Ned Tibbets, the super hero of the PCT (having hiked it in 1974 at the age of 17 and since dedicating his life to teaching mountain safety skills to others, as well as rescuing them from disastrous situations on the mountains), posted the following piece on the significance of a long hike and what is truly meaningful in a life recently. It strongly resonates with the things that I speak about in my presentation, as well as how I am re-examining the course of my life after having had these experiences.
“When we are young, energy is bursting, the night never ends, the world is at your fingertips, and nothing seems impossible. It is easy to get involved in challenges, physical or intellectual, and miss what is so much more important in life.
What that is to you or me may be different and that is ok. In the end, whether that is at the end of the trail or of life, what is missed are the relationships, the passionate expressions of the heart, the different personalities, and believe it or not, the fears, the joys, and the tears.
Hiking is not about the miles. At least for me, it is about the shared experiences, good and bad, dangerous or lazy, filled with laughter or sadness. When we look back at whether we had a good journey, what fills our memories the deepest are not whether we made it from Point A to Point B but who we shared it with.
If you are alone in the wilderness, your relationship is with your Self and God. What He whispers to you will change your life, once you can hear Him. The longer you can stay out with Him, the deeper wrought is the change. If you can set aside enough time in your life to accomplish a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, don’t expect to come out the other end the same as you went in. You will learn about life, yours and His, and this will hit you on the head like a 2×4 upon “re-entry.”
Then, it will be up to you to decide whether to keep the revelation and relationship or let it go, to dissolve back into society and forget unto busyness the best friend you could ever have. Physical and intellectual attainments in life are great, but they are only on the surface and do not touch the heart, the spirit of life. Pursuing life means choosing to eject the superficial and dive into the deep waters of the heart, to discover what really matters to the part of our lives that lives forever and touches everyone we meet.
So, we hope that you, upon reaching the end of your trail, you can feel this change within you, working in your members, alive and rejoicing, and decide that it is more “real” and important to you, your very “life’s breath,” for with it you have been talking, listening, and responding sun-up to sun-down for all your on-trail days.
This is what the long-trail can do for you. It can bring healing and great joy, but you’ve got to make that first step fully prepared for all the “realities of the trail,” intending to go all the way, come what may. Then, relax, listen, and share! Time slips away, but things heart-felt and touches of the Spirit are never forgotten. Reach for these! They will be like a companion that never leaves….”