Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah

I hitchhike from Waynesboro to get back to the trail. I start walking again — on my way to Harper’s Ferry, eventually — my next town-stop is Elkton — then Front Royal.

I read Chapter 15 from the Tao te Ching by Lao tsu:

“The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.”

People tend to regard “ancient masters” as better than modern ones — the modern ones seem inadequate. It seems that this was the case even in Lao tsu’s era! (perhaps 6th century BC)

“They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.”


Careful, alert, courteous, fluid, shapable, receptive, clear — you might think that by seeking these qualities, you will become like those ancient masters but it doesn’t work like that. Lao tsu advocates non-doing rather than doing. Non-seeking, rather than seeking.

Non-doing is meditation — the inner way. Just being.

People suspect that the ancient masters had more time available for transformation than most modern people — but the difficulties that the ancient masters encountered differ from those that you and I encounter.

Here is what I say: You do not need to emulate the ancient masters. I want you to become the one you truly are. Each of us is unique. The meditation process can help you become your true self — someone living in the modern era.


Lao tsu, the ancient master, asks:

“Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?”

I will be showing only a few scenes during this section of my hike because I encountered heavy wind and rain — I feared that my iPad would be destroyed by the water. I struggled to make it through the storm.

“The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.”

These verses do not emphasize seeking — the master is merely present. Meditation does not mean struggling to control your thoughts — it involves merely being aware — seeing a thought come and letting it go — returning your focus to the breath.

I reach Black Rock Mountain.

Not seeking. Not expecting.

She can welcome all things — hard to do sometimes when difficulties arise.


In Elkton, the Country Store has a bear on the roof.

The theme of this blog — this particular hiking section, is struggle — due to the weather. I hike through heavy rain, hard wind.
A hurricane — now a tropical storm — has come up from Mexico.

Heavy rain and wind — more than I wanted. Hard to sleep at night.
Okay — it happens, keep walking.

I have fallen behind my schedule — and I find that almost all the rooms in the only place in Front Royal have been taken — I have to make a reservation if I want to get a room (and I really, really needed a room to dry out and recover!) and so now I’m walking down Skyline Drive (parallel to the Appalachian Trail). I am hitch-hiking because I need to be in Front Royal in two days.

Sometimes, you have to go with the flow. I’ll spend one more night out and then walk into Front Royal.


A view from the road — eventually I get a ride to place where I can get back on the Appalachian Trail — six miles down the road — and I’m back on my schedule. Of course Lao tsu doesn’t advocate schedules but he was not out in the hurricane, was he?

I am climbing what I regard as a sacred mountain — South Marshall Mountain.

Here is the message: part of the inner journey involves struggle. What to do in the face of difficulty? Be present — eyes open. The secret is being present in the moment.

This is a magical place — the sacred mountain

During your life, you have faced difficulties — you can expect more in the future and your reaction will determine your overall happiness.

Soon I will be in Front Royal, Virginia.
There are various Eastern meditation traditions which describe the mind as like a glass filled with muddy, swirling water. If you do not disturb the water, the mud settles and the water becomes clear.
Your mind is filled with swirling thoughts. Be still and allow your mind to settle.

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