Archives for posts with tag: solo hiking

3 days, two nights, one purpose, and I return to my apartment by the park with sore feet, aching muscles, stiff joints, and a smile that  won’t quit.

3 mosquito bites, two unexplained bruises, 1 blister over 17 miles of trails, and I shot more than 100 pictures, and spotted a rainbow’s worth of different wildflowers in bloom.

I reached my campsite and set up camp well before dusk settled in, on Wednesday evening. I managed more than 4 miles of hiking that evening, just getting my gear to the hike-in camping area, and exploring the nearest trails after making camp.

A coffee well-earned, an evening of quiet.

It rained most of the night, and I laid wakefully, contentedly listening to the rain fall, more than necessarily pleased that my tent doesn’t leak.

The rain-drenched morning didn’t quench my enthusiasm for the day ahead.

I spent Thursday meditating, after morning coffee and a short hike to stretch my legs, and didn’t do much else. I brought a journal to write in, and a notebook, a sketch pad and colored pencils for drawing, my camera, my kindle… and other than my camera, I didn’t touch any of the distractions I brought along to pass the time; I didn’t need them. Time passed just fine without any help from me. 🙂

Given the necessary conditions, I bloom in my own time. It is often enough to sit quietly and allow the moment to unfold.

I spent Friday hiking, departing fairly early in the morning to walk a new path. The trail I chose was sufficiently challenging to push me, lovely enough to be utterly worth it without any other “reason” to go the whole distance, and totally within my ability. I returned to camp in the afternoon, got my boots off, put my feet up, and made coffee. Out among the trees, coffee doesn’t seem to keep me from sleeping, ever, however late I may be drinking it. I bet there’s something to be learned from that…

Where does my path lead? It’s helpful to have a map, but the map is not the world.

…Instead of learning anything about coffee, though, I learned something different. As campers arrived to fill nearby sites for the weekend, I learned that my needs were met, and that I was “done”. I learned that I didn’t really want to sit through a chilly evening overhearing loud conversations about corporate headaches, challenges with the kids’ teachers, or sports. I learned that I didn’t find value in enduring another camper’s choice to bring a generator into the forest for the weekend.

Ultimately, we each choose our own path…

I learned, this weekend, that it really is quite okay to make my choices my way, without any pressure from my own expectations, or anyone else’s; I broke camp late that afternoon, taking my time, packing up skillfully and efficiently without feeling at all rushed. I packed my gear out of the park (taking the same three trips it took to bring it down to the campsite in the first place), still smiling when the effort was completed. I let the park rangers know I was checking out, so they could release that camp site to another camper – it’s a great spot.

The beauty in the world exists whether or not I choose to observe it. My choice to observe the beauty in the world is necessary only to my own appreciation of it.

I got home before the sun set, unpacked enough gear to begin properly unpacking a bit at a time. First, a leisurely shower. A fresh salad. A hot cup of coffee. A moment to begin the upload of all the photographs. No music. No social media. No TV. Patio door open to the breezes and the sound of birdsong. A quiet evening, alone in the stillness, aside from a few minutes checking in with a friend from next door.

Roses blooming on the patio welcome me home, rain-drenched, fragrant, and lovely.

Yesterday I woke, still feeling fairly wrapped in my own purpose, and disinclined to be particularly social. I wrote a dear friend. I unpacked some things. I meditated. I gardened. It was a chilly gray day, and I enjoyed the morning with a crackling fire in the fireplace – which I might also have done if I had remained out in the trees another day. There seemed no urgency to connect to the digital world with any haste – no one was expecting me to, in any case. (Good expectation-setting for the win!) I watched the birds come and go from the feeder.

It was a lovely day of bird-watching.

Here it is, today. (Isn’t it always? 😉 ) I figured I’d sleep in… I didn’t. I woke with the dawn. I figured I’d move purposefully down a long list of things I’d like to get done… also not happening, at least not so far. I sip my coffee, smiling softly, watching the birds at the feeder with my laptop balanced on my knees, writing from a slightly different perspective – though whether that is a matter of my laptop, a chilly morning, and cold coffee on the patio, or simply that my perspective remains altered by my time out in the trees is neither known, nor relevant to the experience.

What now? Just this. Isn’t it enough? 🙂

A patio with a view.

I woke easily this morning. Well, actually, I woke easily several times between midnight and 4 am, when I actually got up. I stood in the shower far longer than actually necessary, just enjoying the sensation of warm water on bare skin. I meditated, on my cushion in the open doorway of the patio, wrapped in pre-dawn breezes, just a little bewildered by the darkness (in spite of how commonly it is indeed fully dark before the sun comes up).

I sipped my first coffee, almost gone now, the remnants quite cold, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed. I notice that one particular friend keeps getting my attention with shares that hit my nerves in a very unpleasant way. I do react – and my reaction is this; I unfollowed that friend, and looked up the page that seems to be the source of most of the problematic content, now blocked at the source. Just that. I’ll bring it up directly with them later and discuss honestly.

…I pause with some wonder to observe that neither “unfriend” nor “unfollow” are yet in my dictionary. Those both seem to me to be proper 21st century verbs, so I make a point of adding them to my dictionary.

Today is a common enough work day, a Tuesday. I expect it to be busy; it is both the Tuesday following a holiday Monday, and it is also the Tuesday in a very short week during which I will go camping. I’ve no idea what the day holds, beyond work. Maybe I see my Traveling Partner, maybe I don’t. In either case, I’ll likely end up with the car tonight, and the hope is to leave straight from work for my camping trip, later this week. You’ll have to find new reading material for a few days… 😉 I’ll be back at it, probably sometime Sunday.

I feel myself “shifting gears” into a much more “now” state of mind, which brings my attention to the potential that I’d drifted farther from day-to-day mindfulness, generally, than I may have understood. Hmm… The camping trip seems needful and well-timed. My monkey mind begins to fret a bit about being out in the trees, no connection, no social media, no news of the world, just a woman, a consciousness, some gear, and a series of moments to experience wrapped in forest. I need this chance to reset – to begin again, on another level. I am hungry to satisfy appetites that have gone without attention for too long. I am ready to walk new trails, and to pause for thought. I am ready to take my leisure – because there’s nothing else on my agenda.

I feel, very briefly, a hint of the momentary anxiety that will come and go while I am away from home; it’s one of the reasons I do go. If I can avoid dealing with some sorts of things entirely, I totally will – to my detriment. Being out among the trees, alone in the forest, more or less completely self-reliant (let’s be real; I’ll be in state park, it’s not that remote, and I’ll even have the car if an emergency arises) sort of forces me to deal with all of the things. Nonnegotiably, I am without distractions. It’s why I go. It’s even why I hike; I’m out there to be alone with myself, undistracted by the many choice distractions modern life offers. It’s one part of me “finding my way” – literally translating a journey of heart, soul, and healing into miles of walking, a journey on foot.

An associate of mine uses origami instead, and his journeys are depicted in paper sculptures, tiny, bright, and entirely beautiful. Even his monsters are adorably cute, rendered in paper. There are a lot of ways. He has found his. I have found mine. Have you found yours?

The sky lightens, finally, and I see the reason for the intense early morning darkness. The day is cloudy. The sky is padded and puffy with dark gray clouds, no break between them. The sound of traffic is muffled. I remind myself to pull my rain poncho out of my camping gear. It looks like it may rain. It would be rather silly to be unprepared for it, because I was preparing for something else, later. lol

Well… it looks like time to begin again. Shall we?

 

 

I don’t observe the occasional utter lack of stress in a critical way, and I try to simply savor those moments, delight in them, and enjoy them while they last. My walk yesterday morning was one such experience; beautiful from end to end, with several really choice delightful moments to look back on now as memorable.

That time I photographed a hummingbird... A lovely memory. :-)

That time I photographed a hummingbird… A lovely moment. 🙂

The entire day was pretty enjoyable. I have no recollection of any difficult or challenging moments. I don’t say so to brag, or to imply that I’ve found some magic cure to being human; I make a point of saying so, because I need the awareness of it, myself. Taking time to appreciate the beautiful day, the lovely walk, the choice photographs, the conversations with friends, birdsong, merriment, a really good nap – all of it – tosses a positive pebble into the vast still waters of my implicit memory, and over time, enough of that sort of thing holds the power to reduce my “negativity bias“, generally. (It’s a great practice!)

These days, I also make a point not to dig around in my recollections to find troubling or difficult moments I no longer recall; the reward for letting them go is an improvement in positive outlook on life. Totally worth it. I can trust that they may surface if/when needed, and that they do not need reinforcement; negative experiences are sufficiently powerful without additional reinforcement through repetition or rumination. I find refraining from reinforcing negative experiences is also a useful practice. (It takes much less effort to tear my thoughts away from lingering over what sucks, or what hurts, or what went wrong than it once was; the power of incremental change over time.)

The day ended slowly, a pearl moon rising in a cotton-candy sky.

The day ended slowly, a pearl moon rising in a cotton-candy sky.

Between the start and end of the day, yesterday, life was lived, a beautiful journey was taken, and this morning I look back and recall it a wholly delightful day. Today… I get to begin again. Those beginnings? Not all of them need to be a departure from something difficult, and not all of them are. 🙂 Some new beginnings are simply next in a sequence of many. I entertain the notion that over time, many more could be delightful days with beautiful journeys than were previously, accumulating beautiful memories over time, like vast treasure, held within my heart for safe keeping… shared generously, because in sharing, love becomes multiplied. 🙂

There are days when I find myself pushing a few verbs off my “to do list” in favor of doing… less, sometimes because I’m just not up to doing more, other times… well… I’m pretty human. It feels good to slow things down and take it easy… or at least, easier. Over the summer, I found myself sometimes hurrying through my walk, sometimes skipping it altogether, not really seeing the scenery, not really hearing the birdsong, sort of stuck in my own thoughts, but committed to a process. This past week, something clicked. I began again. My walk yesterday morning built on that beginning, and this morning I find that I am similarly eager, encouraged, hopeful (hope-filled, more specifically), and enthusiastic about life and the day, and particularly my morning walk.

A tangerine sunrise infuses the morning sky with sherbet shades of orange. I smile, thinking ahead to the moment I will put on my boots and reach for the front door.

Where will the day's journey take me?

Where will today’s journey take me?

My morning walk does not require a plan – or a map – and I’m generally quite close to home. There are still so many opportunities, and choices, and verbs involved…

Will it be a narrow side trail on life's journey that entices me today?

Will it be a narrow side trail on life’s journey that entices me today?

I think about how brief lovely moments seem, and how endless my sorrows sometimes feel. I think about perspective.

Life's helpful signage sometimes isn't very helpful at all...

Life’s helpful signage sometimes isn’t very helpful at all…

We are each having our own experience. I smile thinking about the sign in the marsh, helpfully provided to caution visitors about… something; the sign points out into the wetlands, and the text is not visible to any human being walking by. It stands in a section of the park cut off from the main trail. Will the ducks and geese find it useful? I think about the metaphor, and I think about the aisles and aisles of self-help books helpfully offered up by one human being or another, who found their own way on a complicated journey. It’s nice to have a map on a journey, an itinerary perhaps, and some good expectations that compare favorably to likely real-world outcomes… we don’t, though, not in life. What works for me, may not work for you – we may approach things differently, and reading about a great practice isn’t anything like practicing it, over time. There are verbs involved. Results do vary. Most of the self-help books, and a lot of suggested practices, are like that sign in the marsh; well-intended, but facing a less-than-helpful direction. We are each on our own journey, finding our own way, doing our own best. Fortunately – and this is one of the easy bits, I find, myself – we become what we practice. We have choices. We can begin again. 🙂

I once walked the paved trail that is no longer here to walk...

I once walked the paved trail that is no longer here to walk…

We each make our own journey in life. The trail I took before may no longer remain to guide another; I may not be able to walk those steps again, myself. I am my own cartographer, because the path traveled by another may no longer remain to guide me. My choices are not your choices. My steps don’t fit neatly into the steps of someone ahead of me, and are not left behind with anyone else clearly in mind. Still, it’s a worthy journey, and although I am having my own experience, it’s easier to recognize how clearly we are also all in this together, than it once was. That’s a nice change. I used to feel (pretty chronically) so alone… that’s more rare these days, even in the stillness of solitude, and even wading through the worst of the chaos and damage that still remains.

Figuring out the obstacles is part of the point.

Figuring out the obstacles is part of the point.

Choices. Perspective. Awareness. Where will today take me?

What will I choose?

What will I choose?

Today is a good day to enjoy the journey. 🙂

 

 

 

Everyone needs some down time now and then, and I’ll take some this weekend. A vacation more than an escape, and as much because I have the short-term convenience of having a car for the weekend – and there’s a meteor shower to see! I will be away, offline, in the trees, for a couple days. Back again soon. 🙂

We each have an idea of what feels peaceful. :-)

We each have an idea of what feels peaceful. 🙂

I hope you enjoy your weekend, whatever you choose to do with it. 🙂

On a whim, yesterday, I put aside my doubts and concerns and hit the trail for a few hours. I definitely needed that. I arrived home tired, feet aching, and feeling renewed, and more “aware of myself” in some hard to describe way. It was a good day for it, and I found the deep feeling of peace and contentment I was yearning for. This too shall pass. 😉

Today has not yet begun, and there’s little to say about it at this point; my coffee is terrible. Yep. I wasn’t really awake, muddling around clumsily. This carelessly made cup of coffee is both bitter and insipid…but it’s hot, it’s got some caffeine in it, I made it for myself, and there’s no one here to impress. I sip it slowly (it’s still quite hot), unconcerned about those other details. I… just don’t actually care this morning that this particular cup of coffee is pretty awful; I made it for myself, and I’m appreciative that I have it now. 🙂

I am struck by a question; do I treat myself better when I hike regularly? I think over yesterday’s journey.

Bees enjoy roses also.

Bees enjoy roses.

I began at the rose garden, picnic lunch in my daypack. I got a later than usual start and the idea of having my lunch among the roses sounded lovely. It wasn’t really… it was crowded with tourists there, even on a weekday. I shared a shaded bench with an elder traveling from afar. We talked of roses, gardens, grandchildren, sunny days, and love.

Roses love sunshine.

Tourists also enjoy roses.

I wasn’t looking for company, and when I’d finished lunch I offered my well-wishes to the human being sharing the bench with me and continued on my way, seeking… something. At that point, I didn’t have something specific in mind.

I set off through the trees.

I set off through the trees.

My frustration followed me up the trail at first, in the form of inescapable children’s laughter from the playground area I’d passed by. As the trail became steeper, and wound away from the sounds of the road nearby and the playground now in the distance, the world grew quieter.

What am I seeking? Does it determine what I am able to find?

What am I seeking? Does it determine what I am able to find?

I kept walking, having fairly quickly reached a seeming ‘the way out is through’ location on the trail. I took fewer pictures than I often do; this one was for me, in that moment, and savoring it was urgently more needed than saving it for later. I listen to myself silently bitch awhile… about the weight I’d gained and haven’t lost, about my feet aching, about the distant sound of traffic (barely audible at that point), about feeling reluctant to return to the work force, about how much harder a steep hike is than I’d like – I was really working at this one!! Then, I really heard me. I stopped at a likely looking log suitable for sitting, and I took some time for that, too.

I’d reached a point in the journey well-suited for stillness. Quite a luxury – no sound of voices, no sound of traffic, and having stopped walking, even the sound of footsteps and self faded from memory. No clock, no timer, no agenda, just one quiet moment to embrace stillness under the trees. I had “arrived”.

Enlightened

Bathed in light, wrapped in stillness. Walking on.

Some time later I resume hiking the trail, considering myself more or less ‘half way’ – since I had “arrived” at a “destination”. It was a lovely day for it, neither too hot nor too cold, and no hint of rain to muddy the trail.

I walked on, contemplating emotions, thoughts, the nature of those things, how they work with or against each other, and in what context. I thought about how much effort so many of us put into forcing ourselves – or others – into tiny well-defined boxes of characteristics, almost insisting that if a being has any one of them, that being must therefore have all those that we have associated with it. We make ourselves crazy forcing our expectations and assumptions on one another. Silly monkeys, we’ve so much room to grow, to live more skillfully, with more heart… “I’ll get right on that” I assure myself, and smiling, I walk on.

That looks painful...

That looks painful…

I walk past a tall tree with a spectacular wound, its lifeblood flowing down to the ground, without visible motion, timeless, enduring. I wonder if that hurts? I can’t imagine having such a wound and not being in pain. I think about how we treat each other, as if our wounds don’t pain us, as if we are not suffering together. I stand in silent gratitude for the lesson, and feel that immense sense of age and wisdom, grand experience, mighty tolerance and perspective that I so often feel present, deep in some forest. Small stuff seems pretty small out here. “What are they thinking?” I wonder – I always wonder.

There's further to go.

There’s further to go.

I walk on. I walked a good while, actually, covering about 3.5 miles of decently steep well-maintained trails. Once I entered the Hoyt Arboretum, I enjoyed winding around from this trail to that one without much attention to my map, enjoying short bits of trail through distinctive groves. I was alone throughout, without even passing others on the trail, until I got quite near to the end point of my hike, at the light rail station.

I stood waiting for the train, content and still quite alone, enjoying the stillness that seemed to so completely ‘belong to me’, a sort of distillation of satisfaction, contentment, and ease that felt rather similar to post-coital bliss in some way that I found mildly unsettling, and therefore also somewhat amusing. More than “okay right now” – I even felt “happy”. 🙂

There were verbs involved... some that needed doing, some that needed to be discontinued.

There were verbs involved… some that needed doing, some that needed to be discontinued.

I wonder if I’ve learned anything? I wonder what today holds? I wonder if my second cup of coffee will be better – and I wonder if I’ll care if it isn’t? Today is a good day for wonder. 😉