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The Hike: Learning From Nature

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

How My Recent Hike Mirrored My Spiritual Journey

When I first considered this solo adventure, I felt excited, not only because I was going hiking, which I love, but because the walk would provide me with some much-needed peace, solitude, and communion. Still, there were some reservations about going out alone, which I recognized as fear.

My plans were quite simple; hike 4 hours from Neels Gap to Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail. My friend dropped me off at the trailhead. There were signs notifying hikers that black bears were in the area, and telling them what to do if encountered by one. I felt scared and almost asked my friend to stay with me. However, I quickly settled into the thought that if I met a bear, I’d know exactly what to do.

An Uphill Battle

The journey was uphill for almost 2 hours. The trail was shaded, narrow, and rocky, with dense trees that blocked the sun and the views on both sides. I often stumbled, tripping over tree roots but always managing to catch myself from falling. Now and then, I caught a glimpse of the town below but couldn’t see much because of the fog, so I mainly kept focused on the area a few feet in front of me. Along the trail, I could see sunlight in the distance, yet whenever I reached the area where the sun should have been ... it wasn’t; just more trail to follow, which was somewhat disappointing.

The Top at last

When I reached the top of the mountain, there was a clearing with a beautiful and unobstructed view of the entire town below and a big boulder for me to sit. Basking in the beauty and feeling elated for having reached the top, I stopped to drink and sat to meditate. Three minutes into the meditation, a huge ant crawled up my arm. Becoming irritated, I ended my session and started out again.

The path ahead was obscured from view and for a moment, I was lost, not sure which way to go. When I did find the trail, it was a steep decline. I walked down for about 1⁄2 mile and then thought maybe I should turn around and start for home. I stood in one spot for a while trying to make up my mind and then, heard voices.

Not Listening To Self

Two hikers were huffing and puffing up the incline and told me I was headed down to the steepest part of the trail and to be extremely careful. My gut reaction was to turn back, but there was that voice telling me to keep going just to see how difficult it would be, just to see if I could do it. I went down a few more feet before deciding to turn around.

I was glad I didn’t continue down the trail because, if I had, I would not have made it back to the start point at the agreed upon time for pick-up.

Nearing The End

During most of the hike uphill, I was alone. Upon returning, I encountered three hikers who stopped to chat a bit about the trail and their journey. They had been on the trail for a few days and were heading to the next town. The hikers had all started out alone, met on the trail, and decided to hike together. The trail gave us all something in common. It was nice to share a moment with them and to hear their stories.

I finally reached the end of my hike and was glad to see my friend waiting for me. I felt jubilant and knew I would return to Neels Gap again.

Upon reflection, it was easy to see how my hike mirrored a part of my spiritual journey:
  • My need for solitude.

  • Fear, and the peace that comes from letting go of fear.

  • Feelings of anger and frustration as I struggle uphill against the currents of my own darkness.

  • Maneuvering over the narrow and rocky terrain while stumbling/catching myself is reminiscent of my inner confusion.

  • Heartache, from the thought of taking one step forward and two steps back while trying to find my way through a spiritual maze.

  • Dealing with the prospect of losing myself in the process, and the ridicule from others because of the path I’ve chosen.

  • Disappointment, from catching a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, thinking I’ve found my way, only to realize that I still had a long way to go.

  • Letting life’s little distractions prevent me from accomplishing goals.

  • Feelings of doubt and apprehension at trusting that my "gut" will lead me in the right direction; allowing my ego to cloud my decisions.

  • The loneliness felt while traveling this path.

  • Joy, acceptance, and compassion when encountered by others who are on the same path, even though their stories are different.

  • Gratitude for getting this far, and having faith that the worse of my experiences are behind me.

  • Finally, the happiness of always seeing the bigger picture - giving me the desire and the motivation to continue my journey.

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