What can I say, hiking a few of the high peaks was an incredible experience that left me feeling inspired and wanting to go back. I'm not sure when, but we will!
Sometimes its the sense of solitude that makes ascending a mountain so special. Sometimes its the people you meet along the way.
My experience with Cascade and Porter Mountains was a lot of both.
Here is my reflection from the trail:
I find a sense of community with my wild neighbors along the trail.
Boreal Chickadees, ruby-crowned kinglets, and red-breasted nuthatches flit about the branches of spruce and balsam trees in the Krummholz zone.
A pair of ravens dance in the thick of the clouds out of sight but not out of hearing range.
The trunk and branches of balsam fir as well as the forest floor seem to be covered and draped with every kind of lichen and moss imaginable!
Wrapped inside of a cloud at the top of Cascade mountain it's the most incredible feeling of solitude.
Yes, I feel a sense of solitude, but also a very profound sense of community not just with my wild neighbors but also with the other people ascending the mountain today. I feel a sense of community with these hundred's of people whom we have never crossed paths with before and might not ever again; but here we are.
Among those who share this mountain trail in this moment, there are a few individuals for whom I am especially thankful.
Erin, there is nobody else I'd rather share these experiences with. I'm glad you picked this trail for us!
Summit Stewards Ryan and Isabella, thank you for protecting three-toed cinquefoil, bilberry, and other sensitive mountain plant species as well as the whole biotic community of the alpine tundra through your advocacy. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge of some of these rare and beautiful plants with us. Amazing!
Triathletes Steve and Tina, I'm glad we got to be part of your hiking community while you hiked your first ADK high peak. You are awesome!
The 46 Climbs for Suicide Awareness crew, (Kolby and friends!) you all could not have chosen a better cause for which to hit the trails. Thanks for bringing hope to the hopeless through your outdoor adventures!
Now, for those who feel they may be too introverted or too extroverted to build community on the trail, here are some tips from my experience:
1. Not everyone wants to converse while on the trail, and that's okay. A lot of the time, building community on the mountain simply takes the form of being present on the trail together and experiencing the same beauty and challenge that the mountain has to offer.
2. Once in a while, you may encounter people with whom a brief conversation seems good. To maintain focus on the present experience I like to ask things like, "what's been the most interesting part of the hike so far?" Who knows, you may have found someone who shares your interest in rocks, birds, trees, or something else.
3. In rare cases where you meet someone on the trail with whom you want to remain connected, it can be good to bring a business card with your contact info on it if you have one.
4. It can be okay and even life-giving to allow silent pauses (not like awkward pauses) into your brief conversation; no need to drown out all of the beautiful bird songs with incessant talking.
5. While on the trail, it's usually best to keep conversations very brief, unless you really hit it off and have decided to join together to form a larger hiking party (that happened to me once, and it was a pretty cool experience)
6. My final tip for now is, don't get into talking about other hikes and other places too much. Be present in this space; after all, that's why you're there, right? To quote Henry David Thoreau, "I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there is spirit." (Nature Walking. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Beacon Press; Boston, MA. 1991. Pg. 78)
Now that I've shared mine, what are your tips for building community on the trail?
(Me and Erin with Summit Stewards Isabella and Ryan)
(Top of Cascade Mountain...in the cloud!)
(one of the sensitive mountain plants; I believe this to be three-toed cinquefoil)
(the view from the top of Porter Mountain)
(the 46 Climbs group; hiking for Suicide Awareness and Prevention)