Day 33: Rocks that Speak

Appalachian Trail: Day #33

Jerry Cabin Shelter –> Shelton Gravesite: 3.5 miles

Total AT Miles: 303.6

(Current Location: Pearisburg, Va – 634.6 miles)

I walk through the woods in a daze when I stumble upon rocks that are the ground we walk on. A white patch of clean granite(?) looks like a blaze. I know the trail leads on but I wander up the slick rock anyway to find an overlook not marked on the map. I drop my pack as a voice as cold and distant as the mountains yonder beckons me to stay. I think of another hiker who says the trees commune with and guide her. I stay.

I know the voice is my own mind, an instinct or my subconscious, yet I ponder why it would speak to me though the rocks and not directly. Perhaps it knew I may not listen. I am attuned to myself though my mind still wanders. I do not always listen.

I find a nook in the rock to fit my butt. I sit, crossing my legs, and I breathe. I become aware of birds fluttering and chattering in the trees surrounding me. I hear the sounds of civilization in the valley far below.

When my mind stills, I dredge up the thoughts that plague my mind. I inhale them to the top of my conscious then, on the exhale, release them into the world. After a few rounds of breathe my body tingles. I am no longer troubled. I am fully in the moment.

Hours later after meeting many hikers stopping for the view as well, the rocks speak to me again. With urgency, they tell me it is time to go. I previously planned to stay cowboy-camping in this beautiful place. I listen once more and I walk.

It is late, an hour from dark. I see smoke rising through the trees. A drizzle begins to fall. I thought I would hike on until dark but whatever this voice is, obviously not the rocks, guides me to the camp. I walk up the path to Shelton Graves and meet a south-bound hiker. She built a bonfire. I cowboy camp here and we talk into the night around the warmth of the blaze.

Morning in the camping area at the Jerry Cabin Shelter. I lay around my tent. Dr. Kool-Aid joins me for coffee.

We walk through open fields of red plants and still lifeless trees.


The rocks that spoke to me.
Lino, a thru-hiker from California(?). His family is from El Salvador.
Kristin, whose trail name is now Arrow, and Firefly. Both thru hiking.
Sun tea with honey brewing in the sun on this rock.
Rice and beans for dinner cooked in sun tea. It was the only water I had.
I cut the hair out of my eyes with my knife.
Earl Grey!
Bright Bags who is also from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh!!!
Stairs holding the slope together in the mud. Imagine this in the rain…





One thought on “Day 33: Rocks that Speak

  1. Ryan, I was drawn to your blog by the thoughtful and insightful photos and I keep coming back for the prose and (as a father of a 4 yr old and 1 yr old triplets who can’t yet find the time to thru-hike) the chance to live vicariously through your experiences. After I completed a section hike from Amicalola Falls to Woody Gap in early March (right about when you started your hike) I started following your blog and realized that we missed each other by less than a day, BUMMER! Just wanted to let you know that I’m really enjoying following your hike, and especially how you seem to “stop and smell the roses” along the way. Good luck!

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