This is the second installment of a three part series documenting a recent hike I took along the Appalachian Trail. It was a simple hike whose lessons spoke to me.
As I trekked along the snow laden trail, my thoughts turned to the obligations of this age we live in. Efficacy is the watermark of this information age, where intellectualism has replaced the romance of philosophical pursuits. A white picket fence existence has been replaced with house flipping, malls have been supplanted by Amazon and writing the great American novel has turned into a need to brand oneself.
Of course, this is all relative. We are creatures of the age we grow up inside of; vulnerable to the whims and the worries, the hopes and the fears . . . just like all the generations that came before us. We oblige. And we do so out of this need to not get left behind.
The great thing is, a hike is still a hike. Venture a couple miles off the beaten path and you are walking inside a timelessness that does not give a fig about contemporaneous illusions. A hike is where Zeitgeist goes to chill. That’s because nature has no reason to play chess with the screaming expletives, it simply exists. It just is.
Hiking is a union of simplicity and sanctity. The every day complications go small. A hike lets you in on the truths that no living soul can touch. There is a genuine sincerity in the way your steps piece together . . in the measure of your breaths . . in the silence that is busy planting you into its wake. This is where you find hope . . in the silence.
The trail I chose consisted of myriad personalities, each posing a unique challenge. There were the rock strewn slopes that possessed varying degrees of difficulty, depending on their angular disposition. The physical exertion of uphill climbs tested muscles whose utility is rarely called upon in my daily activities. The descents demanded my utmost concentration; I slinked nimbly through each focused step whilst actualizing the next once planted. There was no respite when the trail went flat, thanks to the snow covered paths. I navigated the asymmetrical configurations by marching sideways rather than straight on, lessening the heft with slashes rather than shovels.
I came across a fallen tree, its one branch extended into my path so I had to step over it. The pulpy entrails were bright and flaky and it didn’t seem possible that something so robust could go on living inside of a dead husk. I imagined what the trail looked like in summer. Pine thistles raining down silently, forming sad fragrant ponds inside the grass and dirt. Random leaves still thick with sap, getting lost inside a hard summer wind. And the brilliant facade of this fallen tree; one minute pretending like it had forever to look forward to, and inside the next, the truth of the matter was laying in front of me.
It was as if I had been dropped inside a crater whose world spoke a foreign language. A language whose unapologetic hum of mysterious appraisals behaved very much like cosmic scaffolding; to the time would come the knowledge and to that knowledge would come its time.