Tag Archive 'friendship'

Sep 10 2010

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Hiking Hard

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John Woodyard and I traded emails back and forth all summer long, putting together a plan to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail here in Vermont.  Last Sunday morning, we met at the motel in Rutland where he had spent the night after a long drive from Ohio.  Then we parked one of our cars at Sherburne Pass, drove to Norwich, and started walking.

We hiked over the many ridges and foothills between the Connecticut River and the main spine of the Green Mountains.  We hiked forty miles in four days – not a particularly challenging hike for John but a real workout for me.  Then I drove him to another trailhead where he commenced the second leg of his hike while I went home exhausted.

Forty in four was all I could handle.  I knew that from the very beginning.  I’m soft and fat from too many years in front of a computer screen and not enough exercise.  John also works on a computer, but he jogs on a regular basis so he’s in better shape than me.  We’re both in our mid-fifties.  John has been biting off big chunks of the Appalachian Trail for a couple years now and could possibly hike the whole damned thing by the time he reaches retirement age.  I have no desire to do that.  All the same, I’ll probably accompany him on several of his New England outings.  I enjoy hiking with a friend every once in a while.  For me it’s a different way of being in the woods: more social, less pensive.  And different can be good.

Trail pounding isn’t my preferred way of being in the woods.  I’d rather wander around aimlessly for a while then land in some remote place to sit and groove on the wild.  I thoroughly enjoy this comfortable philosopher-in-the-woods routine.  But sometimes hiking hard is just what the doctor ordered.  Burn that fat, build some muscle, and stave off the inevitable decline of old age a while longer.  Besides, it’s good to step outside of the comfort zone on occasion.  Different can be very good.

Then there’s friendship, which has its own value.  John and I have known each other since Boy Scouts.  We’ve been hiking together for decades – sometimes with multi-year gaps between hikes.  It’s all too easy to lose touch with old friends.  The years pass quickly and everyone is so busy.  Trail pounding is hard, but maintaining friendships is harder.

No, hiking hard isn’t my first choice, but any way of being in the woods is a good way.  As different as John and I are – the contemplative writer/philosopher and the go-getting electrical engineer – this is a point upon which we thoroughly agree.  Sometimes it’s best to put everything else aside and get into the woods any way you can.

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