Why Am I Hiking?

Why am I hiking?


That is a great question. Does there have to be a reason? Can it not be said that I am doing it for the joy of the experience? Or perhaps there is a deeper reason for challenging myself to two months of hiking, in addition to the four months of preparation prior to setting that first step on the trail. 


I first learned of thru-hiking in 9th grade, a freshman in high school, unwisely using class time to fumble and stumble across the internet. “The PCT? What’s that?” I clicked. Shortly thereafter, I learned that one could WALK from Mexico to Canada on a trail. In fact, a local portion of the PCT encompassed all of a trail I had hiked…whoa. It was so close to home, yet incomprehensible that such a hike could be done. What about food and water? Bears? Strangers? I left it at that. Still amazed that such a trail existed, I never fully excused the thought of hiking it, adding it to my lifetime bucket list. 


Flipping several chapters ahead in my life, I haven’t altogether ditched the thought of hiking the PCT, but have replaced it (perhaps?) with another thru-hike. Now that I am a resident of Canada, similarities between now and my 9th-grade self shine through. I am still living on the Columbia River, mountains, trees, and wildlife are ever-present. Not too far from my backdoor, another thru-hike resides, the Great Divide Trail. Is it an opportunity to seize what I had not in the past?


Hiking this trail, the GDT, has several layers of meaning for me. On the surface, it is purely for the enjoyment of such an undertaking, to live the boyhood dream of tramping through the woods, crossing swollen rivers, exploring glaciated valleys, and cresting mountain passes in weather less-than-fare. In other ways, it is a challenge, a challenge for both body and mind. To be able to reinforce and build confidence, push on when quitting seems all too easy, and feed a desire for adventure. It is also an opportunity for me to develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that encompasses my home, to be able to interact, and live within, the seasonality of the Canadian Rockies, to see flowers bloom and see them fade, to live by the sun and sleep by the stars. 


In another sense this hike is a metaphor for my life journey, the GDT starts at the US border, from where I am a citizen, and travels north, just as I have done with my life. I want this to be an opportunity to connect with my new home, a rugged unforgiving landscape that rivals all natural beauty. I want it to be the most challenging and rewarding undertaking to date. I want it to help me connect with myself and help point me in a direction. I hope that completing the GDT may feel like the final transition from South to North, that it may also open doors that I never knew existed, never dreamed of…but I won’t know that until mid-August when my hungered, stinking self steps foot on the pavement, sticks up a thumb and hitches home. 

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