Saturday, March 17, 2007

Out In The Natural World

Today as I was sitting at work, I found myself daydreaming of hiking the Appalachian Trail again. After all, it is that time of year when the majority of the thru-hikers start their pilgrimage to Maine from Georgia. To spend six months surrounded and walking in some of the most beautiful settings on the east coast sounds absolutely divine right now. Ah, how I wish I could be starting that trek again.

Since I hiked the trail a few years ago, I have realized that I have a different appreciation for the outdoor world than most of my friends. They see activities such as hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing as "something you do" on the weekends to stave off boredom. Since my hike, I have seen it as getting back to the real world and look forward to my time spent at State Parks, on hiking trails, and on lakes. I feel at home and enjoy the time I spend outdoors and try to get out as much as my schedule allows for.

The picture above was taken at the psychological half way point of the Appalachian trail, over-looking Harper's Ferry, WV and the Potomac river; just over 1000 miles hiked. (The "official" half way point is about 100 or so miles north.) This six mile climb was hard won. A thunderstorm, the 90 degree heat and the very steep climb made it difficult. The experience I had that day with everything combined is why this picture is such a treasure to me. Three months and 1000 miles down, three months and just over 1000 miles to go.

The next 1000 miles were to be tough as boredom set in when the experience became more about hiking the miles rather than enjoying the natural setting. The goal was to hike the trail, and to do so, I had to reach Maine by the end of September or the first few days in October.

There were many times when I wanted to quit and go home. But in the end, I'm glad I didn't. It is views like the one to the right that made it worth continuing. This picture was taken after four miles of climbing in the rain and mist up Mt. Katahdin in Maine. I stopped to take a break as I reached the point that marked the last mile of the trail. I sat for a few minutes, feeling defeated due to the weather, thinking that I would not get the view from the top that I had been dreaming about since I first thought of hiking the trail back in 1995.

When I looked up, it took me a few seconds to realize what I was seeing. The mist and rain was starting to dissipate and the wind had pushed the clouds over to the east of the ridge that I had just climbed. I could see the trail and a couple of my fellow trekkers! I started crying as I realized that I would get a view from the top; as I realized that this was the end; as I realized that I would no longer be seeing the people that I had spent 6 months hiking with; as I realized that I may not have the chance again to live this close to the natural world. I feel lucky to have had this experience.

As spring nears and the snow is nearly melted, I find myself looking forward to my summer adventures outside.


Coyote Moon said...

Wow! To take off 6 months and be able to do that. I am so jealous. Perhaps, I need to make that a priority.

Sojourner said...

It seems that many of the people who hike the trail are in a transition stage in their lives. They are just graduating college or high school, just retiring, or starting to realize that they need a change, as well as many other reasons. I hiked because it was the end of my recovery period after a car accident that had me in physical therapy for about 2 1/2 years. I was celebrating making it through the car accident and being alive! :)

Yes, I would say that if you are interested in hiking (or just taking 6 months off), you have to make it a priority and set a goal. There were some people on the trail that mentioned that if they had not picked a year and a date to start, they would have kept putting it off.

I would highly recommend hiking the AT or any other trail. It was an experience that put many things into perpective and I learned a lot about myself and the world around me.

ColoradoCelt said...

Sounds like a sublime experience. I have been wanting to hike the Colorado trail now for years, it starts around the town of Durango in SW Colorado and winds through the mountains all the way to Denver, about 500 miles.

Loved the pictures you posted.

Sojourner said...

Thanks for your comment, Coloradocelt!

This trip will be something that I won't ever be able to push to the back of my mind. I learned so much about myself, other people, the natural world including being able to name plants, trees, different spieces of animals, and of course, weather. I learned very quickly how to determine what may happen with the weather patterns (it rained A LOT, had a couple of tornados near-by, as well as some other weird things that happened).

The Colorado Trail sounds great! I hope that you will be able to hike it someday soon.

Thanks. (about the pictures)