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Where the Heart Leads

downtown greens

Local Hikes New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail

more than just a pretty space

By A.E.Bayne

“Your heart is your compass. Your mind is your tool.” ~ Lynda Allen, Rules of Creation In early 2015, Vicky Jasparro was working at Quantico and enjoying a full life in Fredericksburg, Virginia when she felt the first stirrings of a desire to be immersed in nature. During that time, Jasparro was also participating in Lynda Allen’s workshop, The Rules of Creation, which Allen says is designed to help participants live more fully from their inner spark of divinity. It inspired Jasparro to follow her heart to New Zealand’s 3,000 km Te Araroa Trail. In September of 2015 she quit her job and jumped on a plane. Te Araroa is a hiking path that runs from Cape Reinga at the tip of New Zealand’s North Island, to Bluff at the bottom of its South Island. The trail is a journey through remote mountains, dense native forests, farmland and even cities, as well as raging rivers, weird weather and mud. Oh, the mud! Jasparro approached it all with an open heart and mind. A marathon runner and frequent hiker, Jasparro felt confident about her physical ability to hike Te Araroa, and her stamina and training certainly helped her during the more arduous portions of the hike. Te Araroa had some surprises in store for Jasparro, as well, not least of which was Jasparro’s intense joy of being in true communion with the natural world, a joy that remains with her today. “Yesterday I named by backpack Chocolate. Isn’t she beautiful! Since I will be relying on her to carry my life around for at least several thousand miles, she’s going to need a lot of TLC. I thought giving her a name would be a good way to start.” ~ Vicky Jasparro, October 2015 Jasparro began preparing for Te Araroa with two long weekend trips to Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia, one


July 2016

of them on her own. In July 2015, she took a longer Sierra Club trip to Yosemite, where she was amongst people who were more experienced hikers than she and who could give her advice on the best equipment and hiking practices. When she returned to Fredericksburg, she visited River Rock Outfitters and acknowledges their expert advice during her upgrade to ultra light backpacking equipment, especially that of Meegana Henry, one of the top 100 fastest hikers to hike the Appalachian Trail. With moral support from friends and family, and with her new best friend - a trusty pack dubbed Chocolate - Jasparro set out from Cape Reinga on November 13, 2015. “To add to the adventure, today I am sitting, nursing blisters on the ball and toes of my right foot. Apparently ‘everyone’ gets blisters on 90 Mile Beach, so why am I surprised?” Vicky Jasparro, November 2015 The most difficult part of the trip, physically, was the wear and tear on her feet. Jasparro says, “There’s not really anything you can do to prepare for that. Part of it is that you’re carrying a lot of

weight and walking day in and day out, and part of it is this particular trail. Through streams on the beach, through native forests grounded in mud, your feet are constantly wet. They start to rot, basically.” Jasparro says initially she didn’t realize her feet were a problem, but as they began hurting more and more she

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saw the damage, the worst of which was the blister that developed on the ball of her foot during the first leg of her journey at 90 Mile Beach. Jasparro explains, “Sand got in it, and then it sealed up and healed. I couldn’t understand why my foot felt funny and sore, like I had something in it. Come to find out, I had walked from one side of New Zealand to the other carrying sand in my foot from the beach. I had to operate on my own foot to get the sand out and clean the wound. Then it had to heal. It was horrifying.” Another thing Jasparro realized about her feet is that hiking widened them. She says it’s not unusual, considering the weight a hiker carries on a long trek and the physical challenges one puts on the feet. In fact, she had some new shoes waiting for her halfway through her journey. They didn’t fit. “Today, in trail lingo, is my first zero day. I’m resting. (Sore) feet up. Reading. Drinking coffee. Eating fresh fruit and veggies. What could be better? I’ve made it to Kerikeri on the East Coast. 100K in the last 3 days and my feet are balking. Too much road walking. But better than the alternative – the Northland Forests (or Hell Jungles of Mud).” ~ Vicky Jasparro, December 2015 Jasparro made it to Wellington at the southern tip of North Island on January 28, 2016. She basked in the rush of accomplishment having finished the first half of her journey, but she also knew that South Island was a wilder, more rigorous hike than the one she’d just completed through North Island. Her Sierra Club hiking Peter companion, Elderon, joined her for the second leg of the trip, an addition that Jasparro acknowledges to be a large part of her success in completing the entire Te Araroa Trail. On South Island, it was the rivers that became the challenge. Jasparro says, “I don’t think anything could have quite prepared me for New Zealand rivers. On South Island, there are many braided mountain rivers that force you to cross or walk up in the water. I’ve crossed streams before when hiking, but not raging rivers.

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Helping You Heal Naturally The rivers rise and fall very fast. When they’re high, you have to stop and wait 24 hours until they lower. There are no bridges because they’re constantly changing their course. Luckily, on South Island I was with Peter who had more experience crossing rivers.” “There were many, many, many times I didn’t believe we’d make it. And I could never ever have done this alone. Peter made all the difference on South Island. But I am also deeply grateful for the huge support that I had along the way from friends and family.” ~ Vicky Jasparro, April 7, 2016 Jasparro says New Zealand’s two islands offered different experiences. Alone on North Island, she had more time for reflection and contemplation and for memorizing poetry. On South Island, she says it was wonderful to have someone with whom to share extraordinary views and star-filled nights. Jasparro and Elderon supported and encouraged each other throughout this challenging, but visually stunning leg of the journey. Jasparro and Elderon reached Bluff at the end of South Island on April 7, 2015, almost five months to the day that Jasparro started in Cape Reinga. Over the duration of the hike, Jasparro relied on songs, poems and her blog, Hiking Heart, to rally her spirits. There were a number of times when Jasparro believed she wouldn’t be able to go on with her hike, when things couldn’t possibly get worse, but she took the next step and followed her heart through these moments. The reward was immeasurable joy. Jasparro and Elderon are currently spending time on the west coast of the US, and she is working on a book about her adventure. There’s far more to Jasparro’s experiences, including stunning photos of New Zealand’s terrain, on her website . Find out more about the inspiration that led Jasparro to follow jump into a new life at . A.E. Bayne is a writer, visual artist and educator who publishes the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review.

My wife loves to play in the the care of a land trust to assure it dirt. Composting is even better. When we remains open greenspace. were dating many years ago her favorite The most amazing impact of summer job was as a “flower girl” at JMU these little steps is to envision how on the Ground’s Crew taking care of all important this oasis in your city will be in those plants so I have no problem another 20 years. The increasing need for understanding how a couple of Mary Wash greenspace in urban areas is well ‘girls’ might start digging and planting in documented. It is a needed haven where the dirt behind their little house in a you can go to get a mental break, lose college town. What I do find some stress and connect to amazing is where those simple the earth that we all came The garden, acts have led and the legacy from but is now more your garden, is open they leave for this small city in distant. The garden, your dawn to dusk Virginia. garden, is open dawn to This is about small 365 days a year for dusk 365 days a year for steps with far reaching you to enjoy. you to enjoy implications that no one could Take a break. Take your possibly foresee. June kids. Take your parents. Sit 20th marked the celebration of the 2.7 under the trees in the lower garden acres owned by Downtown Greens at the among native plantings and flowers and corner of Charles and Dixon Streets being imagine a city without such things. Stroll the upper garden and check out the transferred to the Land Trust of Virginia so that it will forever be a community organic vegetable garden where the Youth Look greenspace. In a city where every other Garden Club meets each week. headline is about parking problems and around and imagine another decade has the in-filling of city lots with gone by and the traffic is worse and the McWhatevers, a small group slowly grew a McWhatevers are the canopy over the city garden right under everyone’s streets instead of trees and think how nose. That’s a lot of Saturday morning amazing and important this greenspace garden hours. It is twenty years of will be to this community. Show up for garden hours. Meet outreach to the community, classes for kids of all ages, music with the Marenje Horticulture Director Katya Hvizdos and band, amazing Halloween sculptures and Executive Director Sarah Perry and ask some of the best fundraisers in the city how you can help. Check the website at Follow them like the Down Home Ball and Fork it Over on Facebook. Take a class. Learn about Festival. Think of it like the old Christmas what makes the garden grow. Give freely Clubs at your local bank. Every week you of your time and talents. It is your garden in your put in just a little bit and if you did it community for all to enjoy, support and every week for the whole year you could make prosper. It takes just a little bit each save enough to enjoy the holidays. Downtown Greens has garden week to make a real difference to future hours every Saturdays 9-Noon and generations. They will thank you for it. Thursdays 3-6PM. The host of volunteers investing a little bit each week saved a piece of land that has now been placed in

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Profile for Virginia Grogan

Front Porch Fredericksburg - July 2016  

Front Porch Fredericksburg - July 2016