Go Hiking to Learn the Real You

I have two books about the Barefoot Sisters who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (AT) from Maine to Georgia almost exclusively barefoot. Then, they yo-yo’d back North to do it again.

Anything is possible. Minimalist hiking teaches you so much about yourself.

So many people talk about excess, money, gluttony, and dependence on technology. But most people don’t do anything about it. They spout hypocrisy about decrying fossil fuel as they sit in a warm house filled with appliances with electricity that is derived mostly from coal. They talk about saving trees when they work, live, and play in buildings filled with studwork (trees) and write on papers (trees). If they really meant what they said, they’d find the source of all they do and truly rid themselves of those things.

One way we can throw off all this burden is backpacking. After a few miles on the trail, you realize what is important in life. First, you realize how much crap you carry. You learn about the importance of water. You realize you can’t just bop into the store and grab a kombucha and mangos. Most of our ideas about diet, exercise, and what we think is healthy living is based on a First World availability of resources. All of those resources traveled by ship, planes, trains, and 18-wheeler trucks. And nearly none of that transportation is based on alternative fuels. So if you eat a passion fruit and papaya, you are already undermining the "live a wholesome life" mantra. Believe me, those foods don’t grow in central Illinois or likely most other places you live.

Backpacking teaches us about living a diurnal life. You do like other diurnal animals and get up with the sun and go to sleep when it goes down. Every ounce of water is savored and never wasted. You realize that long-lasting fat calories are super important because the weight to energy ratio is so amazing. Sugar never lasts long nor any of its complex chain relatives. You learn this out on the trail.

You start to appreciate life. All of life. If you look at homesteaders and people who live off the land in Alaska, you’ll be in the extreme minority if you are a vegetarian. And if you are living off the land, you’ll probably die a vegetarian. Most indigenous Alaskans live on an almost plant free diet. Its not by choice, but by necessity.

Do you realize if you didn’t live in a big city, you wouldn’t have access to most of the things you eat and do? Yet these are the same majority of populous who wants to decide elections.

One Fall, I went backpacking by myself out in the middle of nowhere. Actually "nowhere" was near a huge corn field. And as I was laying there trying to get my beauty rest, there was a farmer out there harvesting all night long with a loud tractor and bright lights. Every time I thought I was falling asleep, he (or she) would come by for another pass. Knowing the weather forecast, there was probably a storm coming in. So this farmer had to get the crops harvested or risk losing the crop. The crop may rot, lodge, fruit falls to the ground, or whatever travesty if he didn’t harvest now. That’s the life of the farmer. Most people in cushy suburbia don’t see that sacrifice. They just don’t know. They may see things on TV, but never connect the reality of it all.

Do me a favor. Keep a diary for one day and think of what you consume, what you see, and what gives you comfort. Then contrast that with what you’d experience without those things. Or simply go backpacking. Then, either live a hypocrite free life or live a life appreciating the things we have because of fossil fuels, because of the timber industry, and because of the technology that we are grateful to have. But always find a reset by living on the trail. It can keep you on a path of honest integrity.

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