I have come to realize that I hike like I am headed to war. I mean, really, I am loaded with weapons, emergency supplies, a determination and a verve. I find a rhythm of mind and body and I just go. I tend to focus on the path, head down with intent. I know I need to look up and around and turn around and pause every now and again. Keep my bearings and be aware of my surroundings. However, that trail is my challenge and I shall be its conqueror!
I expend lots of energy, sweating no matter what the temp outside. I walk fairly fast when I can, slowing only for obstacles, water features or rocks to climb. Even then, I am focused and intent on completion. I stop for water and food, or a quick rest. I accept the challenge the trail brings, but rarely will you find me as a contemplative nature lover out to smell the trees and linger around the panoramic vistas. I do pause and take it in, for a few seconds, then off to war I march! Like, literally, I take my trekking poles and hit the dirt with abandon. Not reckless abandon, just a determination and a power that lights my soul.
Some would say that I am missing the point of hiking. That hiking is to stop and smell the roses, become one with nature, beat the drums of mother earth, blah blah blah. Hiking for me is a challenge of my body and mind, a challenge of my self-sufficiency, a challenge of my mental and physical energy. I do not always make it to the end of the trail, and I have given in and turned around before I wanted to. I am not lost, I just do not have time or energy to get to the end.
When I am done, when I have completed my mission and returned to camp or the car, I can let it go. I take that exhaustion, fatigue, sore feet and sweaty body, and then I relax. I sit in my chair at camp and smell the fresh air, listen to the river, hear the wind as it moves the trees all around me. Once recovered, or partly recovered, I may even go for a little walk later. Not a hike, just a walk around camp. These are the times that I can relax and take it all in. I would jokingly call this the time to contemplate the lint in my navel. I have to, I MUST, expend that mental and physical energy in order to get to that deeper part of myself, that part where my emotions are more accessible and available. It is during these post-hike times that I can write, read, relax, take it all in.
I believe there is no right or wrong to hiking… well, yes there is. You can be that total asshole who litters, tears up the trail, lets your dog poop all over, and who does not follow the rules of preservation. OK, so there is a wrong way to hike. But, if you are in the well-intended camp of nature lover and hiker, and you know who you are, you very well may be on that trial contemplating the cloud formations and communing with mother earth, slowly meandering along. Please do not judge me as I blow by you and you get a whiff of my strong energy. Do not judge the weapons that I carry or the vibe I project. Respect my place on this trail, and I shall respect yours. We may be here for very different reasons and approach our hike in very different ways, but our goals are the same. Connect, or reconnect, with ourselves, our power, our energy, bring our external and our internal selves into better alignment, using the out-of-doors as our guide. We just have vastly different ways to make that happen.
Maybe, after you have done your communing and I have won my trail battle, we can talk over a glass of wine, a good beer, or hot tea. We may be vastly different in oh so many ways, but our love of the trail, of nature, and of our journeys will give us a common ground. Perhaps you can teach me more about being quiet and contemplative and I can teach you some self-defense moves or discuss tactical gear. We should not judge or fear one another, but learn to understand our differences and embrace our similarities.
Until we meet again,