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Winston Walks Old Rag: April 6, 2024

Last August my friend Hannah and I had a whirlwind 24 hours in Baltimore, a place near and dear to her heart, my first time. We tossed around the idea of meeting up again in Shenandoah Valley National Park, about 3-4 hours from Baltimore and Philly, for a hiking trip. Remarkably enough, we followed through with the plan nine months later, two dogs in tow.

We rented a pet-friendly cabin in the woods, near the southern part of the park. As a city girl, I'm always astonished about how far from cities many people actually live. Personally I can't imagine the isolation, but perhaps some people would say they make deeper connections with the few people within a "neighborly distance"?

Nonetheless, the house was perfect for our weekend, which would consist of cooking food together, hanging out in the hot tub, reading books and watching Jeopardy, one short hike Friday afternoon and a big hike on Saturday, the Old Rag Mountain Loop.

I am a physically active person, I have been rock climbing indoors and have done many 5-6 mile hikes, so I wasn't really worried about my ability to hike. I left it up to Hannah to plan the activities, she's much more experienced than I am in this department and was enthusiastic about the task.

The hike took about 5.5 hours total, but we had not given ourselves a minute longer than 330 to complete the task before sundown. Leaving no margin of error is a pretty standard trait for the two of us, and luckily this time it worked out. Needless to say, there were a few moments of true powerlessness where I wasn't sure if it actually would. But the experience was a powerful practice in how strong your mind and body can be when you trust them. The mental strength to resist fear and fatigue and physically pull yourself into and over scary places at great heights is exhausting and rewarding.

Standing at the top of the summit, over 3000 feet from sea level, you feel both big and small simultaneously, somehow. You have accomplished something challenging, physically and mentally. But you are also a speck on this planet. Both can and are true and powerful pieces of information when deciding how to live your life and spend your time. None of this matters, yet it's all we have. Hike that mountain. Why not? Just see if you can.

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