Thursday, 30 May 2013

Walking mindfully

May 29 - Trying to walk mindfully

It ain't easy. That's all I can say. Somehow I thought walking in the woods would be meditative. And is when it's flat, lol. Still I tried. When I found my mind wandered I'd bring it back to the trail. But then it was off again. 

I discovered too that I like hiking with others. I hiked alone and camped alone this whole five day stretch and while it was a nice change of pace, I missed sharing it (especially the hard bits) with someone who could commiserate. And I found that hanging in my hammock with nothing to do but be in the moment was more conducive to meditating in nature than hiking with a pack strapped on you. Hmm. 

I woke up at 6 a.m. and after letting my brain work itself up to speed, got up. Actually getting out of the hammock is the most difficult thing about hammock hanging. It's just way too comfortable. I can hang (and have hung) for 12 hours without issue. I can't do that in a tent as every part that touches the mattress is hurting after only 8 hours. And in a tent, my head never rests in the proper position for some reason. 

The one thing I noticed when I got up was how damp my down quilts were.  It was very humid with the rain and everything was damp, clothes, too. And I was dirty inside my clothes. The humidity and warmer temps have made me stickier more quickly than in previous weeks. Not good when you actually offend yourself. 

I only had nine miles to go so I wasn't in a hurry but six weeks of learning how to pack things up efficiently put me on the trail in record time. 

I think I've changed my mind about PUDs again. They're for the freaking birds! The hike today was 50-50 good and bad. The good parts were nice forests with pine needle-covered trails and easy walking, even uphill with a grade that made me sweat. The bad were rocky outcroppings the trail maintainers thought would be fun to have hapless hikers hump over. They did me no favours. 

The strange occurrence of the day was when I crossed a road and there was a guy 50 meters up the trail on the other side, just standing there. He didn't have a pack. He said hello as I passed waited a minute and then began following me playing a recorder!  He played well but he kept coming for hundreds of meters and since it was out of a ga,p it was all uphill. It wasn't banjo music but it was a bit strange. He finally stopped turned and headed back down. I sort of wished I'd asked him about it. Walking, playing meditation perhaps?

Finally arrived at Partnership Shelter, the Ritz of trail shelters. A log house with matching privy - a privy that not only has complete floor to ceiling walls mind you, but, get this ...  a door!

It also has a shower. And that's why no one wants to leave. There were people all over the place and it was a party atmosphere. I saw some people I had not seen since Georgia. They're skipping around and not thru-hiking.

I walked on past to the Mt Rogers HQ building where I recharged my dead phone at an outlet behind a stuffed bear. Later on a father-daughter team showed up outside where I was sitting and he complained about the hangers on at the shelter. They were planning on staying the night but not with a bunch of stoners there and he was upset the rangers didn't enforce the one night rule. 

There was a local transit shuttle that was to make a run to the town of Marion six miles away but it was three hours later. I put on my town shirt and began asking visitors for a ride to town. The third guy said yes. 
Dehydrated peanut butter!?

Turns out he owns a new business in town that sells food and beverages and all sorts of stuff, a lot of it art related, including pre-poured ceramics that you buy and then hand paint yourself. He then fires them for you. I mentioned my parents made pottery for a living and he showed me a warehouse full of moulds he acquired but had not put to use thus far. There were close to 1000 of them. All I saw was enough "stuff" to drive you insane. I hope he knows what he's getting into. Ceramics is labour intensive.  :/
Jim and some of his ceramic moulds.

I don't know what to do about the foot issues I'm having. I've read what Pat's document said and I've tried May's suggestion about a lube. And I've been reading my Kindle book, Fixing Your Feet. 

 New blisters appear beside the old ones and old ones become new ones. It's only a problem after some hours and seems to be related to sweating and higher temps. I can feel my feet are hot. But I can't stop, peel off socks and tape, wipe with alcohol (so the new tape sticks), retape and don fresh socks - every two hours. Can I?

So maybe I need to take several days off and just heal? But then what? I must admit I'm a bit gun shy now. And to make it worse now I've developed shin and ankle pains on my right leg which I think are from changing my gait because of blisters on the right heel. 

Don't mean to belabour the blister thing but it's the centre of my attention now. Not sure what comes next. 


  1. Hi Peter,

    Don't know much about what you have to deal with, but would full feet leather sandals (Roman style) be a possibility now that the weather will improve.


  2. Hi Peter, I think the flute player was trying to be supportive of your walk. Maybe the music would carry you onwards? Sorry to hear that you are still having problems with blisters. Some runners who are prone to blisters use double layer socks. The idea is that the socks rub against each other and not your skin. The socks are also synthetic so moisture/sweat is wicked away from skin. I'm not sure if these would be available at trail stores but it maybe worth a try. Good luck!

  3. Hey Gronk, I think the weird noise you have been hearing at night are Barred Owl Chicks, they have a screeching noise when they get hungry.
    You’re about three days from a great hostile called Woods Hole. They have hot meals (Vegan Only) and a bunk house you can hold up in for a few days to rest and heal. The couple that run the hostile go to town (Pearisburg) everyday so you could catch a ride in for Mexican, BBQ, or Chinese food if you desired. Or, hike into Pearisburg and get a room at one of several motels, two motels are right across the street from restaurants and a Food Lion.
    As for hiking alone, hiking partners are as fickle as dance partners at high school sock hop. It’s a long journey and lots more hikers to meet. Embrace the solitude of hiking by yourself and remember you’re not alone out there. I was told that one of the reasons people leave the trail is because they get bored. I found every hour had a challenge, some new, and some not so new. PUDs, MUDs, being stinky and sticky, hungry, and hurting, it’s all part of what makes the A.T. unique.
    If you’re starting to do 20 miles days and your shins hurt, you might want to back off the mileage a bit until the legs heal. Shin splits are common and painful. Hope your feet are getting better, keep smiling buddy you’ve done more than most.


  4. Hi Peter,

    Is changing your socks every 2 hours the solution...I don't know...but I do remember an old Warrant Officer forcing us to change our sock at every "smoke" breaks on full pack marches. You are not “alone” on the trail you have a bunch of us with you in spirit, a bunch of us envious of your dedication to this endeavour and a few of us who wished they were in good enough shape to share this with you. A few days of rest and healing is not a setback but a way to ensure success. Take the time you need and don’t worry we will all be here to support anyway we can.

  5. Thanks all for your comments! I know Gronk has replied to some if not all of you. I spoke with him this morning, before he set off again. He sounds stronger and calmer mentally than I've ever heard him. He has taken much of your advice to heart about the blisters. He showed me pix and they don't look that bad but they are painful. He will keep walking and see how it goes.

    Sandals are not an option because of the rough terrain. One little slip sideways and you have bashed your feet up terribly. I know some people wear "hiking sandals" but wearing shoes has already saved his toes on many occasions, so Gronk will stay with shoes.

  6. "Travel without adversity isn't an adventure." from "Bad Trips" It sounds to me that you are having quite an adventure and that you are accumulating good stories every day. I know I enjoy reading them.
    I feel for you and your blisters, its hard to be mindful when your feet are yelling at you. Hopefully they will improve.
    Happy Trails, Bonjour

  7. Hang in there, Gronk. It is just passed seven (7) weeks since you started this excellent adventure. Think of what you have accomplished, in spite of the blisters!!! I recall the motto for the RCAF: "Per Ardua ad Astra". Roughly translated this means: "Through adversity to the stars". I have always found that nothing in life is truly worthwhile without a little adversity. Carry on!! You are doing great!!!