Wednesday, July 31, 2013

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

A night under stars, a walk in a forest, a dip in a lake, a chat around a fire. As John Muir said, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” The sheer beauty of nature will converse with your soul and fill you with a sense of wonder. The tiniest wildflower to the grandest mountains can energize the spirit. Go on a day hike, or a camping trip or a backpacking trip.

I enjoy a good backpacking trip. You carry only what you absolutely need and it's amazing how everything you need, including food, can fit in a backpack. It strips away the excesses in our lives. It makes you wonder, why do we have so much stuff. You connect with nature, you connect with your creator. You are far away from everything. Importantly, no phones and internet. You can check out Little Skippy's baby pics or find out what the NSA is up to  when you get back home. You are present in the moment at that place. You have the time and the attention span to see the sun set slowly behind a mountain or into the ocean, to feel the wind, to smell the forest, to hear the birds. You feel small sleeping under the galaxy of stars. You hear the silence of the night. The simplicity and the solitude can open your mind to new perspectives on life, to being more thankful for your blessings, to appreciate the unappreciated, to delve on the mysteries of the universe. Life need not be a to-do list everyday. Let it be a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors. Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.


A few practical notes for aspiring backpackers. First, safety. After all, you are in the wilderness. Respect nature. Never keep food or cosmetics in tent at night. You don't want a bear or a raccoon to be your tent buddy. Never hike alone. There is always a chance something might go wrong. Be prepared. Then there is the gear – tent, sleeping bag, backpack, stove etc. Also, physical fitness. You should be able to carry a  40lb pack for a few miles without seeing black spots in front of your eyes. Learn to read maps and use a compass, in case your GPS fails you. If this sounds too much, try car camping and do day hikes. They will still give you opportunities to sit by a lake and watch the ripples go everywhere and nowhere. You can watch the clouds forever journeying as the mountains watch as mute spectators. You can listen to the trees whispering and the waterfalls roaring. You can enjoy the warmth and peace that flows from a crackling campfire. You will realize some of the best things in life are free.

We are part of the earth and it is part of us. Go out there, connect with your ancestors and with your descendents. “The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

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