Sunday, August 14, 2011

On the Trail

Over the past few months I can't claim to have been blogging frequently enough to qualify even as intermittently. I'm hopeful that my current circumstances may contribute to more regularity, given that I've set a few (very few) goals for myself for the next six weeks, and one of those is a daily commitment to writing. Then again, since the other goals involve hiking and backpacking, my access to things in the wired-world are minimal at best...which obviously makes blog entries tricky.

Thunderstorms drove me to a hotel so I'm surrounded by the trappings of civilization for the first time in a week, which is how I happen to have the luxury of internet access...and a bed, and running water, and soap and electricity.... That's in contrast to a one-man tent occupied by myself and a German Shepherd, surrounded only by the sounds of crickets and owls.

Let me back up. For the past week I've been hiking in the Monongahela wilderness in West Virginia. This is just a starting point, but I plan to be on the road for six to eight weeks...I'm calling it a sabbatical, or a pilgrimage; it doesn't really qualify as vacation, but hopefully it'll be restorative, or transformative. The idea is to log as many miles as I can in other national forests and various backroads and byways and small towns, and to write...and write, and write. Maybe with a little luck a book will take shape.

The car is so full of gear that there's only room for one dog, so after much angst I chose Ella as my traveling buddy. She's eight years old and hasn't had the physical conditioning she should have for a trip like this, but I picked her specifically because she's my peer or perhaps a tad older, chronologically speaking (that's in dog years)and I wanted to demonstrate to myself how gracefully a dog of my years can handle herself under the stresses of the road and trail. Not to mention she's my most reliable personal protection dog, and when a woman travels alone it's always reassuring to know your partner will provide not just companionship but protection if it's called for.

So far we've averaged a ten mile hike a day on foot (quite a bit more by car), but I want to increase that steadily. We did a fifteen-miler one day and Ella was a tad cranky by the end, lifting her lip at an overly-friendly Lab mix we met on the trail and clicking her teeth at an English setter whose only offense was a gentle sweep of her feathery tail (the setter in question had originated from DeCoverly, just up the road from Hollow Hills!).

In spite of the fully-loaded car, it appears that I left home without the cable that allows me to upload photos from my camera to my laptop, so you'll have to use your imagination to "see" the photos that I meant to accompany this post--they show Ella in eye-popping mountain scenery...more precisely you can imagine pictures of Ella's tail-end as she leads me up yet another trail, onward to scenes and experiences that I hope will renew us both.

Perhaps we're past our prime, but by the time we're through we'll be stronger than ever.