We instinctively think hiking happens in the outdoors, but on this morning’s hike it occurred to me that the experience is actually happening indoors: inside our consciousness. Everything that happens to us on a hike reflects our ability to perceive via sensory organs. We’ve only got five senses; I’ve often wondered how cool the universe must be to beings lucky enough to to have, say, seven or eight.
The limits of perception reminded me that while our consciousness can cleverly guide us through the craziest terrain, not everything we perceive is especially helpful to our hiking lives. The confusions of civilization create a lot of wrong turns.
My best example: My New Year’s resolution was to hike someplace new every weekend. My main motivation seems ludicrous now: I mostly wanted new stuff for my hiking blog, and I wanted more “I was there” dots on my map of North Carolina hikes. But here’s what would happen: I would drive six or more hours each time and spend most of the next day writing up a blog post full of pictures, GPS tracks and other stuff that made it all a huge chore.
This was way too much work for the few hours of admittedly wonderful hiking I was experiencing.
Meanwhile, another consequence of hiking in the mountains was that I felt compelled to join a gym to get in better shape for more rugged hikes. Well, I improved my cardio on a Treadclimber, but I lost those moments of hiking-in-the-woods wonder I experienced in my morning walks in the park across the road.
So this morning I was over at Tanglewood just before sunup and walked out upon a fog-blanketed meadow and said “damn, I’ve never seen it like this before.” As I walked the sun sneaked up behind the trees, revealing the picture I took above. Not the greatest one I ever took, but not bad, considering it didn’t cost me two tanks of gas for a round-trip to the Blue Ridge.
If you’re thinking, “hell, Tom, the only reason I come here is to read those hike write-ups,” well, sorry. I’ll probably keep doing them but it won’t be every week. Monthly maybe.
Middle of the Year’s Resolution is to keep it simple: Inspire people to hike.
You can find all you need to know about everyplace worth hiking somewhere on the Internet. But what’s missing is somebody saying “here’s why you need to tune out all the crap and get out there in the woods.”
Perhaps the worst tendency of the Internet is to reward novelty above pretty much everything. If it’s a baby setting her mother’s hair on fire, it’ll be all over the Web; if it’s you finding 30 seconds of clarity on a trail 10 minutes from your back porch, well, sorry, the Web doesn’t give a shit.
But I do.
So here are a few (hopefully) inspirational thoughts:
- So you’ve hiked that same greenway a hundred times and can’t imagine anything interesting ever happening there? Go anyway; concentrate on seeing something you’ve never seen before. Then stop looking. That’s when you’ll see it.
- So you think you can’t hike without $600 worth of fancy gear? Picture in your mind the one place where it doesn’t matter what kind of gear you take. Go there.
- So your hiking club goes too fast and can’t pause to appreciate nature? Start your own club, appoint yourself president, name your cat vice president for membership and hike by yourself.
That’s enough for today; need to save some for future posts.
- Toward building a hiking brain
- Mindful hiking: going with the flow
- 6 ways to get more hikes in your life
- It’s OK to be a day hiker, really