In the summer of 2016 I went on a hiking trip with my dear friend. We hiked the Appalachian Trail starting at PenMar Park in Western Maryland. We hiked south towards Ravens Rock shelter.
Pen Mar Park was owned and operated by the Western Maryland Railroad and had its beginning as far back as 1878. Within a few short years it soon became the “Coney Island” of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the children and remained one of the most famous resorts of its kind for half a century.
At one time the park area supported seven hotels, plus a number of boarding houses. Many families spent their entire vacation on the mountain top. The Western Maryland Railroad found that the excursion business it engendered was most profitable, and in 1898 — twenty years after the park was established — it carried 1,200,900 passengers and over half of these were excursionists to Pen Mar Park. Today, even the Western Maryland passenger service is but a memory.
When we started on our way, a black snake crossed our path. We had already decided before we left that we would both go through this experience with purpose and intention…. in a magickal way. So we both took the snake as a sign.
We hiked for almost 2 miles, through a forest on a hill of rocks. It was a strenuous climb at times…definitely a leg workout. But we finally made it to High Rock Park. I felt like the Indigenous people who lived there were rock jumpers and this was one of their sacred spaces.
There is an amazing and ominous feeling at the top of the rock. It feels like you’re standing at the top of a pyramid, looking out over your civilization. It is beautiful and deadly. Last year when we got to High Rock, a teenage boy flipped off the rock above me, flying over me and off the cliff.
Seeing, feeling, experiencing someone fall from a cliff at least 100 feet down is not something you believe you will experience. The people on the cliffs get very brave and risky… it is very slippery because of all the traffic and the graffiti.
Luckily, the next day we looked up incident reports for the area and we found out he was alive. Talk about a significant magickal journey.
So last weekend I and another dear friend of mine went for a hike and started at PenMar. When we started this hiking journey, we just wanted be out in nature… but the universe took me on another magickal journey.
We hiked to High Rock, but it was getting late and we weren’t sure if we’d make it to Ravens Run Shelter before dark so we decided to stay off the Appalachian Trail at High Rock. We set our hammocks up in the pine trees just off to the side of the main cliff. Because we were so close to the cliffs we didn’t really get up to walk around much, and stayed in our hammocks all night.
We laid down for bed around 11pm and there were still groups of kids on the top of the rocks. At 12 o’clock they left and another group drove in right after. The groups were loud and rowdy, some of them even getting into arguments with each other. At one point there was a bear sighted and the group of kids ran to their car and set off their car alarm.
I was ready for bed, I was sleeping in a hammock, I did not want to be involved with anything that was happening 100 ft from me…. but I was scared out of my mind. Every time I heard a persons voice, or someone yell or laugh loudly it startled me.
I had such high anxiety… I knew this was a fight or flight response, triggered by the events that had happened 3 years earlier. I had not processed that energy to release it in a healthy way. I pushed that experience aside, utilizing coping strategies that allowed me to rationalize my emotions so that I did not have to feel them.
This time I sat in the feeling. I sat in the emotion, the physical sensations. I sat with my imagination. I sat with myself.
I sat and listened…. to the world… and to myself. I listened to how I process, and perceive. I listened to where my thoughts wanted to take me. I sat in my shadows.
My imagination and I, battling it out…. all the ways something bad could’ve happened continued to play through my chest, over and over….
In and out, I had to breath and know I was alright, and face my feelings and face the shadows, to see they were of my own making.
And I had to wait until the sun came back up to truly see that my fears were irrational.
Everything was alright, everything turned out just fine.