A Contemplative Hike

Yesterday Good Man and I went hiking at Sky Meadows State Park. We’d never been to the park before, and ended up (unintentionally) doing the exact hike found in Best Day Hikes Near DC.

We got to the park shortly before nine, which was later than I wanted to get there (the park opens at eight) but earlier than we ever get to hikes, and early enough that the morning light was still great for photos.

Sky Meadows

We started our hike by going up a long hill. I had to keep stopping to rest, and I was getting really frustrated. There was another couple a bit ahead of us who was stopping to take photos, and I was embarrassed that I needed to stop so much, and wondered what they thought about how often I needed to stop.

Good Man and I rested at the first overlook for a few minutes. The bench was fairly high and Good Man joked it was made for a basketball player.

View from the Lower Overlook

High Bench

When we finally made it to the top of the path, the couple that had been ahead of us was resting on the bench. The woman said, “We made it!”

“We did. I used to be in better shape…” My voice trailed off.

“Me, too!”

We talked for a few minutes. It turns out that she was in a car accident around the same time I fractured my tailbone. We talked about how long it takes to heal, and how frustrating it is to feel healed, and to look healed from the outside, but to realize that internally, things are still working themselves out.

After chatting, we wished each other good luck and continued on with our hike, greeting everyone we passed. While we hiked, I thought about the phrase “hike your own hike.” I had thought this couple was judging my pace, and didn’t even consider that they might be stopping because they needed to or wanted to. How ridiculous.

The trail continued through some woods, and then meadows, and we stopped at the overlook for Paris, VA, and Good Man seemed unimpressed. (Paris has a population of fifty-one people.)

Studying the Guideposts

Good Man Peers at Paris

Paris, VA

After more walking, we were on the Appalachian Trail and back in the woods. We continued on, listening to the birds and crossing paths with several other hikers. We headed down the North Ridge Trail for a bit and met several Boy Scouts hiking uphill in a group.

Some people say the downhill hikers have the right-of-way. Others say uphill hikers do. Pretty much everyone agrees that large groups should step aside for smaller groups, pairs, and solo hikers.

Even though they were a group, the trail was narrow and it can be hard to regain momentum when you are going uphill, so we stepped aside for them and waited. Almost every one thanked us, which I thought was kind.

Chewed Up Log

A few minutes later, we got to a trail intersection. We were both feeling a bit hungry so we decided to stop and eat. A man was sitting on a bench and happily scooted over for us. The three of us ate in silence for a while, and then started chatting.

He asked us if we’d seen anything interesting, and we chatted about the park and Northern Virginia a bit. Then we started talking about other places we’d been to in America. When he found out I was from Minnesota, he talked about how gorgeous the North Shore of Lake Superior is. We both talked about the Badlands, and how few people out here know about them, but how they’re amazing.

He pulled out his phone and showed us a photo of his wife and himself taken at the Grand Canyon. He told us he’d been there about a month ago, and his wife couldn’t walk and was dying of an incurable disease. He said the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon had been incredibly kind, letting him and his wife use the service road tourists can’t use so they could see more of the park.

His story really hit me. I was struck by how young the man was (15 years older than us), and I was touched by his story. It made me like the NPS even more than I already did, and it restored some faith in humanity.

We ended up talking for about a half an hour before we departed, going on separate hikes and wishing each other a good day.

Flowers Growing in the Debris on a Rock

Spring at Sky Meadows

Good Man

We walked down the South Ridge Trail in silence. After a mile, Good Man spoke. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking about how much stuff I want to do with you, since we never know what the future will hold.”

Leaf, Flower, Insect

Snowden Ruins

As we made our way back to the parking lot, we found this squirrel, which was eating very loudly. I took several photos with the squirrel continued chomping away.

Flirting with the Camera

Chewing on the Nut

Wind-Blown Squirrel

On the drive home I kept thinking about how I’d felt sorry for myself at the start of the hike, the man’s visit to the Grand Canyon, and the park rangers’ kindness.

I felt very blessed to be able to do the hike, all 5+ miles of it, especially with Good Man.