Why Do I Hike (part 1)

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

I am reminded of popping kernels as the first drops strike the walls of my tent. The intensity increases to the point of drowning out conversation. Though there is no one to speak with or listen to. I am alone at the edge of a forest on a mountain crest.

Life On Earth

The human mind is amazing. Seemingly limitless. The available inputs created by technological advances do not appear able to overwhelm our ability to process. The information I receive from my phone can be responded to via computer. A seamless transfer of data across multiple mediums.

On any given day I am managing multiple tasks. The primary focus in the morning hours centers around opening my coffee shop for business. I still need breakfast, and there are management items which require a list. Sometimes I forget to write down a thing I considered important only thirty minutes prior during my drive on a dark road.

After breakfast, a banana and a muffin, I prepare the deposit from the previous day’s sales. I promise myself I will remember to respond to that email. A sharp tenor alert at the door announces the arrival of customers. It will increase in frequency as the morning hour becomes a rush. I take orders and create lattes. A rambling trill announces a phone order. The high-pitched hiss of steaming milk drowns conversation.

Orders are placed with our supplier so inventory can match demand. A work schedule is published, and shift changes are approved. Lunch arrives with the vain hope for a deep breath to gather my thoughts.

I thrive on the chaos of life. Even if, at times, I am overwhelmed and become anxious for a different setting.

Nature Provides A Singular Focus

The rain is easing, not the wind. Though the walls of my tent are a lighter shade there will be no picturesque sunrise. First item on the morning agenda is boiling water for coffee.

I shove my sleeping bag aside and sit cross legged. I remove a propane canister from my food bag. A few minutes later 12 ounces of water sits atop a hissing flame in the vestibule area. I limit my movements waiting for the water to boil. Lighting a stove beneath a rainfly is dangerous.

I place a filter into a cone and add a heaping scoop of coffee grounds. I am interrupted by the snap of canvas and the sound of cascading water pelting a shower curtain. Just the wind blowing moisture from the trees? Later, as I sip coffee, my thoughts turn to a strategy of breaking camp during a morning storm.

Less than an hour more and I am walking. I have a rain cover over my backpack. A chilled dampness begins to seep through my pants. Cool moisture runs down my neck. When I hoisted my backpack I forgot to place the hood from my raincoat over my head. I fix this quickly.

Hiking poles help maintain balance as I hurry to descend the mountain in hopes of escaping the wind. I am soon rewarded for my efforts. It is now barely past 8 AM. I can hear crunching gravel from my boots which seems in harmony with the near still forest in early summer.

When I am hiking I am a part of nature. I am living in an uncontrollable environment. On my back I carry only the essentials to remain comfortable within the parameters of what I might encounter. I am prepared for a range of temperatures and moisture in the summer amongst the western North Carolina mountains.

This unpredictability is embraced as a gift from my home planet. Earth is the history of humanity. To spend time in nature is to reconnect with the environment which made us who we are.

It is beautiful and perfect. Nature was not created by humanity. We are merely one of its products. Nature is a world full of fragile ecosystems. Though a product, we are also nature’s most destructive force.

Life In Nature

On an afternoon in July, deep in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just after pitching my tent, an echoing rumble arrives. The stream I will use to collect water is a quarter mile down a side trail. I ask Andy whether we should risk it. Then I turn and see her. A deer.

She is nonchalantly gnashing on foliage. She turns to consider me, just briefly, before lowering her face to the ground. I cautiously approach for photos. The sound of shredding cloth as she rips weeds from the ground. The deer remains a bit longer and then walks away, unconcerned with our presence.

The rain arrives. We scramble inside our tents. I will have to wait to refill. I lay back under the relentless chorus of crackling popcorn. It is early evening. Nature is dictating my schedule.

An hour later I wake to a gentle rustle of leaves, followed by a hushed plop of droplets. I am now hungry. Time to collect water.

About The Author

My name is Jerry. Trail name is Monsoon. In addition to running a hiking club, I also own and operate a coffee shop & bookstore. Check it out here.

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