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prayer wrapped in my father’s red bandana

by | Sep 14, 2020 | Uncategorized

14 September 2015 — Day 6
Solo backpacking the length of Vermont on the Long Trail

So early the next morning I set off — first out of camp. My knee tied with Dad’s red bandanna.

Scenes on the Long Trail north of Stratton Pond. Photo by artist and LT thru-hiker Dawn TaosDawn Chandler.
Vermont birch trees. Photo by artist and LT thru-hiker Dawn TaosDawn Chandler.

After thirty or forty minutes or so, Flagman caught up with me.

“How’s the knee feeling? “
“You know, I’m trying to just not think about it.”
“How about that bandana, is it helping?”
“I don’t know, but it was my Dad’s bandana… “
“So he’s hiking with you, looking after you. I believe in karma. I prayed for you last night. I can tell you’ve got spirit, and your spirit isn’t broken. That’s what makes the difference..”

We wished each other well, and he was off.

Maple leaves turning to red in early September along the Long Trail, Vermont. Photo by artist and LT thru-hiker Dawn TaosDawn Chandler.

[So far that morning] the trail was more or less level — the downhills weren’t too bad, and my knee, while not feeling great, didn’t feel as bad as yesterday.

LT/AT trail sign north of Stratton Pond, Vermont. Photo by artist and LT thru-hiker Dawn TaosDawn Chandler.

The morning was gray and a little foggy. [And the forest was beautiful, absolutely glistening from the previous day’s rain. I conflicted — enchanted by the beauty of the forest, and forlorn with the weight of uncertainty about what to do regarding my knee….]

I made it to the junction of Old Rootville Road and started the two-mile descent down. A nice backwoods road, but relatively steep and felt long. I wondered how/if I could manage coming back up it. At some point I saw headlights and a Subaru passed me coming up. I smiled to the car and trudged downward.

Just before the Old Rootville Road on the Long Trail. Photo by artist and LT thru-hiker Dawn TaosDawn Chandler.
Sign for the Old Rootville Road.

Although I knew the route was 2 miles, it felt longer than I expected.

Several streams ran down from the brown hardwood forest.

Eventually the road became less steep and began to level out, and an occasional little house appeared by the roadside and soon I found myself at a major intersection.

Not entirely sure where I was, I crossed over to a single tree in the intersection, pulled out my thermos of tea and my map and tried to get my bearings. Not two minutes later the Subaru [that had been] going up the Rootville Road came back and pulled up to the intersection. It then backed up a little bit and its windows came down: “Do you want a ride?” the driver called out. “I would LOVE a ride!”

He jumped out and cleared space in the back, “Don’t worry about any of the stuff,” he said, shoving aside stacks of old yellow papers that looked to be from the 19th century. “Are you an artist?” for the stuff looked like great collage material. “No, I just photograph a lot of this stuff.” In the front passenger seat was a very elderly but spry woman — his mother — up from Florida to bury her husband. She’d lived in Vermont for some seventy years, and they were out for a drive to visit some of her old haunts. He knew exactly where “Sutton’s Place” is, and in fact Frank Sutton was his high school French teacher many years ago. Drove me right to the door of a lovely New England Victorian clapboard-sided house down a quiet road, at the top of a small hill just a couple blocks from town.

Welcome to Manchester!

Sutton's Place in Manchester, Vermont. Photo by artist and LT thru-hiker Dawn TaosDawn Chandler.

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~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico