There is something about hiking that calls to the soul. The sight of the trail in front of you, brimming with new wildflowers and old rocks with stories from millions of years ago, leading to a destination you find doesn’t matter as much once you start walking. Of course, the destination is sweet, good to explore or rest, do a bit of journaling or snacking or rehydrating, or all of the above. But following the trail, noting the lacy green bracelets of the beginning of spring’s garb, along the higher treetops and along the lower edges of the forest, tufts of trillium and trout lilies and violets edging the path, is really the best part of it for me.
Hiking brings a kind of calm serenity to the mind, cleared by the cool spring air (before the thick, humid heat of summer descends on Alabama once more, that is) and often brings the most random images to mind, unbidden but vivid. Once I was hiking at dusk, and remembered with clarity looking out over my grandmother’s backyard through her kitchen window at that same shade of slate-blue twilight, sapphire against the glowing, warm yellow of the lightbulb above the window. Hiking makes me feel an interconnected network brimming beneath my footsteps of humanity returning to its roots, the Earth, dirt and plants and walking long distances. Haven’t humans always been wanderers? Carl Sagan believes so. He states, “Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.”
I think not only of humanity as a whole expanding, exploring, wandering around and conquering lands that were once almost entirely unrecognizable from their present forms, but of monks in Europe, India, Asia, walking on silent pilgrimages to holy or sacred sites or just to walk. Just to wander. And I can’t resist the same call to wander. “Not all who wander are lost.” I might get lost along the way, but, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. The other day I couldn’t get “The Road goes ever on and on / Down from the door where it began. / Now far ahead the Road has gone, / And I must follow, if I can,” out of my head while I was hiking and I was glad to finally really understand.