In a Thru-Hiker’s Head: Contemplations During a Climb

My body, tired after working a 15-plus-mile day, was aching. Yes, working sounds odd in this situation, although it does fit. Walking may seem like a chore in certain environments. Realizing you parked so far away, walking to get the mail, walking a couple blocks to a restaurant—all examples of how annoying walking can be. But in this case, my body and mind were challenged to reach a certain point, and somehow I was motivated to keep going. I was working towards a certain goal of getting on top of Bald Mountain, Tennessee along the Appalachian Trail to see sights before sundown. It hadn’t been easy to this point, and certainly my walk wasn’t as nearly as annoying as any of the aforementioned examples.

There had been stunning views along this walk, going up and down steep hills, with the ruggedness of stumps, roots, rocks, and debris blocking an easy path. Slick mud, snow, slippery rocks, and leaves slow you down. But more importantly, there is serenity and awe to each and every step taken with the simplicity of natural landscape, and the pleasantry of unadulterated sound. This may get interrupted briefly through an inevitable road crossing, sights of a town, overhead planes. Eventually that sound diminishes and you are back. I was by myself as I took the 1,000-foot ascent. Alone with my thoughts, negativity burst in to drag me away from the  accomplishment of reaching the top, demanding no more work. But it couldn’t sway me enough from the thought of reaching the top, followed by an all-encompassing 360-degree view.

I took it step by step, cautious of where my feet landed in the technical areas, gradually getting higher. I was in good shape at this point, having hiked 300 miles in a little over three weeks. Sweating appropriately to my exercise, I looked towards my short-term goal in excitement. I had taken this climb in stride, knowing the capability of my body, and finally took to the peak. It had been a half-hour since I began the climb, and I successfully made it, flexing my arms. I was greeted with the sun setting on the horizon with miles of open landscape, near and beyond. I had 1,800 more miles of walking to see more beautiful wonder in different aspects, continuing my motivation to work without thinking, “this is work.”

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