Why Do I Hike?

Turn off your phones and go experience something real. Something that matters. The new generation is losing the idea of what it means to be human. In the olden days, people had to go outside to determine the forecast. They had to walk to school because buses did not exist. They had to do things to get anything out of life. The current generation is losing touch with this concept. We use technology to appear smarter, better, and more experienced. But what do we really have?

Bobber atop Algonquin Mountain, Adirondacks, NY

We have a population that cares more about image, popularity, and “going viral.” What does that mean? We are converting to a world that does not know how to love. We are living in a world where work means sitting up in bed and typing on the computer. A world where people and emotions are no longer important. When is the last time you called somebody on the phone to hear her excitement or disappointment? When is the last time you let yourself be vulnerable without the protection of a screen and fancy processor?

I have been asked many times, “Why do you hike?”

I hike because the earth teaches me about humanity. Every pathway tells a story. Every tree is rooted in the ground. Every rock has a place on this planet. Every wind gust speaks a phrase. Every birdsong binds the world together. Every twig breaking describes a new story. A story that matters. More than anyone or anything on the Internet. We simply need to listen.

Lake near Mt. Mansfield, Jeffersonville, VT

I hike mountains because each has a spirit. Each mountain is an individual challenge. Every mountain has a summit. Most people climb to the summit for a moment of glory and the view. These people miss the true meaning of a mountain. The climb of one mountain has taught me more than everything I have seen online or in an electronic format. One mountain can teach you thousands of things.

Avalanche Lake, Adirondacks, NY

One mountain has taught me to read into the smaller things and be creative. The slightly broken twig. A young child could have been racing through the woods in an effort to thwart his older brother’s ego in a playful yet menacing way. The scratch across a rock face. About forty years ago, a storm came tearing through the forest, leaving the wildlife in a panic and a battle wound on the foundation of the earth. The carefully groomed trail. Hundreds of years of people walking upon the same path. The mountain grows old and sturdy. The people become more careless. The soft cries of the animals nearby. Sweet dances of affections and passions shown in millions of ways. The tread of the dirt beneath my foot. The trail is constantly changing. Each time you climb you leave a mark, as it leaves a mark on you. The next time I climb that mountain, the experience is new.

  One mountain can teach you about patience, solemnity, reverence, desire, courage, independence, determination, imagination, creativity, and love. 

Mt. Baker, Saranac Lake, NY

One mountain can teach you how to think in new and desperate times. One mountain can bring you out of cyberspace and into reality. One mountain can change your life into one that means something, knows something, cares about something. One mountain can teach you that no matter how small, you make a difference. You have an experience that nobody else on this planet has. You have something unique and special that you will keep with you forever. One mountain can teach you that you mean something.

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St. Regis Mountain Trailhead, Paul Smiths, NY

If you can learn all of that by climbing one mountain, what will hundreds of mountains show you?  

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