July 21, 2005

Notes On Hiking [part of] the Appalacian Trail

Hikers say knowing the real impact of long term walking comes months after the trek ... so I'm not sure if this attempt at a debrief makes a lot of sense. I do have a few early hunches at the impact this trek made on my life and will spell them out - now.

I Finished :: It's no secret I've had a small string of experiences that were cut short - Australia being the last one. Experiences that were supposed to last longer than they did. And no matter how much I can justify their relative shortness, the bottom line in each experience is that I quit. I didn't make it as long as I intended. My greatest fear going into this hike was that I would mentally give up for whatever reason. Bugs. Sleepless Nights. Boredom. Frustration. Aches and Pains. I know my mind well enough that it can talk me into things that seem impossible. But on this trip I didn't give up, didn't quit, didn't give in to what was easier. I made it the entire way - no doubt about it. I'm not sure how this will play out in the future, but I know it will play a part.

Emptied Myself :: I had heard from Coach this idea of "emptying yourself" before we left and that sounded good to me. A centeredness, a place where your completely drained of thoughts from the outside world, of stress, of things you need to do when you get back. Instead you go for miles without thinking - you walk for hours and all you think about is what you'll eat for lunch. And there was something profound about just being that will hopefully have some long term influence on my life.

Spiritually Solidifying :: Going into the hike, I had wondered if I might "find God" out in the woods. I wondered if all that alone time would bring me back to the evangelical faith that I once knew. I wondered if my empty thoughts would eventually turn towards God. Instead, my thoughts confirmed what I've already been walking through. A re-invention of the Christian faith, a new way of looking at the world. A way of life that is outside the evangelical faith. I've always known I wasn't abandoning God or Christianity - but was instead leaving much of evangelicalism behind. Being alone out in the woods and conversing with Coach and thru-hikers made this more real to me than ever. And in this way, it solidified, it confirmed the spiritual direction of my life.

In the end, I look back with fondness. I'm glad I walked and hiked and climbed and bouldered my way through New Hampshire. The woods had a profound impact on my life and I'd like to continue to make these bookmarks of my life meaningful, sacred, reflective and adventuresome.



Dad said...

Good insights, Josh. It will be interesting to see what you write in 6 months about it . . . maybe put it on the blog calendar.

Anxious to talk about this more on a boat ride across Lake Michigan in a few weeks . . .

Meanwhile, I love you very much.


Mark said...

Way to go Man!! So pumped you finished!
It's no small thing. I could recount a list of names that have shared with me that the most difficult thing they have ever done in life... mentally and often emotionally more so than physically was something like this.
I still remeber recounting hiking stories with you and Kar over Thai food back in Blacktown.
Good luck relating this to other people. And pumped you and J could share it.

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