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Always, always moving forward...

Hiking and Visiting

After the On the Same Page Literary Festival, I caught my breath and we were off to England for a long hike of The Cotswold Way. It's a lovely journey through quintessential English countryside, about 100 miles in all if you count the time hiking into your village's stop for the night. We took the 8 day, 7 night schedule, hiking as many as 15 miles in day. It's truly over hills and dales, with a good bit of elevation gain and descent each day -- you climb the escarpment each day at least once. We were well prepared and thus fared well. Those "training" hikes up and down Mt. Jefferson really paid off. We got no blisters, but acquired plenty of aches and pains along the way.

Friends Joan and Philip went along with us and have now indicated that 10 miles a day is the maximum for future hikes. Now that we're all past 60, that's probably not a bad rule, but I'd be temped to go on further if the terrain were flatter.

We took a picture each morning when we set out -- to the left are a few samples. I think we look pretty damn good. There's also a few shots of the lush countryside and woods we were treated to along the way and of friends in Bath. Enjoy. Let me know if you've a hankering for any advice on making such an excursion. I got it covered.

We finished up the Chipping Camden to Bath hike with a stay in Bath at a wonderful Landmark Trust property, right near the Abbey. Friends from England, and even Charlotte, came to stay the five days there and explore. Unfortunately for me, on the first night in Elton House, I stumbled on the stairs and did a number on my foot, which had me hobbling through the remainder of the trip.

I knew it was a fairly serious injury, but was loathe to take time out from friends and fun to have it seen to. Once home in North Carolina, I found I'd fractured a metatarsal. It was a clean break and simply required I wear one of those giant boot things for a couple of months. I am now completely healed and back ramping up my hiking locally. I've always been a tripper, stumbler and faller, but now it seems I'm more inclined to break things when I do. Yes. I'll be careful.

On to the new year and books about loving baseball and hating our country's politics. And, there'll be some traveling, too, to write about. Next up - the Women's March on Washington on January 21. Stay tuned! Read More 
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"There's So Much Nature!"

We're getting ready to go on a big hike in England at the end of the month. In the run up to this trip, we've been jaunting around the High Country, tackling as many trails and logging as many miles as we can in between everything else that seems to be swirling around us right now.

Up on Elk Knob, Henry, buddy Kevin, and I were paused for a snack before trekking back down the mountain when up popped a group of college kids who exclaimed at the view, "There's so much nature!" We laughed. They were embarrassed. But, indeed there's a shitload of nature around here. I've been trying my best to enjoy it, while grinding out some miles in preparation for the Cotswold Way, 103 miles, in 7 days.

But before we get on that plane, Henry is recording a single in Nashville and traveling to Banff for work. I've got the On the Same Page Literary Festival descending next week (don't miss it if you can www.onthesamepagefestival.org) and all the getting ready those things entail.

Not to pile on too much, but this year's exhibit at the Ashe County Arts Center running in conjunction with the Literary Festival, is the pairing of artists and writers called More Than Words. I've written two poems to go along with the gorgeous art work of Joanie Bell. Coincidentally, we've both spent a good amount of time in the UK, stayed in some of the same Landmark Trust properties, and hiked many of the same landscapes there. So, we decided to inspire one another with a very English twist this year. Come on out and see our work, and that of many other visual artists paired with writers from our region. To wet your whistle to do so, here are my two poems. Click on the "More Than Words" link to your left. You'll have to come to the Arts Center to see Joanie's work that goes with them. Read More 
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Starting to Get Ready

Yay! I am officially close enough to our trip to England that I'm starting the packing process, setting aside things, watching the weather... It has been said of me that I have as much fun in the run-up to a big trip as I do actually making he trip. I expect it is true.

Today I perused my trail maps and guidebooks. I even got out the road map to look over the route from the Manchester airport to Ravenglass, on Cumbria's coast where we'll be staying. I put an open suitcase on the floor of the bedroom, so I can start stashing things as they come to mind over the next few days.

All of my reservations are made. The seats are selected. I've figured out which suitcase and pack will go on the trip. The weather looks like it will be cool; at least the first few days -- mid-50s with possible rain.

I'm already having fun! Read More 
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Fun at Wildacres

I've been at Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland, NC, this week. It was the Spring Gathering when about 100 people from all over the country come to write, think, paint, make pots and jewelry and music. It's a wonderful place with miles of mountain trails. I wrote this essay on Monday, after Henry and I went on our first hike of the week along Deer Lick Gap Trail. I read it at the open reading Monday night, too.

(You'll also want to check out the picture to the right -- it's what Henry was up to while we were there.)

The Backs of Your Boots

This morning on the Deer Lick Gap Trail I said, “I know well what the back of your boots looks like. I’ve walked many, many miles behind you, seeing them ahead of me.” Hundreds of miles in fact.

You’ve got on a pair of Asolos today. They are the same brand and style as the ones you had on for that walk along Hadrian’s Wall path in England with Nick. You probably remember what the back of Nick’s boots look like. That’s our usual order on the trail. Nick first, Henry next, me brining up the rear. It’s a pattern we always seem to fall into naturally. Considering the trouble you had with the Hadrian’s Wall boots, it’s a puzzle how you would end up in another pair a few years later.

Your boots today have a beige color bit in the middle of the back, framed by black, with an orange slice across the top. The Hadrian’s Wall Trail version had a big vertical orange stripe of nubuck leather on them that formed the back of the heel. It was that orange piece that was rubbing the back of your right ankle one early morning, making each step along the road painful for you.

Try as I might, I can’t remember which day of the six-day trek the dreaded problem showed up. It wasn’t the first, or the last. It was one day during the vast-seeming middle -- where the initial excitement of the adventure had worn off, and the end was not yet in site. The middle of a days-long hike like Hadrian’s Wall tends to get all mushed together in your mind and it’s hard to place yourself along the landmarks of the trail in any kind of chronological order.

I do remember that you were frustrated and pissed off and wondering whether or not you could make it that day with this impediment. Nick and I really didn’t know what to do to help. Saying “Suck it up you pussy” or “just walk it off” weren’t going to help. I bet that’s what Nick was thinking. I went with sympathy, which was maybe a little helpful, but not much, and probably a little forced.

Nick and I just stood there looking at you for a while. Your stupid boot and your stupid ankle had us in a spot.

And that spot was “in the middle of somewhere.” That is to say, not “in the middle of nowhere.” There’s really not much of England anymore that could properly be called “the middle of nowhere.” Still, it’s not like we were near a town where we could get a bus, a train, or rent a car, either.

What do you do when you’re hiking point-to-point on a linear trail and someone has to drop out? It’s not like you can just say, “screw it” and get in the car and drive to the next planned stop for the night. And what do the others in the party do? Nick and I couldn’t just park your ass and go on… we couldn’t all just sit there… we couldn’t go back to the place we’d stayed the night before, because - what good would that do? We did not bring spare pairs of boots. We didn’t even have our main packs with us – we were using a service to send them on ahead to our evening’s destination each day – so who knows where on the road they were at that moment.

I remember fishing out some blister prevention band-aids or something from the daypack - a half-assed attempt at magically fixing your ankle and your boot. I honestly don’t remember there being a moment where a solution obviously presented itself. Ta da!

We simply limped on ahead. One foot in front of the other. One painful step at a time. After a while, it just got easier for you to put up with the pain and, anyway, what choice did you have? You went on, picking up the pace little by little, and pretty soon you stopped talking about it all together. (Yay!) Eventually, by late that morning, all three of us forgot about the problem. The morning’s drama having concluded, we got on about the rest of the day’s hike, enjoying the landscape, the stones, the fields, the sheep poo, and the welcome breaks for good food, welcome company, and a place to put up our dogs that night.

You probably remember it differently.

The two things I remembered this morning, when I was walking behind you along Deer Lick Gap Trail, were the orange strip of leather up the back of your boots, and the way you just went on that day on the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. Read More 
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