Weekend hikes have become our 2020 race replacement. I have to say the fitness carryover from triathlon to hiking is fantastic. I have the strength and endurance to easily traverse terrain of all kinds. The events I am used to competing in range from 1-15 hours, so that’s the easy part for me. Thank you Mom and Dad for raising me as an athlete.
The harder part of hiking is the skill. Map reading and scrambling are the ones I am working on currently (although there are no big scrambles around here). I have two current fears: cliffs and bears. So I am working on those. Fortunately the cliffs I come across so far are pretty benign. They aren’t even considered cliffs! But I am scared of bears.
I didn’t expect the feeling that came along with hiking. I can’t even articulate it. The feeling. I will have to come back to that.
Each week we are discovering new places right here in Upstate New York. I am typically so busy racing or coaching at races, these are the things I have overlooked for years. There is so much opportunity for exploration right here in Rochester NY. I honestly never knew. I was “too busy” to look.
If there is one thing I have been learning through this pandemic, it’s to look. It’s to not always need to capture the moment on the iPhone or GoPro (but I do) that I miss the experience altogether. I noticed that this weekend in Watkins Glenn, on approach to a waterfall. So many phones out, but so little actual appreciation for the scene before us.
My Dad always told me to never take photos of scenery. “That’s why there are postcards” he says “You will never have a better shot than that“. He’s right. And now we have google for those. But he’s right, and I have been trying to remember that a lot lately. I am still going to snap the photo, but I am more in tune with taking all of it in, without the device, if that makes sense (I just love to capture neat things I see!!!).
There is just something about trekking into the woods with a map and a compass and backup GPS if I make a mistake (fortunately we haven’t done anything where making a mistake is probable yet!). There is something about the sound of dirt and rocks beneath your feet, and the stillness that comes along with all of it that is so breathtaking. There is just something about the feeling of discovery that is awakened within you, it kind of grabs you so subtly.
I am learning how to read trail maps, what to pack in a backpack, and what to do with a water pump. I understand the impact of all of our technology on wildlife and how to minimize it. Stay on rocks rather than vegetation, and why it is important to leave no trace. I am devouring books on those hikers who have adventured before us and their own journey of self discovery.
I love the quiet that these adventures provide. The step away from a world that is constantly arguing. It’s here that I find meaningful conversations with people rather than keyboard warriors. It shows me that there is a giant world and if we step back from it all for just a minute, we can realize the difference we can actually make.
I have found great hope in 2020. Even as a nurse in a hospital, I have found great hope. It’s hidden under so many layers, and it’s deep. Lace up a pair of shoes, leave the phone in the car (well maybe not because AllTrails can really save you) and venture into the woods. Let your mind quiet and your eyes open. There are lessons out here. They take time to learn, but they are there if you are willing to receive them.
You know that word I couldn’t think of? The one that described the feeling?