Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy, Simple and Peaceful.

With the sun blinking through the canopied trees overhead, my feet softly crunching the leaves along the ground, and the chilled, crisp air brushing against my cheeks turning them rosy, I hiked. And as I hiked, all I could think to myself was, “I really needed this.”

I had a random emotional week for some unknown reason, and I felt constantly antsy and impatient. I was tense and had the pleasure of dealing with a really bad headache on Thursday, and learned after taking Ibuprofen for it, that I must be newly allergic to the pain killer. I’m not a fan of the stuff, anyway, so if I’m at the point where I’m taking it I’m probably already cranky. Then when I do take it, I suffer annoying, uncomfortable side effects? Gah. I was so ready for the week to be over!

I wasn’t planning on heading out on a 23-mile hike solo. Originally I was going to hike with Rachel, who seems to be the only person willing to go on these crazy endurance hikes with me, and has since become my bestest hiking buddy. We were going to hit the trail together on Sunday, but our plans got a little twisted when I learned that Adam’s work schedule was only going to leave Sunday open for he and I to spend some time together. So that left Saturday the only day I could get a hike in, but unfortunately Rachel couldn’t go that day. I was determined to get on the trail, so I planned to go Saturday. I threw a post out on Facebook to see if there was anyone crazy enough to hike along with me for 20+ miles, but I had no takers. It looked as though I was on my own, which was okay. Hiking solo allows for some serious head-clearing.

What better way to clear your head after a hard week, than to take a walk through these woods?

I started the hike at 12:15pm and hiked until a couple of hours past dark at 9:15pm. I went a total of 23 miles, and during those miles, I don’t recall thinking about anything more important than, “hey, there’s another black cloud headed my direction and it looks it’s going to rain,” or “the wind in the leaves is like an orchestra playing and my heart beating from that last hill, my breathing and my footsteps on the trail are like the percussion keeping time.” Yeah, things like that. Talk about everything falling away. I love to hike, and this is one of the biggest reasons. When I’m out there, mile after mile, all I can think about is where I am at that moment, where I’m headed and what comes up in between. It becomes... simple.

Fall colors are definitely here!
It was an appropriate day for a hike, too. It was the first day of Autumn, and there was no doubt that it was here. The air was crisp, the leaves were starting to change on the tops and tips of trees, and several were already on the trail for me to crunch as I walked along. There was a breeze that carried leaves with it, too. They’d fall all around when a gust would come along, making me feel as though I were walking through a fantasy land. The sun was peeking through the trees overhead and playing a light show all around me. The sky was a perfect blue with bright, white, puffy clouds that every once in a while would hide the sun. Then the sky started to change. Clouds spread out across the horizon and turned so dark they looked midnight navy in color. They moved quickly and soon started to drop rain... then small hail for a short while, then back to rain.

Dark clouds, blue skies, white clouds, sunshine, breezes - a perfect mix on a fall day.

My rain gear came on, then came off, then went back on again. Finally, after about 5:00pm it gave up, and the sky turned back to blue and once again spotted itself with clouds. I stopped a few times to shift gear around, add and take away rain gear, go to the bathroom, and take a couple of longer breaks. The first of the longer breaks was to make some Ramen, which I promised myself I’d do. It was nice to have a hot meal on a cool day. I continued on after that until my half-way point, then turned around and stopped at the same spot where I enjoyed my warm meal, only this time just to refill my water and take my shoes off for a bit. My feet were happy to have the fresh air.

I don't know a single person that doesn't enjoy the sound this makes.

I hiked into the dark, which is spectacular and scary all at the same time. It’s spectacular because you get the full gamut of sunset. It was... I don’t even know... it was beautiful. Inspiring. Warming. Colorful. So many words come to mind and I could go on forever. I snapped some photos of it and hiked on. Darkness fell upon me, and the woodland critters started to haunt me. They made no noise or any sign they were there, but I knew they were lurking in every shadow and around every corner. I hiked faster and faster, and started to whistle to make noise. Then when I got tired of whistling I decided I wasn’t going to be afraid any more. I talked myself out loud about the the pointlessness of my fear of this woodsy darkness. There was nothing I could do except hike, so that’s what I did. I started to look into the sky and smile at the bright half-moon and stars that started to appear. I felt the air, and felt strong as I hiked up hills and through meadows that dropped the temperature at least 5 full degrees. It was a great time to spend in my own mind, practicing to shut out thoughts of irrational fears.

"Hello, God? It's me, Robin. Thank you."

Highlights: the first signs of fall colors, the crisp air and changing skies, the sunset, and the strength I felt as I hiked along, confident... and best of all, simply happy.

Happy, simple, and peaceful.

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