Mile 1358: Hard as Rock

The light drizzle tapping on the shelter’s aluminum roof wake me up. I feel rested and ready for what was expecting me that day.

“It’s time for some climbing,” I think, while tying my beat up shoes. The endless rocks definitely took a toll on them.

While crossing the bridge at Lehigh Gap I look up, the mountain appear in front of me covered in the morning fog. But there’s one thing that make the view both unique and frightening: the almost total absence of vegetation.

Pointy rocks adorn the sides of the mountain, where a few trees are slowly trying to reclaim their natural space. Unlike any other place seen on the Appalachian Trail so far, green is not the predominant color, and the fear of getting sucked in by the boredom of the tunnel suddenly turns into the consciousness of finally testing mind and body against a grueling giant.

The rain obviously doesn’t help the process. The smooth boulders become slippery and falling from up there doesn’t give me any pleasant feeling.

I would’ve preferred climbing up there in the sun but I couldn’t wait any longer. “Damn rain, always ruining everything,” I consider.

I cross the street and enter the trail. The terrain climb up abruptly without giving enough time to your legs to warm up. It’s immediate burn and the breathing quickly becomes short and heavy.

Then, the last couple of trees disappear, leaving space to a grey and brown ocean of rocks.

There you realize that your legs are not enough anymore.

For almost three months I exclusively relied on my lower limbs. My legs are strong, hard as rocks, and I’m sure I could seriously injure someone if I kicked them in the right place.

On the other hand, I lost touch with my upper body. I used to boxe before starting my adventure, but now my arms seemed to be only useful to bring food in my mouth.

But it was time to wake them up.

I place my hand in a crack on a boulder and push up but my foot slips on the wet rock, making me lose my balance and almost letting me taste the tough mineral with my face.

“Ok, lets focus for a second.” I strap my pack even tighter on my shoulders. I’ve never climbed before and doing it my first time carrying 20 pounds on my back doesn’t seem the best idea. But I have to.

I try again, this time planting my feet and trying to get as much grip as possible. I manage to climb the first set of rocks, trying to not look behind me. As I move up I start feeling the wind pushing me sideways.

Finally, I make it to the top and I look down. The bridge I crossed earlier appear as a tiny dot across the river. I then close my eyes and let the wind dry out the sweat on my face.

The breeze is refreshing on my body. The rain stopped for a minute, allowing me to fully enjoy the moment.

I had just defeated a giant, a insignificant one compared to the entire trail. But I felt powerful up there. I passed yet another test in this long journey that goes beyond mental and physical tribulations.

Sore, I jump down the last few rocks and finally step on a more familiar terrain. The rain comes back, this time even stronger than earlier. I put on my rain jacket and start walking at a fast pace since I have another 15 miles to go for the day.

There’s no time for celebrations out here. Or not yet, at least.

In Walk We Trust,

The Walking Fed

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