The “rocks” were just out of town in the coulee. I spent hours as a young boy on the “rocks” carving initials in the sandstone, then wandering around the coulee eventually making my way down to Kneehill Creek to investigate the goings on of its meanderings. Perhaps this is where my love of hiking and backpacking began.
Why do I spend multiple days at a time in a tent, sleeping on the ground, walking along trails that have no purpose? It’s a good question.
On my first section hike on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) I started asking hikers why they were hiking the trail. I actually don’t remember their answers, but I do remember my answer when I was asked. It went something like this … “I’m here for three reasons; the first is that I was looking for a place to hike when it was too cold to hike back home in Canada; secondly, I’m here to spend time with God and commune with Him without distractions; and third, perhaps I am just here to escape from responsibilities, from the demands of living.” Well, maybe the third answer was the closest to the truth; the first was true, but not really a reason that could stand all by itself; and the second was a really good justification to take away objections … how can you argue with someone who’s seeking to commune with God.
I yearn to get out and hike. Even now as I scroll through my hiking pictures I can hardly wait to get back at it.
Really Good Reasons
Logistics: Most backpack trips require an enormous amount of time in planning. I love figuring it all out: scouring maps, reading blogs, searching for flights, booking hotels, finding trail angels, buying gear, evaluating the abilities of my hiking companions. It’s very satisfying when everything comes together and even more satisfying when you have had to adjust on the fly when things don’t work out exactly as they were meant to.
Beauty: This is the “WOW” factor. Some of the most spectacular scenery in the world can be found on the trails I hike … but you need to get on your feet, put on your pack and walk a few days to get there. The West Coast Trail, the Berg Lake trail, and the Lake O’Hara trails are unbelievable.
Challenge: The physical and mental challenge of completing a backpack trip is a great reason to backpack. The relief for tired muscles and aches and pains at the end of a long day is a reward that is not understood by those who know not physical labor.
Companionship: My best hiking companion is my wife of 42 plus years. She has been my most regular companion and is a superb hiker. Together, we have completed trips by ourselves, with friends, with relatives, with our children and our grandchildren.
Memories: This almost makes it to the top of the list of why. We decided a long time to try to find ways to create memories for our children and grandchildren … instead of trying to buy them stuff. We have found that hiking, camping and backpacking have been the most successful memory makers. Shared experiences are gifts that cannot be taken away.
Simplicity: Life gets really simple on the trail. You can’t clean the house or do yard work, you don’t need to go to the office. Tasks are reduced to walking, finding water, making meals, setting up camp, reading maps and getting from point A to point B, sleeping, and getting up and doing it all over again.
Good solid reasons, and yet, there is still something missing from that list. As good as these reasons are they are not a complete answer to the why question.
The Main Reason
The trail stretches into the distance, perhaps bleak, perhaps full of wildflowers, perhaps surrounded by towering mountains and cascading waterfalls … I am there and I have a deep peace … it can’t really be explained … most why questions can’t be.
The church I attend is really just a large warehouse type building set up as a sanctuary … it has no windows and as a result no natural light. It reminds me of the the many cathedrals I’ve visited in Europe which are all dark, dusky and cold. Quite often during our worship time large images of spectacular mountains, rivers, and ocean scenery are shown on the front screen as we sing our songs of praise. We are reminded of the many Psalms which give God the glory for his creation. The images are great … but I have seen these kinds of places with my own eyes … and it makes me wonder why I am worshiping in such a dark place filled with arbitrary images and artificial amplified sounds. We are people of the light.