White Mountain from afar

It’s just walking on dirt. So why can’t I stop hiking?

Another Glacier Point picture

It’s not everything; it’s all the little things that seem huge at the time: like when that startling flash of brown in the tree canopy turns out to be a flying squirrel. Or when stumbling into a bush causes a family of deer to come bouncing out the other side.

Or maybe it’s the sensation of your heart falling back down out of your the throat the first time you hear a rattlesnake’s proximity alarm. Yep, it sounds just like it does on TV.

Nature reassures the Baptist of the existence of a benevolent God. And it convinces the atheist that no supreme being could’ve conjured such wonder. You won’t find that at the mall. But you will on a hike.

And you will find out why looking at the top of a hill triggers such a strong urge to climb it. At the top you’ll see a panorama available to everybody able to get up there, but for a moment that world is yours alone, because you’re the only one up there.

Except for those times when you share the trail. I’ll never forget the 79-year-old retired cop who left me in the dust on a 2,000-foot climb under a scalding sun. He walked three miles before he took his first sip from his water bottle.

Then there was the paraplegic, his legs ruined by diabetes, who wheelchair-hiked to top of California’s third-highest mountain. The last mile took eight hours. Most amazing thing I ever saw.

So that’s why I keep doing it. I like being amazed.