Monday, June 3, 2019

Lost in Time and Space

Sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

I found myself in my hammock, on the edge of an overlook, torn between taking a nap and the intermittent service on my cell phone. I couldn't withdraw myself from the very reason why I made the late night drive to the park. I sought to free my mind but I couldn't get out of my own head...

I watched the setting sun from Stony Top, the second highest point in Shenandoah. I hiked out in the dark, consistently scanning the woods for black bears. I ate out of the back of my car and sat on an overlook staring into the darkness of the valley. The phone constantly beckoned, bringing both agony and hope. 

I spent my night in a parking lot. I was too tired to make the drive and compete for limited camping spaces, especially on a holiday weekend. I ended up on my back for two hours, staring into a cloudless, star filled void. I never felt so alone, and I never felt so alive. Satellites creeped slowly in their orbits and streaks of shooting stars briefly disturbed my view. I was lost in time and space. 

I awoke in time to catch the sunrise. I made coffee on my jet boil as couples posed for social media rather than actually take in the view. The burning ball of fire emerged from the clouds and haze suspended on the horizon. A magical moment and at the same time, overwhelming. My jealousy illuminated my hypocrisy. 

I was the first on the trail, descending down the mountainside via White Oak Canyon Trail. A familiar haunt filled with "secret" paths and waterfalls. I passed pools filled with native brook trout still clinging to their range as the world decays around them. I was content with watching their ebb and flow rather than sticking them with a hook. I set up my hammock at the base of a large waterfall and slept to the sound of water. 

Later, I decided to explore. I found a deep pool surrounded by walls of granite and a roof of green. I stared into it, daydreaming of what could be, but most likely never will. I was lost again, in a different time and space. A brook trout rose and ate a small stonefly. I watched a hover fly land on my arm and lick my sweat. I eventually made the traverse to Cedar Run Trail and began the ascent. 

Again, I found myself hiking into every nook and cranny, extending an already long hike and pushing the limits of my sleep deprivation. One particular set of falls was covered in moss with water disappearing through the green, only to magically reappear elsewhere. I ate my last Cliff Bar and ran out of water. A few miles later, I started to hit a wall. 

The last few hours were a daze as I crossed Skyline Drive and onto the Appalachian Trail. I contemplated hitch hiking back to my car but couldn't bring myself to admit defeat. The sky darkened, thunder rolled in, and I moved on. One foot moved in front of the other. I was lost again, in yet another time and space. 

The sky opened up and began to downpour as I reached the parking lot. I changed and drank water. I had a four hour drive home in the dark and the rain. I don't remember much other than stopping to save a turtle crossing the road. Work beckoned and my alarm clock was set for 5 am.  

I didn't know if my weekend hurt or helped. 

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