I maybe kind of don’t actually really like hiking, and I’ve tried to figure this out for awhile. Never mind the fact that I did a two-week backpacking trek with Lynn Palermo in northern France, hiked up Exit Glacier in Alaska, danced once across the Andes, and bagged two Adirondack High Peaks; there’s something about hiking that is really intimidating.
Maybe it’s because my beauty of a sister, Andrea Grove-Musselman, can hike twice as fast as I can, as a former dancer with two bad knees. Maybe it’s because mountains are just…so high. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had problems beginning projects if I’ve already seen the peak, how far I need to go — I find it easier to brush up against the details and familiarize myself with the water temperature before committing to a plunge.
A reoccurring theme of this blog — especially this series of lessons — is that I’m often very scared.
Hiking with one of my best friends, Katrina Charysyn, has always proved as awesome as it is eye-opening. With Katrina, I’ve stood amid the fog of Harding Ice Field near Seward, Alaska; summitted Mt. Marcy in upstate New York in a single 14-hour day; and hiked the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire as the valleys beneath us burst into rainbows. (Oh, geez, I just remembered that, on a whim, Katrina and I hiked up the back of a cliff near Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, France, in 2003. This is how we met. What a beginning.)
As an experienced hiker, Katrina is beautifully prepared for my inexperience — she approves my hiking snacks (when she doesn’t pack them), my warm layers (when she doesn’t lend me them), and confirms when I should drink water. But when we hike together, I often find myself apologizing — for my pace, when I’m winded, when I need to chocolate, when I need to pee. Finally, one summer, Katrina shrugged.
“You know, just hike your own hike.”
Implied in her words was a world of questions. Why was I assuming I was falling short? Whose standards were I measuring myself by? If I hiked even slower than I was currently moving, what worth did I risk losing?
Hike your own hike. Run your own race. Live your own life. The scariest lesson of my twenties was acknowledging that the only path I have to follow is the trail that I blaze. But on the days that I can see this, the result is more beautiful than a view from a mountaintop, more satisfying than a climb, and more honest than the silence of snow, falling softly over an Alaskan field of ice.