Monthly Archives: December 2015

One road I’ve traveled and traveled and traveled….

“Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything – even mountains, rivers, plants and trees – should be your teacher.”

-Morihei Ueshiba

Pulling up to the trailhead I couldn’t help thinking that I had been there before, many times. The drive up South Mt. pass was all too familiar, but still comforting knowing the direction I was headed. The turn off of route 9, just opposite of the decrepit deli that never seems to have any customers, the horses that always seem to close to the road and the houses set back in the woods-only to be seen when the trees are bare and the warmth of the summer has left us. All of these things remind me of the different paths, I have taken throughout my life. Curving and winding roads that led me to places that at times didn’t necessarily make sense, but I took them anyway.

I park the jeep and step out onto the moist dirt, sinking ever so slightly with every step that I take.  I walk around to the back, open the gate and pull out the Kelty daypack that has kept me company on every hike that I have done for at least the last fifteen years. Examining the pack, I marvel at the fact that as old as it is, the wear and tear is just about non-existent. Green in color with yellow straps, the only damage that is visible is a cracked buckle on the waist belt.

My trusty friend and I have seen rain, sleet, hail, snow and at least a 100 degree range in temperature during its life. I open the top and look inside, making sure that my water bottles are filled, camera and ipod are secured and my cell phone is within reach. Yes, the picture above is my actual pack and trekking  poles!

I put the pack down, lace up my boots and adjust my hiking poles, eagerly anticipating another trip to The Nose. Sitting on the back of the Jeep, I take a deep breath and look up the Appalachian Trail at the white blazes and think about the thousands of stories that they could tell if they were able to. Throwing my pack on, I adjust the straps and head up the trail.

Seeing as it is Christmas Eve, I fully expect to see more people heading to the Nose, but they are curiously absent. As I leave the safety of the parking area, I have to admit that I am perfectly happy knowing that I am the only one (from this location) making what I hope will be a quiet hike to the viewpoint.I begin to focus on my surroundings as the jeep slowly disappears behind me and the sound of the small stream that I passed becomes a distant memory.

I am always amazed at the way that the wind sounds as it passes through the trees. Depending on the season, it can range from a soothing warm embrace that permeates every pore of your body to a cold chill  that cuts through even the warmest of clothes. Today, the temperature is an incredibly unseasonable 65 degrees so the breeze, even though it is December 24th, is oddly soothing. The light rain that is falling helps contribute to a to a satisfying sense of well being.

Marching steadily uphill I relish in the fact that I still have not seen or heard another person. The solitude has allowed me to focus on the moment at hand. The crunch of leaves,  the tic, tic, tic of my trekking poles hitting the rocks on the trail and the sound of every breath that I take helps better clear away the garbage that has accumulated over several weeks of not being able to get out into the woods. I like to think of it as a mental tune up where I can get rid of that negative energy and recharge my batteries.

After 30 minutes of pretty intense reflecting and walking, I reach the intersection of the AT and the Camp Smith trail. Since it is still warm and only drizzling, I am in no hurry to reach the top and decide to take a quick break before I tackle the final mile to the viewpoint. The point where the two trails meet is a favorite path to the top of many hikers so I fully expect to see others out enjoying the day.

To my further delight, I don’t see anyone as I prepare myself for the task ahead. Pushing on, I selfishly hope that no one else is (at the very least) sitting at my favorite spot. If you have ever seen pictures that I have taken on the Nose, you will have a pretty good idea of where that is!!

The rain and wind pick up as I round the final curve to the viewpoint and I am amazed that I can not see a single person!! This is unheard of! I quickly head to my “spot” and take off my pack, placing my poles next to my trusted friend and sit down, enjoying the solitude that has been given to me on this beautiful day.

It truly does not get any better than this…

Think about it. Time passes way to quickly and life is certainly shorter than we all think. What do you do to “recharge” your batteries? Do you get a chance to purge the negativity from your life, if only occasionally? Regardless of how you choose to do it, make sure that you find something that you can call yours, if only for a little awhile.


Does music soothe your savage breast?

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

-John Burroughs

“Music to me is the air that I breathe, it’s the blood that pumps through my veins that keeps me alive.”

-Billie Joe Armstrong

I love music. I always have and always will. Music has been there for me through all of the good, bad and indifferent times over the course of my life. The lyrics I have memorized and the melodies I love to hear play over and over again on a constant loop like my own personal soundtrack. This is twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

As the years have passed, I have found that my musical tastes have mellowed along with my demeanor. Gone (hopefully) are the days of constant anger and aggression, replaced in part by a sense of well being brought on by making certain positive life choices and then implementing them to see what direction they take me in.

Now, while I still listen to the bands that I did when I was younger (Ozzy, Mettalica, Black Sabbath),  today I am drawn more to the likes of the Grateful Dead, Phish, the String Cheese Incident as well as old classic rock favorites such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. When I really feel a need to decompress after a particularly trying day, I’ll put on Bach, Enya or perhaps George Winston.

Each of these artists, depending on my mood and frame of mind, allows me to transcend my personal reality and as a result, I do not have to dwell on whatever that particular day has brought to me. It is my goal to not live in the past, but instead do the best I can with the present so it can enlighten my future.

Although I do not usually listen to music while I am hiking, I will pull out the ipod when I reach a viewpoint or stop to take a rest. The music I listen to when I am hiking are the woods themselves. The soft crunch and swishing of the leaves  as I walk along the trail puts me at ease, the same way that music does. The best thing about this is that when you allow yourself to hear the music of the woods, the song never ends! Even hiking in the rain provides a melody all its own that can’t be denied.  I like to think of days like this as being under the influence of Mother Nature.

So where does that leave us? Whenever I go out into the woods I do so with a purpose. While hiking for the sake of hiking is ok, you can make a choice to bring each and every hike to a different level after answering a few questions.

First, what brings you to the trail? Thinking about why you are heading out and what you would like to accomplish by being out in the woods. Are you just trying to clear your mind after a bad day? Are you looking for answers to a problem? Whatever the case may be, clear your mind of everything else and get out there. The rest will take care of itself.

Second, think about where you are hiking. It may not seem that important, but subconsciously the hike you choose to do on any particular day reflects the frame of mind that you are in at that time. I know that when I really need to clear my mind, I pick a hike that I know will be challenging. I pick a hike that I know will force me to take full account of what I am doing. I am hiking!!!

Third, getting outside, embracing nature and taking advantage of that time and what the outdoors has to offer is very therapeutic and transformative. When you are hiking, either with friends or alone, take the time with your thoughts so you can really embrace each moment. You can think and focus on what you need to configure your own revitalization and rejuvenation.

So take the music that is the soundtrack of your life and your love of the woods and savor those memories. Take the time to file each of them away in your heart instead of just in your mind. That is what makes not only hiking, but your life, special.