Working the trail

You don’t decide to work on trails for the money. It’s not the notoriety, the appreciation, or the benefits. There’s no real job security and there’s rough competition. 

You do it, because you want to hike to work. Because when you have free time, you spend it in the woods. Because you enjoy coming home filthy dirty and exhausted. You do it for the pride, even if no one else ever notices. 

You fall in love with it… or you don’t. There’s not really an in between. And once you know this is what you want, you’d do anything to keep doing it. 

I’d be content living out my life in the side of the mountains. Swinging in my hammock each night, listening to the birds. Building, renovating and hiking these trails. 

I want to teach Ethan what it means to leave no trace. To have the same love and respect for the forest as I do. Then maybe once he’s old enough, he may choose the same rewarding life. 

It’s not easy. I’m sore and bruised and bug bitten. I’m covered in dirt and sweat. I eat the same things day in and out. But I’ve never felt more alive. If I could have my family with me, I think I could truly feel whole for the first time in my life. 

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Method

There is at least a method to my madness sometimes. 

I wear trail runners to hike in so that when my feet get wet, they dry quickly and I’m not uncomfortable. 

I buy cheap sunglasses because the universe has decided I’m not meant to own a pair. Granted to lose 2 pair to the same little creek is annoying regardless. 

I speak to bees sweetly. For the most part they buzz on and mind their own business. This has served me well considering I’ve only been stung once in my life and that was because one got caught in my pants. Don’t ask, it’s the sort of stupid thing only I could have managed. 

I dream big, because the prospect of losing my imagination is terrifying. 

Characters

The things we hate.

During my time here, I’ve met hundreds of people. Most of them amazing, but only a handful could I begin to call… unforgettable. Fewer than that could I call friend.

That being said, many are characters in and of themselves. People come through to teach us lessons, care for us or give us something to care about.

One such character made me laugh more than anyone in a very long time. Be it stories, jokes, actions, or even just day to day griping (of which there was a lot). So much griping in fact that I started a list of all the things he hated. And then it kind of dawned on me that his list wasn’t so specific. It was a reflection of things many of us despise.

We yell at other drivers on the road. Grumble about people refusing to take personal responsibility. All of these characters… we all have things in common. It’s how we band together and make connections.

But sometimes we end up being so self absorbed, that we forget to allow ourselves to learn from others. The differences. We get closed off, set in a rut and let our who dictate life. There’s always something these characters can teach us. It doesn’t matter if those people are our elders, or in this case ten years our junior.

I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned, professional, technical and personal. I hope you all strive to be open and learn something new every day. Learn something new from every person you meet. Don’t let your ego get I  the way. And appreciate those you meet, even if you don’t expect them to be around for very long.

Love or hate

Working in the east coast mountains, you encounter endless laurels. Rhodedendron, mountain laurel, azaleas, blueberries… 

They grow quickly, over take trails and bald and water ways alike. Much of our job consists of cutting back the laurels, or tearing them out completely. Many people develop a deep disgust for the plant. 

But they’re native. They help with erosion. They give nesting and shelter to birds and wildlife. They provide a pollen source for bees and butterflies in the spring and summer…

And let’s not forget that their magical. The low hanging branches in full bloom over a trail gives a whimsical feel to what would otherwise be an average day. The rhime frost clinging to their limbs in  the winter is truly enchanting. They provide shade to weary travelers in the summer. 

No matter how much of it I have to tear out, or blaze through, or get stuck in… I will always love the laurels. 

Pleasant surprises

The universe has a way of teaching us lessons that we never expected to learn. People have a way of surprising you. I used to believe I was really good at reading people. Turns out, I’m not perfect.  Turns out, even I can be wrong. Big surprise, but no one tell Terry that I said that. 

Some of you know, and some of you don’t, but Terry and I are in a poly-amorous marriage. We’ve had an open relationship off and on for about 5 years. The problems we’ve faced have been mainly from a couple of mistakes, miscommunication and ego. Mostly my ego, but I really can admit my faults. 

I inform you of this only to really set the scene… And because to hell with it. I’m not ashamed of our choices. If more people opened up about things like this, poly and open marriages wouldn’t be frowned upon so much. There wouldn’t be so many misconceptions about it. The idea that any 2 people are so perfectly suited to each other or that they will COMPLETELY fulfill every need is laughable at best.  Ask the couples that have been together for 40 years or more. Was their relationship easy? No. They fought and argued and compromised and had to give up a lot to make it work. 

But some things shouldn’t HAVE to be sacrificed. Like your desire to fall in love. Intimacy. New beginnings. Fetishes. Stupid movies. Coddling. Cuddling. Game night. Empathy. 

Every relationship shouldn’t have to be scrutinized with jealousy or suspicion. Be open with each other. Meet the other people. One big happy family, right? 

Segue finished. 

I learned humility recently. Sure I’ve had my fair share of embarrassment and let downs. But it’s good to be knocked down a peg or two because we forget. I don’t regret asking, but I did gage everything wrong. More than anything I was worried I wouldn’t see this person again. Friend or more, I was hoping to prevent that. Now it seems though that fate is for the best.

The weekend before, someone I barely spoke to, started to open up. He turned out to be smart and funny and easy going. I told him what happened that afternoon just to make idle conservation. I didn’t expect him to get close, but we did, and had a fun night. He turned out to be a wonderful person. 

So maybe I haven’t lost my touch in judging people. Maybe just judging the situations and circumstances. Judging people’s reactions to things. We meet so many new people, it’s impossible to know them all, to win them all, or even have all of them like you.  Just don’t be upset when you’re wrong. It’s no one’s fault. 

The creek’s secret

There are times that I truly forget I’m not in my twenties anymore. It occurred to me especially today as I sat on a rock on Curtis Creek with a fishing line in the water. As I sat there, I thought “I remember doing this and how fun it was and it’s been… twenty… five… years. Not 10 years not just a couple years ago. Its been 25 years since I have dropped a line into Curtis Creek.  Hell I’m currently working with people as old as the last time I’ve done this. And for a heartbeat… it was depressing. 

Then I laughed. 

There a few things that I have learned today. Well, perhaps I learned them some time ago, but I was reminded today either way.

  1. I’m comfortable with my age. I may not have had a  exciting life, but I have an Ann amazing family, wonderful friends… And I don’t feel old. Therefore, I’d like to believe I’m not old. That age, like time, it’s just an abstract construct. 
  2. You can’t change what’s already been done. This is an obvious point but sometimes we still dwell. 
  3. Fishing is very relaxing. I don’t know why I haven’t done something like this in those 25 years. Even when you don’t catch anything it’s comforting to listen to the water and think of everything, or nothing, or whatever you need at the time. 
  4. There’s no point staying mad over things. Learn a lesson from those situations that have made you mad? Certainly. But staying that way? It only causes needless stress. 
  5. Nostalgia… is deceiving. I remember some things so clearly… But between the passage of time and changes to the woods, things are nearly unrecognizable. 
  6. These mountains are my grounding. They will always bring clarity and rejuvenation. 

In one hour, the sun will be eclipsed by the moon. By the time anyone reads this, it will have already happened. I wish Ethan could be here with me. Although I didn’t start this little venture in a good mood and I don’t think it would have been a fun trip for him. 

I did however find a perfect little secluded meadow, propped up my folding stool and am ready to go. The temperature is already dropping, it started about 30 minutes ago. There are currently clouds covering the sun, but again, there’s an hour to go.