There are many days when I feel that my most important task is to be in training for the new life that we are creating. As we piece together what it means to live in balance, harmony and honor with the Earth, the first phase for me is physical training.
It began with the lengthening of walks and the addition of longer hikes into our lives. In June, a 45 minute walk on fairly level terrain was the “big walk” done at most 2 -3 times a week. Once completed, there was the feeling that all of the physical energy for the day had been consumed. Lunch, followed by nap, followed by watching movies on DVD was the norm.
The turning point was meeting Flora and the Strolling Bears (a group of senior adult amblers). They are avid hikers who hike 4 – 6+ miles, once a week, on a wide variety of trails; including some very steep and challenging climbs. They walk at a a slow pace, and invite each participant to listen to their body – rest, turn for home, or keep going depending on the energy of the day. They will not leave anyone behind who is lagging, but pause at each change in the trail to let everyone catch up, rest and be assured that they know the way.
You will see on the Favorite Hikes page, that it is not unusual for us to spend 3 -4 hours walking around Lake Siskiyou; climbing from Bunny Flat to Horse Camp, or taking the McBride Trail from Gateway to the campground. When we are with the Strolling Bears, we visit with people who love nature; tell us the names of flowers and birds; and share their joy in living simply and hiking often.
Our “shorter routes” at Gateway (about 1 1/2 – 2 hours), are what we now think of as “strolls” or everyday walks. Through the summer and into the autumn we have tried take these strolls several times a week.
When we are on our own, Will, ( my husband), takes a good leading start, so we can each spend time in communion with the healing spirit of The Mountain and our spiritual ancestors and guides in this journey back to unity with the land. There are occasional insights and new perspectives that emerge as we walk. More often it is simply sinking into the beauty and harmony of nature: sky, breeze, trees and brush, rocks and hillsides, and a variety of animal and bird companions. If nothing else is emerging, we each sing a song that is our reminder to open up to the path ahead.
The July – September part of my path was building my stamina, leg strength and physical confidence. The altitude and steep last half mile of the climb to Horse Camp still leaves my heart pounding and calls for “breathers.” Now, after three visits, I feel comfortable negotiating the downhill rocky stretches as well as the uphill push. A few weeks ago we made the whole 6.8 mile circle around Lake Siskiyou for the first time.
The growing confidence in my body translates to being more at ease in nature. I can relax and experiment. My view broadens to include more tree-tops and sky views – including a golden eagle that circled over the Gateway path the other morning. There is a stretch of the Horse Camp trail that I did barefoot last month, enjoying the sensation as the temperature of the sand shifted from cold in the shade to warm in the sunshine.
It all seems connected with not needing to be coddled and protected from the challenges of life. When I move in nature in this sense of freedom and strength, I know that I no longer want to be insulated from this wonderful planet. While the weather is beginning to shift, there is still time for a few more hikes up high on the mountain before the snow. Then, it may be time to borrow snow shoes and give that a try.