I love hiking. A long walk in the woods is good medicine for many of the things that ail me. As my legs fall in to a rhythm, my mind slowly gets quieter and quieter. My shoulders relax and my eyes soften. Soon I’m pausing to notice the color of a leaf or the sound of bird high in the trees.
These simple things remind me that my problems and worries are not very important in the scheme of things. My sense of time at once expands and contracts. The forest is at once timeless and ever-changing.
As a life-long Midwesterner, I still have a little trouble with trail classifications here in the Pacific Northwest. Turns out when you’re climbing mountains, “medium” hikes mean something different than they do in the Kettle Moraine of southeastern Wisconsin.
I was on such a trail yesterday morning and, to be honest, not very psyched about it. It was cold. There were spider webs everywhere. And the hills. Dear God, the hills. Straight up and then straight down. Over and over again. I seriously considered bailing on the whole thing and going to breakfast instead.
As I crested the fifth or sixth hill, I stopped to catch my breath. When I finally looked up, I realized that I had an incredible view of Mt. St. Helen, Mt. Rainier, Sauvie Island and more. Spread before me was one of the main reasons why I moved here. This landscape, this opportunity, this wilderness are the things that called to me, encouraging me to change my life and try something new.
As I stood there, taking it all in, my phone rang and my brother’s family sang an enthusiastic (and, it must be said, slightly off-key) version of Happy Birthday to me. And that was another clear reminder of a part of my life now that I cherish.
This day, like other days, was challenging in ways I hadn’t expected, but it has always been rewarding. The climbs can make me cranky, but I don’t regret making them. I just need to remember to pause to catch my breath now and then.
And to bring a jacket.
All photos taken by me with an iPhone.