Monday, May 14, 2012

Hiking, here and there

When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, hiking was simply a matter of picking a peak and climbing it. Mount Spokane? Let me grab my pack. Mount Si? Race you to the top. Cougar Mountain? Rworr!

This type of hiking was gratifying because all of your huffing and puffing up the side of the mountain was rewarded with a gorgeous vista at the end (or, technically, the middle).

In the Midwest, this type of hiking is unavailable; there are simply no significant elevation gains. Hiking, therefore, has to be about something else. And, as clich├ęd as it might be, hiking in the Midwest is about the journey and not the destination.

There are several advantages to this, actually. When you’re not focused on the end destination and how incredible the view will be, you learn to experience each individual moment more fully. This last weekend, I hiked Buford Mountain (yep, part of the Ozark Trail) with some friends and we saw four turtles, each at a different point along our hike. Had we not been paying attention, we might have missed them. When each new bend holds the promise of a new discovery, you’re more apt to keep your eyes moving, rather than focusing on the next few yards in front of you.

So if you’re lucky enough to hike the mountains in the Pacific Northwest, it’s fine to stay focused on the destination, but maybe keep a look out for any turtles underneath your feet.