I love you, but I refuse to let you hurt me again: a Farewell Ode to Hiking.

November 10th, 2013, 4pm

It happened again.

Seven miles from a trailhead and the nearest road and the dreadful sound ccrrraaack! A ligament in my ankle.

Sitting in the dirt, cradling my leg, I glare at every root and pebble embedded in this trail, wondering which was the perpetrator.

Pounding my fist on the ground, I yell at the sky, and begin a diatribe to the proverbial Goddess of Hiking:

Ya know, you’re not the best I’ve ever had.

My hikes stand secondary and tertiary to other modes of adventure: from hitchiking and bus rides to ski mountaineering and bicycle tours.

But… you are so easy. Always there, always willing to let me in. You beckon with your proximity, your open access. No gear, no prep? No problem. I can run to you as is, on a spontaneous whim, just me and my shoes and your welcoming arms. Maybe a water bottle.

But time and again you hurt me, physically inducing pain. * That time in the middle of the desert, in a mysteriously stumbled upon canyon when my ankle made that fateful craaack! * In the Catskills when a foot full of blisters and a sprained ankle paired perfectly with two miles of loose shale that slowed my stride to a pathetic wobble, leaning on my partners’ shoulder, tears streaming down, choking back garbled screams of pain. * The snow-camping trip in the rain with all our gear freezing overnight and near-hypothermia onset. * When I fell down that mine shaft (okay, maybe I’ll take the blame for that one).

I’ll still find epic views, adventures, and wilderness, but on skis, on wheels, on rope: I will hike no more.

Yet… some things about you are simply irreplaceable. There’s a stillness and awareness of senses that comes with moving slowly across a landscape. My head functions differently with you, then with, say, some of my more extreme addictions. Only on foot do I notice when the wind through the trees can’t be separated from the rush of the river. Only on foot do I inspect each little curve and blemish, lichen and fungi. But perhaps most unique to hiking is that sensation of feet on earth; being cognizant of subtle changes in the composition of the ground below. I’ll miss the sound of walking on dense dirt, transitioning to the crunch of leaves; the unmistakeable squish of that kind of near-mud that doesn’t quite splash but instead cakes thick on your boots; the “thud thud” of walking on old fallen trees that have metamorphosed into spongy, hollow ground.

As this monologue continues in my mind, my limp lessens. The sun gains on the horizon; the tall pines rustling in the wind get louder. The trail becomes less technical, and I adopt a little trot. It turns to follow a river and I can’t help but pick up speed, just a little jog, surrounded by ferns and thick drapes of moss illuminated by streaks of sunset.

Okay, hiking, maybe I’ll give you another chance. But just one more.

Cassie and David Wade said thanks.

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Lindsay Caron

Hike, bike, run, climb, dance, sing, volunteer, organize, create, debate, smile, skip, summit, ski, swim, sing some more! Tech startups for social change!! Used to write, organize festivals, documentaries... www.Activatehub.org, About.Me/LindsayCaron

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