The sound of passing cars slowly fades as I put one foot in front of the other and settle into my hike. My head moves from side to side as I observe my surroundings. Fallen branches, dry leaves of all colors on the ground, bare trees , the faint smell of pine needles, and the sound of my boots hitting the dirt. I am so thankful to be here. It has been 37 days since I last entered these woods and although I’ve hiked this trail many times, each hike is different. I have to pay more attention to the trail because the leaves cover the path. The woods feel eerie today. The bare trees stand at attention in the absence of a breeze. The river is low and looks more like a pond than a river. The sky is gloomy gray and there’s only 2 more hours of daylight left giving me the feeling of urgency and excitement to hike through these woods before dark.
My children’s Christmas lists are to my left as I type this. This is the same spot they place their lists each year. They are teenagers and no longer believe in Santa. I shop from their list and throw in a few surprise things too. Today is Black Friday. I don’t do malls on Black Friday not ever. I’d end up on the 6PM news with the headline of “Nurse went shit house crazy because the mall was too crowded and people were in her personal space”. With that said, I usually begin my online shopping on Black Friday and do at least 90% of my holiday shopping online.
I’ve had a busy fall and I’m finally starting to feel grounded again. In addition to the person who is making one aspect of my life hell, I attended 11 consecutive weekends of college and high school marching band events for my kids. I have no regrets and I am so very proud of my kids but constant motion without downtime on the weekends wears me out. Last Friday with the help of a committee, I executed a successful major fundraiser for the non profit organization that I volunteer for. Last Saturday my butt found the couch. I’ve managed to maintain my sanity through this long 12 weeks but barely. Today I decided to reclaim myself and my inner peace and strength. REI, the Outdoor Gear retail store that my husband and I frequent, remained closed today so their employees and customers could “Opt Outside” and spend the day outside instead of shopping or working. Instead of a day of online shopping, I went hiking.
Recently, I watched a National Geographic Documentary about when Long Distance Hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis hiked the Appalachian Trail in 46 days in 2011, setting a speed hiker record. What resonated most for me was when she referred to hiking by stating, “There’s something very healing about the physical forward motion” and goes on to say “what makes hiking unique is the cadence and rhythm of moving through nature at two to three miles per hour, which is a pace at which you can really appreciate things. It gives you time and especially space to think, to process the big questions in life”. In a nutshell that is why I hike and will continue to hike.
It is now 9PM. My belly is full and my legs and buns are sore, reminding me of the perfect hike I had today. I’m about to declare it “pajama time” and I just refused to go buy a refrigerator with my husband so it is doubtful I will get to any online Black Friday Shopping this evening. I don’t care. I opted out. I went hiking.