Being in nature puts me in the best frame of mind and hiking is my favorite activity. I love the challenge, the physical pain and the vistas that hiking provides. The best treks for me have a reward at end like a waterfall or a lake. However, standing on a mountain ridge or peak is the most thrilling to me. There is nothing in the world better than turning my eyes in all directions (360 Degrees) to see mountain views that are breathtaking.
Each time I step onto a trail, I am reminded how insignificant I am in the world at large. The sense of being a tiny organism in a much larger universe helps put my problems in perspective. For me, hiking helps me assess issues from a birds-eye view and makes me feel that anything is possible.
Hiking truly bolsters my desire to appreciate things. For some reason, climbing over rocks and tree roots reminds me that blessings come in all sizes and forms. When I take the time to notice them, the recognition of my blessings are paths to inner joy and happiness to me. The greatest benefit to this awareness is a feeling of gratefulness and general well-being. I do not know whether I acquired the trait of gratitude naturally or if I learned over time, it but it’s apart of who I am today.
When I knew it was more than a hike
Twice when I was a kid, my parents loaded up my sisters and me in the stationwagon and headed to the Colorado rockies for the summer. They rented a cabin for a couple months and we spent extended vacations exploring all the hiking trails, glacier lakes and mountain passes we could find. These were the best summers of my childhood.
On one outing I recall, we were having a picnic off a four wheel trail called Rollins Pass. As we sat on our blanket overlooking the mountains, I recall one of the adults in our group looking through binoculars. Rather alarmed, she said, “oh my gosh, there is a red Jeep crossing the ridge over there”. With my naked eye, I did not see a vehicle but when she handed me the binoculars I was shooked. The four wheel drive jeep was indeed crawling along the side of the mountain.
After some discussion, we decided to go find the trail the Jeep was on. In the end, this rocky road led to a ghost town called Kingston and continued on to James Peak. This is still my favorite place to visit in Colorado. The first day we found this place is one the best days of my life. It was truly magical.
What I recall is the vegetation was vibrant and the wild flowers were in full bloom. Color was alive and plentiful in all directions. The sun was out and the sky was clear and vivid blue. Remarkably, out of nowhere, it started to snow. Golf ball sized flakes of snow fell from a cloudless sky!
This phantom snowstorm did not last long, but it left the ground damp and made all the colors of the mountain explode. All of these elements came together in one astonishing moment. It felt heavenly. As a young boy, the scene was the most beautiful thing I had ever experienced.
I learned at that moment that a hike is more than just a hike.
Today, when I am lucky enough to sit on the top of a mountain somewhere, I tend to scan the next range of peaks. Strategically, I look for the next trail to hike or another dusty road to drive on. Seemingly never satisfied with where I am, I envision myself climbing up the next ridge; then to the next. I also like to look back at the trail I just came from. The effort and distance from where I’ve been to where I am gives me a feeling of accomplishment.
Even as a write these words, I realize my Colorado experiences is a metaphor for nearly everything in my life.
At age 62, I recognize that my feet are not as confident as they once were. My mind tells me I can scurry up any rock but my legs remind me that I have limits. I still enjoy a strong and healthy body and can go about anywhere I want but I know my days for mountain top hikes are numbered.
Knowing this does not want me to slow down. I want to do it more. I want to defy the restrictions of age for as long as I can.
Lessons from the Hike
Over time, I have learned the hiking trail is a place for clarity. It allows for joy, jubilation, connection, reflection and solitude.
There are always life lessons to consider when I walk along an onerous rocky path. The trick is to be open to learning them.
Some of the life lessons the hike has taught me includes:
- Being grateful leads to inner happiness
- Recognize blessings large and small
- Make the best of wherever I am
- Appreciate where I’ve been
- Don’t fear the next thing
- Do what is healthy and happiness will usually follow
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