Walking faster now, I finally hit my stride. I stretch out my legs the way they are meant to stride. These legs were made for walking. Or at least moving. My ancestors came from the Netherlands where they skated for miles on canals. I am sure skating too is a body memory, though I have never been on a canal. Still, it must be in my genes. Freedom is in my genes — miles of glistening smooth ice that wind through cities and hillsides and past all daily life, and in spite of it, and travel on undeterred, unrestricted like the squirrels who know no boundaries.
Being on this path is as close to the feeling of skating on a canal as I can imagine. The bridge and path are about six feet wide, just wide enough for two people to pass as they swing their arms, or two bikes to race by each other.
Actually, the Trail is probably narrower than the width of a canal and not nearly as cold, but sometimes it feels just as unsteady as ice over bone-chilling water. The planks of wood on the walking bridge suspended high above the forest feel a bit precarious when they squeak. I look down wondering, hoping, the sound below me is merely someone gathering up branches.
I sit for a moment on a bench before the path calls me on. Remember, this path is made for walking, for moving beyond whatever you bring to it. It calls you beyond what you know and can see, gradually taking you higher, grounding your deeper.
Nearing the tops of the white birch trees, I am almost there — where Thomas Jefferson used to live. No wonder he had vision. He was higher than where I am standing now, on the very top of this mountain.
Sometimes, I turn around before I reach the end of the trail, but that never feels complete. After a mile and a half of forest where the light pierces through in only a few open spaces, I must go to the end and step out into the light before I return home and begin my descent.
Suddenly, the Trail spits me out as if I were just catapulted out of a dream. I am at the end of the forest path at the base of Montalto, around the bend from the entrance to Monticello Visitors Center. I walk up ahead and pause at the beautiful stone bridge before turning home. I pivot to face Mountain that looks almost unreal now, like a mural that has suddenly been pulled down from the sky.