By Anne Jones
Niki Queen is a nature writer. Her book, Earth, The Forgotten Temple is testimony to an appreciation and love of the earth that is deep, resonant and long-standing. Such was her already formed "friendship" with the Trail. I, on the other hand, am a thriller (Blackwater Risiing) and non-fiction writer who has limited experience with hiking. Perhaps, this explains why Niki found excitement in the vistas and I, while also enthused, held us back with my relentless examination of detail.
While hiking and camping on Standing Indian Mountain, we were both fascinated by shifting patterns of light, the colors of fallen leaves, the sights, sounds and smells of the night. But, it was I who slowed our hikes, picking up rocks to feel their texture and shape or pausing midstep to examine a flower.
Neither of us felt fear trudging up Standing Indian, despite the warning a roaming bear might want our packs. We were too engrossed in our short but single-focused journey to be sidetracked by emotions...except those intensely brought forth by the Trail.
Only a short time passed before I became aware neither Niki nor I were the real focus of the hike, nor were the vistas or details. It was all of these and much more. The hike had become... a tangible participation in relationship.
I now know, that is what the Trail is about and why it draws us. On the Trail we experience a one-on-one relationship with the physical world and our creator, and, with self-examination, gain more insight into ourselves. On the Trail, our physical self cannot stand apart from that of our soul. In its silence, it is as if we are naked. We hear our inner voice and our inner selves are revealed. The vistas expand our view of the world. The Trail expands our view of ourselves. The silence, the feel of my foot on the path, the smell of fall in the air... the sensuality of all surrounding me, seduces me into relationship, a commitment that will last the rest of my life.
In the future, when I revisit the Trail, I will expand my walks, learn more about our earth and look deeper into my soul.