THE 100 MILE WILDERNESS
It has hardly been a day, and yet entering the 100 mile wilderness makes Katahdin seem like part of a different adventure, a story I remember. That is, except for the soreness I still feel in my legs, a deep ache in my thighs from the steep descent down the Abol Trail. We walk until just before dark. Campsites are scarce here. We finally locate a spot and settle in for the night. The ground is lumpy. So many roots hidden beneath the duff. That is what I’ll remember about campsites on the AT—roots.
The 100 mile wilderness is old logging land. As someone from the Pacific Northwest, this is the first thing that I notice, and then I notice all the mushrooms, crazy cool mushrooms. There is no sky, just a dim green light. The trail is rocks and roots and mud. My line of sight is my feet, and my goal is to not stumble or trip as I carefully move my feet over, around, and through the maze of rocks and roots. It’s an obstacle course, and the focus it requires is mentally exhausting. The boards over the wet bog lands are welcome—I can just walk across them. I focus on my walking, pausing for a “wow” at house-sized boulders, stacked rock stairs, and everything covered in moss. It’s a bit fairytale-like.
I find myself feeling elated at the beauty and the light in the open woods where I can see off into the distance, and becoming irritable and sad in the woods that are overcrowded with thin trees and undergrowth. I remind myself, with each step, to keep a proper pelvic tilt, to engage my core and glutes in order to protect my lower back and my knees. This becomes my focus, and helps ease how claustrophobic the crowded woods make me feel. I miss the sky, and yet this opportunity to perfect my walking brings me great joy.
And this is how the miles pass—I rock the bottom end of my pelvic bone upward, engaging my core and glutes. I feel it working most on the the steep staircases. At one point, where the upper part of the hamstring meets the glutes, it literally feels like a soft pair of hands is lifting me up the staircase. This is when I’m sure I’m doing it right. The words “training for longevity” echo through my thoughts… … …and I’m sure this will be the theme for my next painting series. I can see the shapes and the colors—pale blocks of soft pinks, green, maybe a little raw sienna, and of course black. I miss my studio.
The light is fantastic here, the crazy mushrooms, the lakes, the moss, the boulders, and even all the crazy roots. Focusing on proper walking is helping me to appreciate the beauty here more. When the body feels good, it helps the mind to feel good too.