I must have been somewhere in those awkward preteen years where I wanted to be a tomboy just like Amanda on It Takes Two (Mary Kate? Ashley? Whichever one it was….). Probably nine years old, but that’s just a guesstimate. We stayed in this amazingly rustic little cabin with our family friends and played Uno all night long. Looking back, I sure hope Alex and I have family friends like them so that the kids can all play Uno together while us parents do our adult things that float over the kids heads just like half of the jokes in Shrek.
This cabin was in Wolftown, Virginia. I bought this enormous t-shirt as a souvenir that had a wolf on the front. It would still fit me today if I had it. And goodness, I could probably rock an awesome hipster outfit with that shirt if I did find it. But after a late night by the crackling fire playing Uno way too long, we went out hiking.
I think I heard our dads say “Old Rag” a million times on that trip. I guess they were excited. Thirty minutes into that hike- what seemed like an eternity back then- we were all a worn out disaster. Uphill, switchbacks. And, oh, the worst part was that everyone we passed kept telling us “you’re almost there!” and then smile at us with their “I just climbed a mountain” smile.
We never made it to Old Rag. Shoot. We never made it out of the forest. My memory is hazy but I remember my brother and dad hiking on while we sat on a boulder and ate our lunch. They didn’t make it either.
To date, I’ve hiked Old Rag six times. Aborted the mission once. Completed it five. Every time I hike that mountain and see parents with their nine-ish year old kids, I think back to that forfeited adventure the weekend we stayed in Wolftown. I purposely do not tell them “you’re almost there!” because the truth is, really, you’re never almost there. In five hour, ten mile hike terms, at least.
Now would be a good time for you to visit my favorite hiking website and plan your trip out to Old Rag.
In other news, I’ve grown rather fond of the Dallas filter on Afterlight (so sad it’s no longer Afterglow and I couldn’t tell you why). But I’m sure you could already tell that by the look of these pictures.
Need more Old Rag?
“This is how we fell in love.” Alex mentioned quietly.“Yeah, I miss this. I miss our hikes.” I pick up the pace, almost skipping I’m enjoying our run so much. “You mean our outdoor adventures?” I laugh. Yeah, I guess you can call them adventures.
Old Rag loops to a conclusion with a 3 mile stretch back to the parking lot from the end of the trail. You’re on the Weakeley Hollow Fire Road so it’s flat and boring- except for the occasional pile of bear droppings that look too fresh not to ignore. After scrambling over miles of boulders and climbing by hand at dangerous heights, all you really want to do is rest by the time you reach the road.
We run. Every single time we hike Old Rag, we run our exhausted butts the three miles back to the car. And what is it about being on top of that mountain all day that makes those three miles seem so simple? On any given weekday, after plugging in a solid instructional day with my class, a couple of meetings and an hour or so of tutoring, three miles can kill me. But after six miles of hiking and rock climbing? Pshhh.
This makes zero sense.
But, really, it’s simple.
I don’t refuel in the classroom. I don’t refuel at my job. Not one ounce of the energy I put into teaching, into planning, into meetings or tutoring could even pretend to be that sort of energy. Instead, my day to day is of the soul sucking energy that drains you exponentially. The more you get, the less you have. And I definitely don’t find the energy to be the wife, best friend, lover, or companion in my day to day.
But then we hike Old Rag. We escape the madness of suburbia and the twelve lane deep rush of the beltway and the stress of never ever stopping and we find the time. Just us. And it’s a rough enough hike without carrying anything on your back. So you limit yourself to three pb&j’s, two water bottles, three powerades, a bag of trail mix, the dslr, and a few band aids. You know. Just in case.
Old Rag requires the sort of energy that holds the power of a chargeable battery. Plug us in and we’re on fire. This is how I lose track of time. This is how I meditate. This is how I pray. This is how I make it through the day to day.
This is how I, we, fall in love.
And it’s quiet on that fire road. Just the sound of the gravel as we stomp above it and the whisper of the trickling creek that winds in and out around us. At the very end, right before you hit the trail head, coming full circle, the fire road crosses the rush of the creek bed. You can go around on the bridges. Or you can cross through.
We stopped, I snapped a picture, and we blessed each and every one of those rocks with our exhausted feet. But, really, they were blessing us. It was our baptism. As the mountain water runs crisp and clear through the pores of our shoes, stinging in a beautiful and empowering way, we are whole again.
So, it’s through the pillars here on earth… the pillars of the earth…. that we finally can take a deep breath. And recharge.
P.S. Today’s the last day to enter to win $100 to spend at J.Crew!
Our home away from home. Alex visited this past weekend on a guys-only sort of hiking trip. He said it was snowing on the trail but the sun danced so warmly against their backs that you would think it was springtime. I know exactly the scene he described and can repaint it in my mind through memories. A tinge of jealousy ran through my veins when he told me.
We visited for our anniversary last month. Fitting, I know, seeing as our entire relationship seems to follow the backbone of those mountains. It was a rustic sort of celebration. The air was crisp and scented by a wood stove overlooking the mountains. We moved slow and intentionally through each moment. Quiet moments. Lots and lots of quiet, reflective moments. The mountains seem to speak through us as a messenger, sending our thoughts bounding across the mountaintops and back to one another through the wind.
So Alex visited without me this past weekend. While I did mundane holiday preparations not limited to polishing the silver and dusting every nook and cranny. And, yes, I was jealous. Therefore, I’m taking you back with me today. Back to the Blue Ridge to take away my blues.
Oh, also, if you haven’t entered The First Annual Blog-iversary Giveaway, it needs to be your next stop on the world wide web. Run along, now.
Sometimes, you just have to go back. 2 months later. 12.23.2011. Merry Christmas.
*Filed under Wanderlust Life* Also see Veritas I*