Next week I am going on a long hike. The plan calls for forty miles over four days and three nights. I’ve never spent that much time on the trail before and though I am looking forward to it, there is a certain sense of dread that accompanies the anticipation. As I go about my preparations, fretting about food and gear choices these sensations continue to grow. To be honest, I suspect that they will continue even as I set foot on the trail and begin my trek.
I’ve been hiking ever since I moved up here to Little Bay Root. When I was a little man, I joined the Cub Scouts, and later the Boy Scouts, with the hopes of camping trips and wilderness adventures. Somehow they never materialized. Though I lived in a mountain community, rain washed out my few opportunities and all I have are memories of baking potatoes and cooking beans around a camp fire behind the fire station. Really not what my young self had hoped. After a few more craft projects in someone’s cluttered garage, I decided that scouts were not for me.
In my young adult life there was very little wilderness time. I went camping a couple of times with my high school girlfriend. I went hiking every couple of years, mostly leisurely strolls. Mostly I was content, and rather fixated I might say, with city life. Through my twenties and the first few years of my thirties, I was less interested with the majesty of nature than with the availability of a stool in my favorite bar or my progress in the latest video game. Those were good years, but I had a different understanding of my needs and how they related to my mental and physical health. The sensation of aging provided the impetus to spend time investing in the longer view of my happiness. It was coming to Little Bay Root that reminded my of the pleasures of physical exertion and the exhaustion and exhilaration that follows.
As I have walked trails and become more of a hiker, I’ve discovered that it feeds the satisfaction that I gain from traveling under the power of my own muscles. My daily life is that of a pedestrian and cyclist and occasionally a bus rider. Hiking becomes an exercise in self-sufficiency, especially as it approaches backpacking.
City life is a web of dependencies. Each of us depends on dozens of other people to provide pieces of our daily happiness. On the trail, you have only yourself and those you choose for company, and so I derive pleasure not from the banal employment of strangers, but through my own exertion. The sweat equity is always worth the investment.
I’ll take my half-formed philosophical noodling with me on this long trip. I am taking a notebook to record some of my thoughts (the better to blog about them on my return) and I’ll be equipped with my iPhone and some accessories so that I can record a sort of video diary at the end of each weary day on the trail. Hopefully I’ll be able to edit them into something worth seeing.
The days are counting down. The next couple of days will be full of list checking and preparations. On that final night I will have a loaded pack and a neat pile of clothes for the morning. I can’t wait!