Sometimes you reach a point in life where you realize something is
missing or feels woefully unfulfilled and it causes you to search for
joy in places unexplored. Some things have changed for me over the past six months that have left me trying to figure out what I love, what is truly important in life, how life is meant to be experienced, what can I do to live a life without regrets, how can I seize and fully embrace moments in the short time I have on this planet…deep stuff like that.
I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart – hiking.
Earlier this year I stumbled upon a podcast called Sounds of the Trail, which has been a source of long-missing inspiration and happiness for me. When I was a kid, my parents often vacationed in Vermont because we had a little camper we stored up there.
These trips were sometimes internally frustrating for me because I saw other kids jetting off to Disney World or traveling to Europe with their families and I often thought, “Why the heck do I get stuck with old Vermont?” Dad would drive maddeningly slow down these out of the way dirt roads and go like 15 miles an hour so we could look at the scenery and it nearly made me lose my mind at times.
There were lots of little trails in the campground where we stayed and I would go off on my own and just walk through the woods or explore down by the Battenkill River.
These outdoor experiences embedded themselves in me and caused me to seek out trails in college down by the Ocoee River. When I moved to Franklin, there wasn’t much hiking in the near vicinity, and I would occasionally go to Edwin Warner Park, but that was about the extent of it. Then last year we went camping with some friends and hiked the Fiery Gizzard trail up to Raven Point in South Cumberland State Park and I got hooked again.
Then I found Sounds of the Trail.
I hope I get to write more about this podcast because I want everyone I know who loves the outdoors to hear about it. It’s a podcast about hiking that follows the path of one woman as she is hiking the Appalachian Trail and another woman (and eventually a guy) who are currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. They interview hikers along the way, chronicle their own journeys, and encourage people like little old you and me to get out there and hike. The producer, whose trail name is Gizmo, hiked the PCT last year and also talks about her own experiences. The episodes are utterly inspiring and make you feel like you’re sitting around a campfire with old friends, talking about adventures.
So far this year, following our epic trip to Colorado in July…
…I’ve hiked nearly a hundred miles on short and long trails within two hours of where we live. I realize there are some people that literally hike this type of mileage in four days on the AT, but for me whose back is twisted by scoliosis, who has gained some 30s-metabolism-betraying-me weight and feels anything but athletic, it’s the biggest personal accomplishment I can speak of that’s happened in a long time. The most I’ve done in one day has been 13 miles, and Rob was with me for that and still hates me for it, I think. This past weekend I did a total of 18 miles (which included my regular walk downtown). Being in the woods has been exhilarating, and while it will never replace being close to the ocean, I find so much joy in the nature I’ve been able to experience there. Rob has come with me on a few trails, and a couple of friends have joined as well, but the times when I’m alone with my thoughts and the birds, and trees, and surrounded by peaceful green is the time when my soul has come out of its funk and my heart has been refreshed.
Those trails we walked on many years ago in Vermont set something in motion that I hope will continue for as long as my body is able. I want to do a backpacking trip at some point, tackle the Long Trail in Vermont, and section hike parts of the AT. Rob and I went to REI, bought actual serious backpacks, and are slowly getting our gear up to snuff to be able to do some short trips. Who knows what will come of it, but for now, we walk on in search of the next beautiful moment…