I live in Eastern Connecticut, which I think is one of the prettier parts of the globe. It’s hilly, but not mountainous. So you don’t get the amazing views you get from summiting a mountain. You don’t get to look down on a cloud. There’s a perspective about the world you can only get from a mountaintop, where you can see for hundreds of miles in every direction, and see the curvature of the Earth all around you.
You can see the trailhead you started from, and you realize that even though it’s a great big world, you can get just about anywhere if you keep going forward, and don’t give up.
The temptation is always there to stop. To find a comfortable spot on the side of the trail, and take a nap. (I must admit, some of the rocks on the Appalachian Trail are extremely comfortable, napping-wise.)
But you aren’t going to get to the summit by napping. You aren’t going to get to your goals in life by taking constant breaks and hoping something comes along. Nobody’s going to carry you to the summit, and there’s never a bus when you need one. You need to rely on yourself and prove to yourself that you can keep going.
And you have to keep your stuff together. You only have so much daylight to get from where you are now to where you’re sleeping tonight, and if it’s 15 miles, you’d better get a move on. No time for messes. Dawdling in the morning doesn’t cut it.
When hiking alone, or in small groups, you wind up with a lot of quiet time. The distractions are all gone, and you’re left alone with your thoughts. It’s a wonderfully clarifying thing, especially for young people in an age of nearly constant stimulation. Hiking leads pretty naturally to reflection and self-contemplation.
I find, even now, that my best life choices aren’t made sitting on the couch, but on a hiking trail.
You also learn that you if you’re quiet, and you pay attention, you’ll see a whole lot more. As Yogi Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by watching.”
When I was a kid, I was always amazed at how my dad always managed to see so many animals while we were walking in the woods. Now that I have kids of my own, I find myself pointing out the animals to them.