The Cure for What Ails You

I mean it y’all.  Sometimes a long walk (or run, or ride, or whatever) is just what the doctor ordered.  This becomes more clear every time I talk with my friends who also just need to get out there.

Trying Something New

The opportunity to attempt something that you’ve never done before doesn’t strike often.  I’m not talking about trying a new flavor of potato chips for the first time (I’ll never forget that moment, Dill Pickle!), but something serious.  Something worth writing home about.  Something that kicks you in the ass and still leaves you smiling at the end of the day.

Yet over the last two months, four of my friends and coworkers went out (on two separate trips) to ride the Baja Divide route.  None of them had done any sort of bicycle touring before, let alone in a foreign country on “roads” that are more fist-sized rocks than dirt.  When I asked one of them how the trip was, she responded “It took a really long time!”  And I knew right away.  She was hooked.

To me, that exclamation was a sure sign, not of fatigue or exhaustion, but of pride.  How can you not be proud?  No matter if your goal is the top of a Southern Bald, the depths of a canyon, a multi-week circuit route, or a months long thru hike, it feels damn good to accomplish it.  I CAN DO ANYTHING!

Woohoo! I did it!

And that’s an amazing feeling.  Everybody needs a healthy dose of “Fuck Yeah, Me!” every now and then.  The perseverance, problem solving, and sheer endurance needed to work your way through such unfamiliar territory leaves a lasting impression.  My friends have always been happy, contented people, but they returned from each of their trips with an extra sparkle in their eyes.  What was already good, is now much, much better.

Sorting Shit Out

I know this is another reason many of my friends and fellow adventurers seek out long, self-supported journeys.  Last night, I was catching up with another friend over beers.  She told me about her plans to ride from Minneapolis to Montana this summer after finishing grad school.  For her, the trip is a chance to think about what comes next.  I looked across the table and laughed, because it was obvious to me she already knew what was next!

From reading blogs of those who have already started their AT hikes this year, I know this is a common and powerful reason to hike.  What ties most of us together is that we know that while the hike itself won’t just make everything better, it does give us the tools and the energy to make improvements.  Whether coping with loss, looking for a direction, or recovering from burnout, thru hiking occupies a large and vital pocket in our mental and emotional survival kits.  It’s like a daily multi-vitamin for those of us who have had the privilege to find the space in our lives for a long walk.

Sunrise from your sleeping bag: Chicken Soup for the Wanderer’s Soul

What’s all this about, anyway?

I wrote this post for two reasons.  First, I just wanted to brag about what total bad-asses I have for friends.  Seriously, y’all should be jealous of how freaking AMAZING my friends are.  Second, I feel the need to give credit where credit is due.

Even though my upcoming trip on the PCT won’t be my first “rodeo,” it is still a daunting journey to plan.  Hardship will abound, and sacrifices will be made.  But every time I hear a friend talking about their amazing voyage, or read about fellow Trek-ers carefully traversing the beautiful and snowy Great Smoky Mountains, I always get a little shot of motivation.  I remember how good it feels to just get out there.  So, to Darrow, Matt, Elena, Will, and Liz, thank you for inspiring me to get out there again.  To the hardy NOBOs making their way through the Southern Appalachians, thank you for providing me with lots of pictures to remind me to always smile even when I’m thinking “WTF did I get myself into??!??!!”

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