Wednesday, December 31, 2008

April 4th, 2008

On April 4th, 2008 I started my first real long-distance hike. For 5 weeks & approx. 470 miles, I had the time of my life. Originally planned as a thru-hike, circumstances beyond my control brought me back to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Yet I returned with memories & new friendships, those I hope & pray won't fade with time. Many times I've heard that a thru-hike changes one's life, and at this point in mine, I can still only imagine. Yet just 5 weeks on one of America's oldest long-distance trails has changed my attitude & thinking a great deal. In the coming weeks, I'll share some of those thoughts & changes, and the trail I hope to return to in a short while.

That vid was from the loose-hangin' Slightly, one of the fun folks met along the trail. Slight & I hiked the last couple of days I was on the trail, doing 23 miles one day together. In those 5 weeks, that was my biggest mileage day. We got into Damascus, VA on May 9th, my last day. Trail days started on the 16th I believe. In that vid were some other good people I met, namely: Aboman, 1/2 Ounce, Thought Criminal, Red, Meatbag & Doxie. Incidentally, they all completed the thru-hike. My hat's off to them. I only wish I could've been a part of it with them.

~The Pilgrim.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Hiking Life Is A Disciplined Life

"The ultimate challenge. I hiked to give myself time away from the confines of society in which I found myself. Time to think about what I was doing and where I was going in life."

~Adam Ticknor, long-distance hiker.
Quoted in Long-Distance Hiking: Lessons From The Appalachian Trail
by Roland Mueser.

The life of a long distance hiker is a disciplined life. Yes, it's a freer type of existence, allowing one to be away from the everyday pressures of life, such as a job, family, daily chores & decisions of normal life. Yet it requires a keen sense of awareness for many things: rationing of food & water, being mindful of one's health & treating of injuries, an organizational ability regarding the pack & all gear on hand. The scheduling of going from town to town for resupply is an integral aspect of long distance hiking, as well as reading & following maps & guidebooks one carries along the way.

There's an introspection present in most l-d hikers; an ability or strength to go within one's self for the inspiration and focus needed on such endeavors. The outside world can seem a nuisance, a stealer of time & energy to the ldh. The wilderness, with its treelines & forests, mountain peaks & ranges, valleys, streams, lakes, wildlife & fauna provides cleaner, more refreshing entertainment for people as this.

The ldh is not necessarily someone who's abolished society or shirks responsibility; rather, one who places things in different perspective from that of the busy, often ferocious pace of the average individual. The loads these folks carry isn't limited only to the packs strapped on their backs. Many a day is filled with thoughts of loved ones, intentions of making life a little bit better when they return from the current trek.

Problems don't go away once a great journey begins, but many solutions can be attained through the everyday action of hiking. For many of us already hold within the answers to plaguing problems, and for those answers to be extracted from a busy & cluttered mind, one must extract oneself from all that chokes his thoughts & intentions. Guiding oneself through physical terrain is both therapeutic to and revealing of the rocky contour of one's soul.

~The Pilgrim.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why Do People Hike?

"Most people never in all their lives sleep under the open sky, and never realize what they are missing."

~Earl Shaffer, Walking With Spring, 1981.

Ask any hiker this question and you'll come up with answers like: for the excercise, health reasons, love of the outdoors, physical challenge, a way of escape and countless others. I suppose there are as many reasons to hike as there are trails to hike. For me, one reason at least, is that it takes me out of my routine of daily, accepted existence.

Most of us work a job, have families, pay bills and live a normal, common life. We all have people & things to worry about, job or financial stresses, deadlines to meet, expectations attached to us. Hiking is a great way to either leave those cares aside for a short while, or even think more deeply about them. In one sense, going off to hike somewhere is getting away from it all; in another, it helps give us a clearer view of everything, helping us make better sense of it all. It breaks things down in a way that only being out in nature can do.

How does it do this? Technically, I can't say. Maybe it's the natural movement of walking to a determined destination, or just the physical act of walking itself. Maybe having a pack strapped to your back, containing all you'll need for a day or two, or even just a couple hours, simplifies the act of living. No need for phones, cars, computers or tv. No needs except for the water you drink and the food you eat. It doesn't get much simpler than that, I suppose.

People have asked me, "Don't you get bored just walking, climbing hills & mountains & stuff?" Nope. There's too much stuff that runs through my mind when I'm hiking; I'm always thinking. It's amazing the old memories that surface while pushing up a steep grade or taking in a panoramic view from a mountaintop. People & places come to mind, those buried for years beneath the everyday hustle & bustle of 21st century life.

Books are written while hiking, inventions designed & ideals formed. Hiking is a way to get out and live, "to take time rather than being taken by time." It's pure & strong, and helps make us so. Besides, there's always something new to see.

~The Pilgrim.