“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
“The whole thing is quite hopeless, so it’s no good worrying about tomorrow. It probably won’t come.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
November 2014One year ago this experiment was just that: an idea, a concept. A challenge. The hypothesis being that I would sit where I am now, WHEN I am now, with an altered perception- be it of life, or family, or self- I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure what the idea was, but it seemed like an opportunity to set a goal that seemed beyond myself. I’m certain that at the time it seemed like a game. I didn’t fully grasp what I was committing myself to.
When I’ve told people about this project they always ask the same thing: have you been able to do something every day? The answer is no. There’s about 1 day per month that for one reason or another I didn’t make it to the trail. But there have been many, many days when I have done two, or three, trail experiences. I am certain that if you were to count each EXPERIENCE on the trail, it exceeds 365 easily.
And to be fair, I used the term “trail” loosely. I didn’t determine a distance, time commitment, or method. I didn’t say just dirt, either. Several times I’ve included the paved Riverfront Trail. But the idea is the same. The trails connect us.
This idea of connections is the conclusion.
I have talked trails almost as much as I have experienced them, and this adds to my experience, don’t you think? Presenting to the Board of County Commissioners, telling them about the community that dedicates time and resources into trails, about why we fight for them, why we love them. It’s the connections.
I have met friends on the trail and have been embraced by the community that shares their lives through their experiences on the trail, connecting with people on a level that is personal. It’s not just part of who we are- it’s part of what we are. So many of us define ourselves by how we experience the outdoors.
But it’s more than connections to other people. The trail connects us to the outdoors, to wild places. To incredible challenges. To wilderness. To nature. To sights and sounds that are atypical to our modern lifestyles. They can connect us to work, to play, to our community.
There is no cookie-cutter type of trail user. I’ve met every type and every class and every gender and every segment of population- all on the trails. It’s a part of us.
The trail connects us to ourselves, if we are open and let it. I sometimes imagine that the dirt of Pet-e-kes recognizes me. It can sense my vibration, it is as familiar with me as I am with it. I have been on certain trails in every season of the year and every time of day.
There are places I’ve been, that I have found, that are as sacred to me as a temple. Would I have found these places if it weren’t for this experiment? I doubt it.
My children have grown over the year as well. They now know their favorite trails, their favorite places. They identify themselves, connect themselves to their very core, to their experiences with me on the trail. This was particularly evident with Trinity on Mt. Garfield the other day. She insisted on making the summit. She committed to it and wouldn’t stop until she found that place, reached that height. She, more than the others, is a changed person.
I don’t know if anyone reads this. I have never tried to care. I’ve done this with a pure heart of selfishness. But now I look back and I hope that if there is no other outcome to this project it is this: that others may be inspired to find themselves on the trail. Find those places where you’ve never been but feel like home. Know that even sick or weary, busy or traveling or whatever- you can find a trail.
We are not limited by anything beyond our own desires. I recognize that now so profoundly. These trails have pushed me to the brink of terror, the horizon of mental collapse, and in the end to the deeper acceptance that no matter what the louder voice in my head says, I am strong enough for the challenge. There is no need for fear, other than to embrace it as an experience of this life.
Am I a different person today than I was a year ago? Yes, but not absolutely. I have certainly changed in many ways, and yet I feel that it has not be a divergence, but an arrival, closer to the definition of my true self. I know who I am. And looking back at this website I see what I have done. I may even be on the way to acknowledging my own uniqueness. I am certainly on my way to divinity.
I found myself on the trail. I hope you will find me there, too.
“TrailsGo Ever On
Trails go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Trails go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.
The Trail goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Trail has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
The Trail goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Trail has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (“Trail” substituted for “road”)