Today we returned to our post Jonas spot on the Appalachian Trail, and, once on top of the mountain, I let the dogs off the leash. That’s right, I gave it a whirl, AND ambitiously attempted to do some yoga. Turner was not having the handstand (see image above). Wow, I have not seen so much joy cross their faces in quite some time. They raced up and back along the trail, rooted around in the brush, and, to my delight, returned to me every time I called them.
As we turned toward the car I realized that I wasn’t ready to head home yet. It seems the more I hike, the less I want to do anything else. So, we passed the car, and kept traveling. This section of trail was still coated in several inches of snow. With every step I thought of my connection to the earth, to my animals, to others, and to myself. My love for hiking seems to lie in the silence of the wilderness. In the calm, I can pick out an odd sound and recognize something that flashes by my periphery. I can identify things that feel off through my intuition, and know when to head in the opposite direction. And, when I doubt my own intuition I can always observe the behavior of my dogs who always know what’s up, and instinctively have my back.
I saw a post on Facebook the other day asking women who thru hike if they carry a weapon. So many of them said yes, and referenced a favorite gun. I can’t help but wonder what there is to fear in the woods? Do these women also carry in their everyday lives? I have only felt scared in the woods once, that being the first time I came across a bear. It has happened since then, and with each occurrence I feel a little less afraid and a little more knowledgable on how to keep a cool head and do the right thing. Which is to say, keep my dogs from dragging me toward a bear and her cubs, while maintaining a safe distance and shrieking in a high pitch like a little girl. Okay, that sounds ridiculous, but really, bears hate little girl screams. I mean, who doesn’t? The only instances I’ve encountered people that cause my hairs to stand on end have been in a concrete environment. Urban, suburban, and sometimes even rural, it matters not. People are some of the most deceptive and untrustworthy animals with which I’ve come in contact. I might argue that this little bit of information is a large part of why I retreat to the woods so often. It’s probably also a big reason as to why many other hikers are out there. I get that there will sometimes be random people out there who will cause me to go the long way around in order to steer clear of them. That happens anywhere. And if I’m not going to carry a gun in my civilized life, I’m certainly not going to start carrying one during my time of meditation. A gun would cause me to feel paranoid, fearful that I will accidentally shoot myself or one of my pups. Fearful that I may harm someone or something else and live to regret it. When I’m afraid my body temperature changes, my attention turns toward the thing causing me tension, my senses become preoccupied. For me the safety in fear comes when those characteristics are brought about by a real threat. If the fear comes from something I am doing, then it is simply a distraction. It could even cause me to appear off to other hikers. So, I will continue to walk this earth in a manner that will cause me to be mindful of peace, to project a sense of calm, and not to disturb my connection with my best defense, my intuition.