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[CDT-L] Re: [at-l] Why do I hike?
- Subject: [CDT-L] Re: [at-l] Why do I hike?
- Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 22:52:05 -0800
All of the following.......
"I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and have my senses put in tune once more"
here is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers go
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
"The end of the human race will be that it will
eventually die of civilization."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
" We take these risks not to escape from life
but to prevent life from escaping us... "unknown
"I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely
miserable ... but through it all I still know quite
certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."
– Agatha Christie
"Montani Semper Liberi"
I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live
than other things do. Willa Cather
> Some time ago someone tried to insult me by saying that my trip reports
> were "not particularly esoteric". While I found the statement both
> puzzling and somewhat bizarre, it started me thinking about - Why do I
> hike? And then - why do I spend the time writing trip reports? I found
> it to be something worth thinking about. And then the subject came up
> on at-l as well. And then it came up again on another forum. So ----
> I'm gonna send this to all three lists because there are people on each
> list who aren't on the others. And I think it's a good subject for
> anyone who hikes -- on any trail.
> I think the most common reason people go out and sweat their way up the
> mountains is the beauty they find there - in the mountains, the sky, the
> forests, the streams - and the wildlife. And I understand that because
> I have my own pictures (the ones in my mind as well as the product of a
> camera) of times and places in Maine and Georgia and Pennsylvania and
> Montana and Arizona and Colorado - and others, many others. I've lived
> for the last 6 years with flashbacks from the AT - and they beat the
> hell out of the flashbacks from other times and places. I know - there
> are those who think beauty is found only on the AT - and others who find
> it only in the Sierras - or the desert - or the Rockies - or any of a
> thousand other places. But I've found beauty and peace and knowledge,
> albeit of different varieties, in every place I've ever hiked, and to be
> truthful - in every place I've ever been. Even the cities have their
> own form of beauty. Not a kind that I want to spend a lot of time with,
> but still - it's there for those who are not blind to it.
> I've also found physical health out there - I once had major physical
> problems (after 25 years at a hi-tech, extremely high stress and very
> sedentary job while smoking up to 5 packs of cigarettes per day). But
> most of those disappeared when I started hiking again. I haven't
> recovered all the lung capacity from 25 years of smoking - but I've got
> enough to be planning another thruhike. The hiking has also helped in
> keeping my weight down. Yeah, I still weigh too much - but at least my
> legs and lungs can still haul it up the mountains. J What I just said
> was - hiking is literally life for me and that if I stop hiking ----
> well, let's not go there.
> There's also the emotional/mental health aspect - after a week or two of
> dealing with the world that writes my paycheck I NEED a way to eliminate
> the mental stress and emotional poisons; I NEED a way to center my mind
> and my life; I NEED the time and space to find peace with myself, my
> world, my wife and my God; I NEED the clarity that I find in the high,
> lonely places. Like some of those who have gone before me, I've
> listened and talked to the spirits of the forests, streams and mountains
> (my trail name is Bald Eagle for good reason). I find my God, my
> religion, my spiritual health and renewal in the places where computers
> and cars and all the hi-tech gadgets that we all live with every day --
> DON'T live.
> And then there are the people - the best kind of people. We've met a
> lot of really nice people - and more than a few who are completely
> "around the bend". But then, the only people worth knowing are those
> who are crazy (personal opinion J). For the most part, people who hike
> (especially long distances) are REAL. On a long distance hike, people
> don't have the time, energy or inclination to maintain the "masks" that
> "civilized" people believe are so important. And we've made connections
> with people from all walks of life, all occupations, all sizes, ages,
> interests - and some of those people are our friends. To a large degree
> they're also our "family" - because we have more in common with them,
> and in many cases, more contact with them than we do with our "birth
> And there are "other" reasons - Ginny and I got involved in trail
> maintenance some years ago. We hiked a trail that was in desperate need
> of maintenance - and then volunteered for a trail crew that was gonna
> work on that trail. We've been working on trails ever since. I know -
> some people think they don't have "time" to do that. Bull. We've
> averaged 12 days of trail maintenance per year over the last 5 years
> simply by using some of our weekends. Vacation is something we've had
> little of - and what we have, we use for long distance hiking. But one
> weekend at a time adds up to a lot of trail work. It's our way of
> giving back something more valuable than money to the trails we hike and
> love. What does this have to do with hiking? If you're gonna work on a
> trail, you need to know what needs to be worked on - and where it is.
> And after we hike, we often send in trail condition reports to those who
> need to know what we saw. One of our purposes for being out there is to
> scout the trail conditions for the trail crews.
> We've also gotten involved in writing trail guides - so far we've
> written several of them. If you're gonna write a trail guide - you have
> to hike the trail (if you're gonna talk the talk, you've gotta walk the
> Some of these are also part of the reason we want to thruhike again, as
> well. But Ginny recently sent me something that she wrote that explains
> the thruhiking "hunger" better than I can, so (with her permission)
> > Excitement - fear - hope - joy - anticipation - happiness - > impatience
> > A mixture of feelings. I can see us out there so clearly. I read
> > about following a grassy ridge, and I can see us walking along
> > the Divide. Passing ruined cabins and old mines, herds of cattle,
> > antelope, elk, meeting bears, fording rivers, crossing steep snow
> > fields, getting lost, getting found. Going hungry, thirsty,
> > tired. Names on maps that will soon become memories. Strangers
> > that we will meet along the way. Endless miles - sore muscles,
> > sore feet. Endless climbs. Steep descents. The joy of
> > topping a mountain. The serenity in sitting by a lake and
> > watching sparkles on the water as the fish jump. Feelings of
> > frustration and feelings of accomplishment. Profound peace.
> > Moments of laughter. Quiet conversations in the night. The
> > simplest of lifestyles.
> > 200 days to go - maybe less. I'm not ready, and yet I would
> > leave tomorrow if I could. 183 days of hiking - maybe less.
> > If we average 18, we can finish by November 1. That's not so
> > difficult - yeah right!
> > We are so lucky to have the chance to go - but we've made the
> > choices that led us here. Maybe not luck - but it is happiness.
> Some of you will understand that - and some of you won't. The ones who
> don't need to learn what she's talking about. For myself, I'm proud to
> be married to the lady. And the first time I read that, I cried -
> because it brings back memories and because it makes the hunger sharper
> and more urgent.
> And then there's the question - why do I write trip reports? In the
> beginning, we kept personal trail logs - journals. They were private,
> in part because we were as afraid of exposing our emotions, our failures
> - the very ordinariness of our experiences - as anyone else is. But our
> trips mean something to us - even if they're not "exotic" or "dangerous"
> or "esoteric". So we write about what they mean, what we went to find
> and what we discovered along the way (they're rarely the same). And
> somewhere along the way we discovered that not many people have
> "esoteric" adventures anyway. So we lost most of the fear of
> For us, the journals are also a way to extend the hike - when we write
> about it, the memories are revived, the pictures that we carry in our
> minds are recalled - and the trip is alive again for us. While memory
> fades, the journals keep some of the details clear and focused. So when
> we read those journals a month or a year later, it all comes alive
> We also discovered that trip reports (especially honest ones) can be
> used to help others - to teach them that they can do what we do and
> sometimes to show them how. Our trip reports aren't meant to be
> "esoteric". They're meant to tell others that there's a world out there
> that's bigger, more wonderful and more beautiful than many people can
> imagine - but that they can see it for themselves. If we can do it -
> they can do it. So we tell about it. And we hope that some of them
> will decide to overcome their fears - or whatever else is keeping them
> hiking the same trails years after year - and that they'll go to some of
> the places we go - or to other places that we haven't been yet. And
> maybe when they come back - they'll tell us about it. We need to know,
> And now there's the final question ---- Why do YOU hike?
> Walk softly,
> * From the Appalachian Trail Mailing List | http://www.backcountry.net *
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