Why I hike: Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough
We are never meant to stay on the mountaintop. After the initial elation of working hard, trudging skyward and relishing the breathtaking views that only summits afford, you’ll have to descend the mountain and get down to the valley where everyday life awaits you. You walk down, down, down and settle back into civilization. After sometime, you get back on the trail and head up another mountain peak. Life is a constant cycle. You keep walking through life’s constantly changing landscape.
I’ve been groveling in a pit for a year since the mountaintop experience of the successful completion of my cross country ride of America in the summer of 2014. Last Thursday (June 12), I was stuck at the bottom of the pit, looking up to see the sun beating down on me, and no way to pull myself up towards the light.
The next day, I announced to my husband that I’ll be taking off for a few days to find myself. He understood my need to get away and told me to not merely enjoy the sights, but more importantly, to find God while I’m out on the trails. I said ok and took off over 400 miles north to Oregon.
I knew my desperation would drive me to find God but I wasn’t sure how intimate the encounter would be.
HE knew someone was knocking hard on HIS door. HE graciously opened it wide for me when I climbed into the very bosom of HIS created nature manifested through the awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping majestic Crater Lake in Southern Oregon and Mount Shasta in Northern California.
I’ve been running since 2008 and started running and cycling ultra long distance in the last two years, but have not quite slowed down to enjoy walks and hikes. It wasn’t until several months ago that I did, and it wasn’t until two days ago that I finally understood the appeal of trail hikes.
Trails teach you to be extremely present in the moment - because trails are strewn with forest debris, broken branches, sometimes huge fallen tree trunks, unstable rocks and boulders, nooks and crags, dry soil, soft mud, sometimes snow. You have to watch your footing every step of the way; failing so, you trip, fall and injure yourself. It’s important that you are in tuned with your environment, because an absence of the heart, mind and spirit for even a second could result in potentially disastrous falls, especially when you are on precarious trails with high slopes or knife-edged cliffs.
I discovered a strange phenomenon when I cut off distractions and zoom in on one laser focus task at hand while trail hiking/running - I came alive in ways I’ve never experienced before and discovered my Creator with every labored breath I gasped and ginger step I took.
For many months since last summer, I forgot how to laugh, joke and be my usual happy self. The last two days on the trails revived my dormant self - I laughed like I haven’t laughed in a long time, and started joking again.
I’m not sure if my hiking companion understood the transformation within me, made possible by her easy-going attitude. Though 14 years younger than I am, she’s wise beyond her years, which made for our hiking compatibility. We share impeccably similar values and practices which contributed to us sharing a great time together hiking into mother nature’s bosom and drawing close to our Master Creator.
I’ve been walking in the valley and wanted so badly to walk out of it to the mountaintop again. I’ve finally learnt to appreciate the valley and the lessons it’s constantly teaching me, when my heart is broken and open. I’m at ease now, and have been profoundly touched by both nature and my God who loves me so.
I encourage you to go out into the trails and discover amazing things that familiarity and the comforts of home and work can’t expose you to.