Day 29: The Stages of Hiking

Stage I: The First Part

When you’re walking along the beginning of the trail thinking. You might have just come from a parking lot, and your mind is likely still stuck there. Perhaps you’re thinking: Gosh, I hope this goes somewhere. Is it really going to take 2 hours? I can walk faster than that. 

Stage II: Unification

Your mind has caught up to your body. You’re now in the woods, glad to be hiking. Also, there are so many loose rocks. I’m glad I wore my good shoes today, or maybe I wish I had worn my good shoes today. This is also the part before you walk up the hill.

Stage III: You Walk Up The Hill

And it’s tiring and there are even more loose rocks and you are afraid you’ll sprain your ankle. Does my phone have a signal? No—well, I hope I don’t plummet to my death. Or at least my incapacitation. But there are people on the trail, so that raises my prospect of survival a bit. Unfortunately, those people on the trail are unwelcome because they’re interrupting your solitude. Likely a worthy price to pay to avert death.

Stage IV: Where’s the end?

You vastly overestimated your walking speed. Or underestimated the incline, or the amount said incline reduces said walking speed. How long does it take to walk 2 miles? Oh, right, I’m going uphill. I still feel like I should have made it. I just want to see the view. The guidebook said it was “spectacular.” Don’t they say that about every view? It’s also about this time that your mind starts to wander back to the parking lot, wondering why you let yourself be taken in by rumors of a spectacular view when it’s probably nothing and you just got some great exercise and walked through a beautiful forest for nothing

Okay, maybe not nothing.

Stage V: I did it!

You’ve reached the top. Wow, I’m up high. Look at all those trees. And there’s some water. And a bird! I wish we had these things in the city. But it’s cool, because you’re looking down at these things from way up high. Oh, and your brain reached the summit too. You’re really glad you did this hike.

Stage VI: The Descent

Which takes about a quarter as long as the ascent did. It’s amazing what reversing an incline can do for your lungs. And on this descent, you feel like you accomplished something, even if it’s a small something. You reached the top! That’s a basic human pleasure point. You conquered something, even if it’s been conquered a thousand times before. It’s the first time you’ve done it, and that matters.

It just occurred to me that this reads better if you replace every “you” with “I,” and so forth.


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