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[pct-l] Re: [at-l] Why do I hike?

>All of the following.......
>"I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
>and have my senses put in tune once more"
>                        John Burroughs
>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.
>                                                          Shel Silverstein
>"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
>Owen wrote:
>> 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
>> family".
>> 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
>> walk).
>> 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 - >
>> >
>> > 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
>> "exposure".
>> 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
>> again.
>> 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,
>> too.
>> And now there's the final question ----    Why do YOU hike?
>> Walk softly,
>> Jim
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