro.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s