“I didn’t expect it to take me as long as it did,” I said to a couple at the mountain lookout as we shared comments about the steep 6km hike from the town up through the mountains.
“Oh yes,” the lady replied, “it took us, what, two and a half hours?” She then went on to compare this track with others in the area. I frowned inwardly. Two and a half hours? It had taken me a bit over three hours from town.
I wondered briefly about the time difference. Okay, granted, I’ve lost a lot of fitness in the last twelve months, and haven’t done much hiking for about two years. Still, while this middle-aged couple looked fit and active, surely they hadn’t been bounding up the mountain. Our conversation moved on so I left the thought at the back of my mind.
Having been at the lookout for at least fifteen minutes longer than anyone else who had come to see the view that morning, I decided to start my descent a bit earlier. I enjoy hiking in solitude, so try to avoid other parties if I can.
About one hundred metres or so down the track I paused to take in my surroundings. It’s not that they had much changed in such a short space, but it was all so beautiful that I couldn’t help but stop to take in as much as I could. The mossy rocks and tree trunks, the misty woods surrounding, the bright ferns and winter flowers… how could I not give just a little more time to appreciate the world around me?
To say that I did this literally every hundred metres or so would be a bit of a dramatic exaggeration, but I did realize why the hike had taken me so much longer than that couple. And I realized that it was a good thing.
While others might vaguely remember the hike to see the view from the mountain top, I will cherish the memory of the journey – the sights, sounds, and smells that made my soul sing, and my eyes crinkle with delight.
This is not just the way I want to hike; this is the way I want to live life. Pausing every hundred metres or so just to take in the people, places, and experiences around me. Just to appreciate the small details that make the journey so wonderful.
[Originally written in June 2020]