Mar 25 2010

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Thinking about Hiking

Posted at 9:37 am under Blog Post

A reading group in Rindge, New Hampshire invited me down to talk about my Long Trail book, Forest under my Fingernails, so that’s what I did last weekend.  I read a few excerpts from the book then recounted my adventures on that trail – something I haven’t done in years.  That got me thinking again about long-distance hiking.  And while studying a New Hampshire road map on the drive back home, my eyes drifted to that section of the Appalachian Trail cutting through the White Mountains.  Talk about scratching an itch!

Last August, after the 100 Mile Wilderness beat me up, I told my wife that I was done with long-distance hiking.  But now, seven months later, I can see why she didn’t believe me.  This is a recurring theme in my life, I think.  The many small miseries of trail pounding shrink in importance, while memories of wild happiness loom large.  Each morning I get up and write about that trek, and each morning I wrestle with the long desire to get back into deep woods as soon as possible.

It’s spring, the beginning of a brand new warm season, and I can’t wait to really stretch my legs again.  The 2 and 3-mile walks I’ve been taking all winter long aren’t nearly enough.  I sneak furtive glances at topographical maps the same way other men look at beautiful women.  Snow-capped mountains taunt me every time I drive somewhere.  My boots are right next to the door, ready and waiting.  And my dog, Matika, looks at me each day, her eyes saying:  “Isn’t it time to head for the hills?”  Soon, very soon, I tell her.  Right after I finish this task and a few more.

No doubt about it, thinking about hiking leads to hiking.  The more I think about it, the more I want to get out there.  My body has been telling me as much for months now.  The desire is as physical as it is mental.  In fact, I can’t tell any more whether it’s my body or my mind egging me on.  All I know is that it’s time – it’s past time.  So soon I’ll grab my rucksack and go . . . right after I finish this very important task . . .

As an outdoor/nature writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about hiking.  I probably think about it more than I actually do it.  That is the terrible irony of my line of work.  But I suspect that many non-writers fall into this trap, as well.  Modern living encourages it.  We all live busy lives, which lends itself to more thinking than doing.

That said, I hope to drop everything soon and disappear into the woods for a day or two.  I’ll make it a point to take a longer hike this summer, and tackle yet another 100-mile stretch of trail before I grow much older.  Yeah, I’m a busy guy.  But whatever needs to be done, I’m sure it can wait.

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