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Our Hikes, Our Selves

My home was not a fun one to grow up in. My parents were often preoccupied with abuse – of substances and other people. There was a lot of shouting. A lot of throwing things. A lot of not so safe places for a little girl to hang out and feel ok. My room was one of them, though that sanctuary was often breached by my mother who would enter just long enough to hurl insults about something – my appearance, my body, my “selfish” behavior, the state of my room, the A- instead of the A+.

The only place where all this awfulness seemed to lessen – where for a moment I could hear my own voice and not theirs – was on our backpacking, hiking and camping trips. It was as if nature’s power silenced them. Made them realize what shits they were being. Reminded them of something greater than themselves. I didn’t understand any of that then, but I knew enough to look forward to every outdoor adventure because it would mean less yelling, less fighting, less of all the bad things and so much more of the good.

The great irony is that as much as I loved nature and the outdoors – my adult self associated every camping trip with my family. All the conflict of home and the rare good times experienced only outdoors. It was an odd mix of joy and confusion, longing and fear. I’d camp with friends and loved ones and never quite feel at ease, but wasn’t able to pinpoint the source of my conflicted thoughts. Until recently.

I started hiking again in earnest this year. I started seeking outdoor adventures again. Not as a way to revisit the past, but as the only way I’ve ever known to connect to my own voice. Just as when I was a child. I find the trails allow me to sort out who I am and what I want and what I’m made of and what that means. Hiking and camping and backpacking require you to be fully present yet also in great awe of the beauty around you, which invites you to be even more present. Whether the trail is hard or easy, stunningly beautifully or dusty and dirty with very little “peak” reward, I have been finding myself again this year in the backcountry. It has saved me in a time of great upheaval and I cannot recommend it enough.

I’ve also met incredible people out on the trails and a singular truth has been revealed: we are all out there working through something. Every person you meet on the trail has a story. A reason they are out there. A reason they feel at home there. A reason they need nature in their lives, whether it’s an hour hike or a 60-day trek. I’ve been lucky enough to hear some of these stories. Some of them powerful and some of them sweet. All of them not quite finished. Mine isn’t finished either and I’ll be sharing much more of these trail voices and stories – mine and others – very soon.

Photo from my solo hike to Suicide Rock via Deer Springs Trail in Idyllwild earlier this year.

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