Rugged individuals find common trail
So, in my profile I said that Hiking, Robb (human partner), and Ella (my canine companion) are some of my hobbies. Today I spent the day hiking Camel's Hump, one of Vermont's most beautiful peaks with Ella and Robb. It was a perfect crisp fall day. The leaves are this glorious, almost iridescent yellow, ruby red, and some delicious orange color, interspersed with some evergreens. We got a little bit of a late start and didn't get to the trailhead in Duxbury until a little before 2.
Now that I've painted this picture of a perfect Fall day inVermont, back to the whole community piece. Hiking, while many people see it as an opportunity to be alone in the woods, has a big community component. For starters, you are usually hiking on public land. This land is often maintained by committed individuals who see the value of giving people the opportunity to explore the outdoors without overburdening the environment. The whole point of a hiking trail is that the land around it that is so calming for us humans to observe as you trek up the mountain, is able to continue to support a fragile ecosystem. So, even if you are hiking alone, you are a part of a community of people who agree to follow some basic rules such as staying on the trail, not littering, and being respectful to other hikers. People actually follow these rules without people watching over them. Hikers, unlike Representative Foley and some of Washngton's other conservatice "leaders", can be trusted on what is mostly the honor system.
When people hike alone, they are part of a community that they may or may not see. Still, they show respect for this community through their actions on the trail. Many people hike together, either with one other person or in a larger group. Unlike many other social activities in the modern world, hiking actually encourages dialogue. As you relax, you are able to talk about things that you care about, whether it is the environment, music, education, or any other passion and/or concern. Something about the silence of the woods, brings out a more honest voice from within. Also, when you run into other people on the trail, there are often some common values that you already share, the obvious of which is a concern for the environment. Yesterday, when Robb and I were on the trail, we ran into a couple from North Carolina. In our five minute conversation we touched on some important issues such as global warming and urban sprawl. We skipped all the small talk that is often part of getting to know people because we only wanted to stop for a few minutes and because we already had this common interest and experience of the woods that surrounded us.
So, perhaps we all need to step away from the chaos of our daily lives every now and again to find our voice. Some people find their voice through meditation or prayer. Some find their voice through music. One of the places that I find my voice and find community is when I am on a hiking trail. Oh, and look at that gorgeous view that we were able to enjoy at the summit of Camel's Hump.
That view is a great reminder of why I am so committed to taking action to protect our environment. I hope it reminds you to do the same.