Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Priest, Maintop, Spy Rock & Three Ridges

 What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another. What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to many men surely, the depot, the post-office, the bar-room, the meeting-house, the school-house, the grocery, Beacon Hill, or the Five Points, where men most congregate, but to the perennial source of our life, whence in all our experience we have found that to issue, as the willow stands near the water and sends out its roots in that direction. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)

The Priest defines the outline of the surrounding skyline, its summit 4063' preaching, standing ~3100' from the trailhead at its base. Not more than a couple hours from D.C. and it feels as if I reached another country, escaped a world of pavement, steel, material excess, and false comforts.

The ascent is ever changing. I float up the winding smooth singletrack, but the last mile is humbling, with brutal high stepping rocks and poor footing. I've been reduced to a fumbling power hike. 4mi, 3600' and 1:05 later I summit (avg 20% grade), and I suddenly feel the breeze and taste the air, as if my mind was too consumed to notice it in my wave of adrenaline. From the summit I can see Three Ridges Mtn, 3870', which ascends from the same trailhead, and I am over struck with the desire to simply sit, and stare off into the distant horizon.

I trot my way from the Priest's summit over to Maintop Mtn 4050', and down to Spy Rock 3860'. Standing, gazing out from Spy Rock all I can point my thoughts to is the under appreciated beauty, a lost but timeless front of american pastime. It is here that I can not help but look back. As I gaze I ponder, wondering the last time a Native American looked out, perhaps in this same location over these same peaks, and contemplated when the land on which he had built his life would no longer stand free . It is now I look to them, listening, searching for what preaching they have left, what broken words of wisdom they have yet to speak.

I pass small groups of day and weekend hikers, cringing under the 50lb+ packs that aesthetically define them as far from the minimalist ideal. Selfish that I want these mountains to myself during the moments I spend with them, when it is the divorce from such simplicity that people are sick from, though I am afraid that divorce implies that there was such a relationship between the mass of man and the natural world surrounding him, but it seems that this sense of Thoreauvian oneness is really only grasped and felt with such seclusion.

I leave with a sense that this place, and I, await my imminent return. Whether my feet grace the tops of these peaks again, or whether my eyes greet them from a far distant peak I cannot say, but what I am sure of is the sense of timeless being this place invokes.

This route's totals: 18mi, 3hr30min, ~6400' (last 4.3mi are all decent), on Appalachian Trail. Knee (IT band) felt surprisingly ok, and actually felt fine the next day, a good sign for a slow coming recovery. Over the next two weeks or so I'll really start to push and see how much I can up the volume in all respects.

Below is the elevation profile for the first half of the run: this was an out and then back.

The ascent of Three Ridges Mtn, is 6miles from the base to the summit. I ran a little past the summit to high rock vista, the pictures should more than show why.

Shape Shifter  by  Local Natives