I’m home from a 70-mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail—outstanding in so many ways, number one being the time to do it (I live in a position of privilege), and the fact that even at the age of seventy I can still put in relatively long hiking days.
This is nothing, of course, in comparison to the many thru hikers—those walking 2,650 miles from the Mexican border to Canada. Mostly youngsters (relative to me, anyway), by the time they near the northern part of Oregon, they regularly hoof it 25-35 miles per day.
You can spot them from 100 yards. There is an ease of gate that is smooth and relaxed, and almost flows down the trail. They make it look easy. If you ask about their hike, they’ll stop and talk. But after a few minutes you notice that they have not taken their pack off for a break, and are itching to continue. Friendly but ultimately on task, they hike on, at one with the wilderness as they move through it in a zen-like way.
Which could lead one to think that theirs is a long walking meditation, and their focus of attention with every step is deeply philosophical, regarding the meaning of life, the nature of existence, the search for truth. Which I’m sure it is, some of the time. Moving on foot through the natural world had been irrefutably proven via neuroscience to be calming and therapeutic on multiple levels. It allows us to step back and look at the big picture. But the experience leaves space for creative whimsy, as well. Such as the decorated trail-marker post I came across near Timothy Lake, Oregon. It made me laugh—a gift from the trail, and those who walk it, some with larger feet than others.