for release Friday May 23, 2003
by Melodie Davis
25 Life Lessons From the Trail
Any hiking up (or down) the path in sight for you this summer? Living in the Shenandoah Valley as I do, the opportunities for hiking are both magnificent and endless. So I found it a little hard to believe recently when a well-traveled, well-educated young man of 21 said he had never been hiking. But I guess depending on where you grow up, there is not that much opportunity for hiking. Walking maybe; you can walk anywhere. But real hiking usually refers to going up and down hills or mountains or at least through long areas of uninhabited territory. Kind of hard to find in downtown Toronto or Washington, D.C., for instance.
The Appalachian Trail, stretching across many miles from Georgia to Maine cuts very near the Shenandoah Valley at various points and so it is always a little exciting for me when one of our short little hikes takes us across or along a section of the AP as it is known. I was pleased several years ago to interview a young man who had hiked the entire trail.
Some of the things he learned he wrote down in pithy, memorable sayings. I received his permission to share them here. Some of the "lessons" are those that hikers will especially enjoy, but many of them are applicable even if you wouldn't be caught dead near any trail. Hikers on the Appalachian Trail, and many other famous paths, are well known for the community they develop among themselves, so some of these statements reflect that trust, love and community.
So here they are, courtesy of John Albrecht of Mantua, Ohio, Appalachian "thru" trail hiker ("thru" as opposed to "day" hiker):
1. Everyone has a story to share.
2. You can't judge a hiker by his appearance.
3. If this earth is this beautiful, the new earth (heaven) is going to be out of this world!
4. Being exposed to creation can open a person to God.
5. "You can't help but talk to God if you're out here for an extended period of time." -Thru hiker White Buffalo
6. There really is purple mountain majesty out there.
7. There are still people in the world who give freely to others, expecting nothing in return.
8. You can tell the day hikers by their clean smell. The converse is also true.
9. You actually smell like the other hikers, even though you think it is the other guys who smell. 10. You appreciate a hot shower more than you ever did before.
11. You won't take dry clothes for granted again.
12. There is freedom in simplicity.
13. It is difficult to sleep indoors after just a few nights outside in the fresh air.
14. The mountains don't seem as steep, the miles as long, or the clothes as wet when hiking with someone else.
15. If you do something consistently day after day, you will reach your goal before you know it. 16. No rain, no pain, no Maine.
17. Without rain, there can't be a rainbow.
18. Sleeping under the stars and watching shooting stars is still as mesmerizing as seeing them as a child.
19. Hikers sometimes cry when a new friend leaves the trail, even though they might have only known them for a few days.
20. People seem to experience different dreams at night while hiking (maybe it is all the fresh air). 21. It is amazing what a little break will do for you.
22. You can live less expensively when you don't have all those opportunities to buy things.
23. The further north you go, the more aggressive the animals on the trail get.
24. Bad news every hour on the hour or at 6 and 11 take a toll on a person. Without the constant bombardment of bad news, you feel less weighted down, more free to think positive thoughts, dream, pray.
25. You can eat around 5,000 calories a day and still lose weight!
Write to me at: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 672 words; end material = 105 words
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