“…we have not even to risk the adventure alone;
for the heroes of all time have gone before us;
the labyrinth is thoroughly known;
we have only to follow the thread
of the hero-path…”
Joseph Campbell-Hero With a Thousand Face
Almost every time I strap on my gear (40+ pounds) and step out into my trek up the mountain, my knees, my back, and even my heart seem to groan at the prospects of several hours of hard climbing upwards, and then who knows how many hours of roaming around before the (physically more) demanding (on all but heart and lungs) work of descending. But I go, because soon my mind and body will come into harmony with the effort, and the benefit to my spirit carries the physical.
Primarily, I walk alone. A psychic once told my wife that I ‘leave it all behind’ when I go up the mountain. What I know is that I most often achieve an altered state of mind that will gradually drop away over weeks, if I do not go up again. Science has proven exercise’s many benefits to physical and mental health (being even better than prozac/zoloft
I started with a walk up White Oak Creek….
(This particular section is called Butt Slide.)
Then I picked up the Locust Creek ‘fire road’…
….to take me to my point of real departure.
In fact, I was not really concerned where the walk would lead me, except for the journey within. I can be assured that a walk anywhere in this mountain area will introduce me to many outer beauties along the way.
In my bushwacking, I attempt to avoid using the machete and long-handled hatchet that I bring along. They are are only situations when cutting is unavoidable. Mostly I follow the easiest path the mountain will allow, while achieving my intention.
Bushwacking is much harder on my body, mind, and my equipment than longer, faster walks. Quite often you spend periods of time dragging myself through the the limb clusters,–gabbing like fingers, trying to pull me downward, make me stay and become one of their own– various sawbrier species cutting me to shreds, and the “Laurel Hells” (tightly interwoven clusters of Mountain Laurel or Rhododendron).
Mostly I go where the mountain invites me. Sometimes an area merely tolerates my passing. I have found only one place that consistently will not endure my intrusion. The first time I stumbled into it, I was very tired–at the end of a long, hard walk. Suddenly, I felt a deep sense of foreboding, and a depleting collapse of my psychology and my strength. As much as I did not feel that I had the strength to go back up-hill and walk around, I did so. I could feel the increasing confusion/fear setting in on me and had no question about the solution.
The next time I dropped into that place, I had walked around the area, and had a reasonably long walk. On my return, I came down feeling quite strong and in good spirits. As soon as I entered that area (speculating it was my exhaustion that caused my problem before), I felt all my mental, physical, and spiritual resources start to drain. I lingered long enough to analyze just what I was feeling, and then hustled my way back up the hill–to make my way around the area.
My third attempt to visit–experimenting on whether it was location or something in the location on that day that caused my sense of threat–I had been hiking regularly for a while that season, and felt (foolishly) ‘in control’ as I entered the area. Just as the two times before, it was almost as if the area was circled by a very distinct line of demarcation. In the span of a few steps I again felt an undeniable, quick change in psychology. I worked with my mind to put off the sense of confusion and fear, but could tell that I would not win this fight. After standing in the area as long as I could without feeling that I would be so depleted that I would be in danger, I quickly went back up hill.
Once out of there, my psychology and my strength returned to what is was before entering the area, and I continued on a long walk.
Now, in my bushwacking (or maybe it’s just a mountain walkabout), I am thankful for whatever path I encounter to open the thickets before me. Sometimes they are wide–an old logging road, perhaps…
….sometimes I follow where the water comes down the mountain…
…walk fallen trees over thickets…
Sometimes I walk dry creek beds (rock hopping is rough on the feet, ankles and knees)…
….wet creek beds (rather treacherous–slippery)
But however I get there, the beauty that I encounter–before and behind my eyes–keeps me putting on that gear and heading out, despite the grumbling of mind and body at the beginning of each trip..
C.G. Walters primarily writes fiction that focuses on the multidimensionality of our loves and our lives. Autographed/signed copies of his current novel,Sacred Vow,are available from the author– or purchase from Amazon as ebook , paperback, or Kindle version