Three months have passed since I took my last few steps along the Continental Divide Trail. It is a wonder to me how those brief 90 days have found some way to defy time and space, seemingly stretching into years. Somehow our journey along the Continental Divide almost seems like a dream now, and yet at times it feels as if it is the only real thing that I have done in recent years.
This is the paradox that my life often adopts. There is a feeling of drifting from one dream to the next, nothing seeming quite real, yet feeling as if I simply would cease to exist without each of these experiences. Without realizing it was happening, my life has become a dream scape in which I am the heroin of my own tale, finding hidden treasure and saving myself all at the same time.
Each experience builds who I am, and opens my soul in new ways. Nature has a remarkable way of helping you grow at times that you are most resisting it. There have been many times she has offered me a gentle guiding hand as I move through feigned reluctance toward a growing opportunity, and in those times that I insist in wallowing in self-pity and staying stubbornly anchored to the beliefs that aren’t serving me, she has a remarkable way of metaphorically slapping me in the face to knock me back into my senses. It is in this way that being immersed in nature has shown me her unconditional love. She puts up with me in whatever state I am in, and like a loving parent continually helps guide me back to my true self.
So it was this past summer while hiking along the Continental Divide. Day after day I walked, hand in hand with my beloved mother nature. Some days filled me with awe and wonder as I moved effortlessly over the landscape, and other days felt as if I were pulling the whole weight of the world behind me each step of the way. This of course was not the world that I was pulling behind me, but instead my thoughts, beliefs and expectations that I insisted on carrying with me at times. I found myself shedding unnecessary emotions like a newbie hiker sheds gear from their overladen backpack. Each item I was able to let go of offered a great relief off my being. And each spiritual tool that I picked up along the way was like acquiring lightweight backpacking gear, a great asset that helped better my journey without the weight.
As I fine-tuned my spiritual self along the hike, I also deeply enjoyed the process of refining my physical being on such a monumental journey. It is always a marvel to me to witness and feel how my body changes on a daily basis. It is both subtle and astounding all at the same time. By the end of the 4 months of hiking my body is efficient and strong. My legs always become the most toned part of my body, but on this hike they took a whole new form than any time before. They were stronger, and bigger than they had ever been. Just like my mind and soul, my body is an ever shifting entity of its own. The sheer amount that my body does for me each and every day on a long distance hike never ceases to amaze me.
Having not solidified my choice to hike the CDT until just a couple of weeks before we found ourselves at the Canadian Border, planning for this hike was brief and efficient. With so many long distance hikes under our belts, it does not take much effort at all for Bernie and I to pull together all the information that we need to start one. And in this same regard, we rarely put much focus into physically preparing for such a journey. There is always a period of a couple of weeks in which the body has to adjust to hiking 20 to 30 miles each day, and I have found that no matter what form of training I have attempted to get in shape before a hike, it never seems to prepare my body for what it experiences in daily movement carrying a backpack for months on end.
Montana proved to be an intense and admirable training ground. I would go to bed at night exhausted in an invigorated and inspiring way. Each night my body would go to work and mend my weary muscles, allowing me to traverse the landscape again the next day. I am reminded again and again that when I release all expectations and simply let my body go, it is able to do anything I ask it to. It is when I cling onto expectations and negative thoughts that I start to put limitations on what I can accomplish each day. So when I start to feel run down, and worn out in every way, I finally remember to release all the stories looping through my head, and once again I am able to flow with ease in each moment.
At times it seems I am a stubborn student, repeating the same lessons over and over. I am discovering that with each long distance hike the lessons seem to integrate more fully into my being. Along with the spiritual lessons, I have with time become more in tune with the gear that I carry when hiking. With lightweight backpacking the aim is to carry all that you need to most efficiently and comfortably traverse through various weather conditions and landscapes while carrying as light a load as possible. Every year there are new innovations in lightweight backpacking, and thus one could constantly change their gear. Over the last 10 years of backpacking my gear has shifted and been refined.
It is truly amazing to me at just how little one needs to live on a daily basis in relative comfort. My backpack filled with gear becomes one with my body, simply an appendage of who I am as I move across the landscape. Every night everything is pulled from within its depths, like a magic carpet bag it produces an amazing array of items to create our nest for the evening. My sleeping bag magically expands from its compression sack like a novelty snake exploding from its can. On nights that hint at rain, our shelter is produced from a bag no larger than a water bottle, keeping us dry and warm. Our clothes are simple and efficient; one pair of shorts and a shirt for the whole hike serves us well. A few additional layers give us the flexibility to adjust to most weather conditions that we encounter.
To know that you can carry all that you need to survive each day upon your back is a profound feeling. It shows how vastly simple our needs are, and just how flexible we can be. From this I have developed a more intimate relationship with nature. With so little to separate me from her, I am keenly aware of her rhythms, and moods. In a time in which we have forgotten how to read the rhythms of nature, being so fully immersed within her embrace places me in the role of student, re-learning what some of our ancestors were always aware of.
This summer was filled with stunning beauty, great rawness, and profound simplicity. It is a journey that I will always cherish, as is true with each of our hikes I managed to discover another part of my true self that had been forgotten.
Follow along as I share highlights of the adventures that bring me such joy in life, and the wisdom they have imbued into my being.
Would you like to become part of my next adventure by being a sponsor? Learn more here