Many of us are said to "escape to the outdoors." So, what are we "escaping" from? I think we seek the isolation, peace, and grandeur of Nature because it reminds us that we are more than what we are. As humans, we seem to be egocentric. We have our cities, our societies, our systems. But once we enter the wilderness, we are no more significant than that ant you just stepped over.
The Transcendentalists sought Truth in Nature. People like Henry David Thoreau, or John Muir found a non-practical significance in even the smallest aspects of Nature. In Nature, we see ourselves. To me, I hike to remain aware of how I am but a speck in the vast terrain of our beautiful planet. No matter how well-prepared I am, no matter how much gear I have, no matter how strong I feel, I never forget that it is nothing compared to the grand scheme of our existence. I hike to remain humble. I hike to remind myself that no matter what man accomplishes, it pales in comparison to what Nature has already accomplished.
Some people climb for the personal challenge. Some climb for the view. Others climb to boast a newly summitted peak, to add a notch to their belt. I hike to remember my place in the world...a place no important than that eagle's nest high atop a cedar tree, or that marmot's burrow along the trail.
Why do you hike?
I love the views. Most of my hikes are in the mountains and I do love the vistas and the scenery. Especially here in the Olympics. Majestic.
I love the serenity of being “out there.” Few people. Little if any external noise, other than my own heavy breathing. If I’m by myself and not hiking with friends, I particularly enjoy the solitude. The opportunity to reflect, pray, think things through…sometimes to just sit. Do I feel closer to God? Of course. Is it a substitute for church? For Bible reading? For prayer? Of course not.
I am not living vicariously through someone else’s adventures on television. I am not sitting on a couch or easy chair with my eyes glued to a flat screen. Or a computer monitor. It is real.
On those hikes where I am putting one foot in front of the other to get up a long hill, and wishing I were somewhere else, I embrace the challenge. No one else can climb the hill for me and certainly no one is going to carry me. It is very satisfying to finish. Very.
When I come home from a hike, no matter where I’ve gone, I appreciate what I have much more. Hot and cold running water, a roof over my head, food in the fridge, a fridge, a comfortable bed, ibuprofen. More than that I have an appreciation for the world God has made and which I have the privilege to live in. And that there are still places that are uncontaminated by man, and unspoiled, which I can enjoy.