Pacific Crest Trail Week 5: Being Zen (or Not)

Photo by Glenn Legaspi
Example of a glorious vista.

Pitter patter go my weary feet upon the Pacific Crest Trail — a path that thousands of others have walked before me. All of us searching for something left unfulfilled by the unharmonious beat of modern civilization. A certain solitude — quiet, calm — feeling to null the disconnect of a cellphone-centered life.

Hiking is a pure meditation — it’s like staring into a candle or fishing. Each step is a physical struggle to push on mile after mile. Something is satisfying and familiar about actually feeling your body work and interact with the natural world. At some point your mind shuts off as you focus on each foot placement. One after another until a mile is reached and then all over again. Rhythmic breathing and patterned foot prints until a glorious vista or painful step snaps you back to reality.

That is on the good days. Some days it takes a while to settle into that zen-like state. You wear your mind’s distractions like 10 pound weights on your feet and a humid heat leaves rivers of sweat pouring down your face like crocodile tears.

One day I was so cold and rain-drenched that I didn’t stop hiking for more than 30 seconds at a time for 28 miles. I hiked to a town and spent the evening warming up my hands. The whole day I had to give myself embarrassing pep-talks in which I addressed myself as “sweetie” to calm the overwhelming fear of hypothermia.

But after hours of self-doubt and thousands of looming, unfinished miles the trail beckoned. Back on the trail, the calm set in and the miles turn into minutes — the searching can continue. The mountains become central to my being and the sound of my feet pounding upon them as fleeting as the time we spend on this Earth.

Fear falls from my heart with the strong wind and sun on my back. A couple thousand miles to go (or not?) and one’s path unique yet entwined continues connecting countries, states, and lives.

Read the rest of Suzanne’s adventures:

Week 1: Approaching the Adventure
Week 2: Falling Down, Climbing Up
Week 3: The Pulse of Humanity
Week 4: Beware the Grouse
Week 6: Crouching Bobcat, Hidden Mosquitoes
Week 7: Appreciation
Week 8: The End?

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About the Author

Suzanne Hessler is a connoisseur of odd jobs and misspent adventures. She can often be found wandering the countryside or hiding from everything in her tiny mid-city apartment. She is currently attempting a long-distance backpacking trip starting at the Canadian Border of the Pacific Crest Trail and heading South. You can find her on Google + and Facebook.