Toward the Far Horizon

I was asked by someone the other day what I was going to miss the most while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  The answer came quickly to my mind; it was a no-brainer. 

“My family.” I replied, as the six-month journey stretched out far in my mind, topping the horizon. 

The trail is going to change you. It’s a common mantra that you’ve already seen pop up in a few of my posts, but that’s not the whole of it. The trail is also going to change those around you, too. 

Within my beliefs there is a concept known as “orlog.” Orlog is a moment of destiny, a fork in the road. While much of our life is fated, according to my ways, orlog are those special moments where you can choose directly how you react to the current, where you get to make a choice that can shape the overall flow of events. 

They can be big decisions, or small, even unnoticeable ones, but inevitably, through moments of orlog, our lives change, our world changes, and those effects ripple out to affect everything around us. 

Thus we live our lives buoyed about by waves of change stirred often by the smallest moments of decision. When I was eight years old, a fated trip to New Mexico first got me out into the woods and mountains, inspiring a deep love of nature that has driven me lifelong to seek the outdoors, yet it wasn’t until I saw a movie about thru-hiking in 2010 that the bug bit me, and pushed me to take it seriously. 

Three years later, I grew more determined, and began my workouts, only to make poor choices in the face of a growing anxiety disorder, and my dreams were deferred again. 

Small choices, small movements all, affecting my direction, and now, here we are. 

However, I do not exist within a vacuum. I have a family of people who love me, who have been with me through my journeys and my struggles, and now… now I am preparing to leave them for the next six months to walk across the country. 

But no great thing is achieved without sacrifice. I do not feel that it is in anyway selfish to boldly pursue your passions, even if they take you far afield of what is familiar, and from those that are family. It will be arduous, it will be a burden, on both yourself and the ones who love you. Still, though, the achieving of dreams is no small thing. 

One may argue it is the point of life itself to strive, and to sacrifice. 

In this, we find the spirit of the pioneers, and the explorers that changed and shaped our world. We see the novelists and writers that spend months in isolation, only to emerge with Promethean manuscripts that bring new fire to the world. We witness the work of scientists that revolutionize what it means to understand the world around us. 

And where does thru-hiking fit in, among all these lofty scions of sacrifice and achievement? I would argue that it is a deep spiritual journey where one looks within, overcomes weakness and personal failings to persevere toward the end. Self-improvement is never wasted, but it goes beyond that. We are choosing to connect with nature, with parts of ourselves often ignored by the busy modern world. We are taking the time to experience the earth in all its wonder and majesty. 

From the wilderness, we will return with hard-won wisdom. Whether we ultimately succeed or fail, our lives are forever reforged by what we have done, and it is through that sharing, that those around us will benefit. 

The trail is going to change me, and I aim to embrace it, and bring it back. First, though, I must earn its wisdom and pay its costs, from the soreness in my muscles, to the isolation from my family. Still, the call is irresistible, and my moment of orlog is past. 

Onward, toward the farthest star!


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