If you have never hiked in the forest, you may not be able to relate to what I’m talking about, but you still may find it interesting. First, I want to share an interesting fact that I discovered through my research on the trails – there are just about as many women on the hiking trails as men. Over decades of hiking I tallied the number of men and women we met on the trails, both overnight hiking trails and those for day hiking only. On the overnight trails there were usually a few more men, where as day use trails often had a few more women than men. It shocked me as the numbers began to establish this fact. Women and men both enjoy the forest, and though women are generally smaller and less muscular, they have what it takes to be excellent hikers.
A hike evokes many thoughts and emotions, like a good book that begins with interest, hope, intrigue, and a preview of the main characters. The trail head is a beginning that offers maps and excitement of beginning in full strength and anticipation, even if this is not your first hike on that trail. Getting into the forest awakens things that may have become dormant, like a fascination of the forest’s beauty and habitat, the majesty of the trees, streams, bluffs, overlooks, valleys and waterfalls. Then you begin to connect with the creation at whatever level you choose as you leave the human world behind. Hiking takes effort, often a lot of exertion and that maintained, requiring stamina.
After a while, perhaps the next day, if its an overnight hike, you reach a plateau in your combined thoughts, emotions, and physical output. That place, feeling and vision is what I wanted to share. When you enter into a unique environment like the forest which requires diligent physical exertion (albeit with ample rest breaks) and for a purpose that includes spiritual or mental renewal along with solitude, these combine to accomplish your purpose multiplied. At this point, the initial excitement, anticipation, and wonder has subsided, the connection with nature has been established, a rhythm has developed in your cadence and you are tired enough that your ego has been swallowed by solitude. The trail may seem monotonous, the trees all alike, the action of walking repetitive drudgery, and your mind may be empty as well, the senses have repeated themselves so much with the same sights, sounds, touch, tastes and smells; this is the time and place for a breakthrough. When all else is stilled, we become receptive and then we begin to receive that which we desired, but too deeply, to express in words. I know there are more chapters in these hiking adventures, such as great comrade, fellowship, overcoming obstacles, accomplishment, and plenty of good fun, but those moments of spiritual breakthrough are generally private and transforming, even if the the specifics are forgotten the impact remains.