Tag Archives: Outdoors

Obvious Lostness

In our age of distraction it’s more important than ever to slow down and pay attention — especially to where we’re going!

Write in Front of Me

railway-2439189_1920If I had kept my eyes lifted and looked straight ahead of me, I would never have become lost. But since the sweltering blaze of a blistering midsummer afternoon in August on the A.T. in Pennsylvania kept my head down — literally — I must have missed the turn.

Time has wilted with my motivation. A long roadwork through a dusty valley seemed at first an easy endeavor. An early start to beat the rising sun, to outrun its zenith, was the intention. Never made it. Lots of “cameling up” kept me alive, but pouring sweat and drenching humidity did their evil best to sap my energy. Despite many stops to rest in what shade I could find, I ended up in a late afternoon slog. The white blazes had directed me through some newly sown fields and alongside a two-lane asphalt road, now redolent with the smell of cooked…

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Filed under A.T., Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, Consequences, Decision making, Fear, Hiking, lost, Travel, Walking

Wilderness

Wild.  Wilder.  Wilderness.

Three words from one.

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Wild…what I have always been seeking.  Since I was a child and could sit in Granddad’s back yard, feeling the roaring summer heat; reaching out, sensing the touch of a firefly at evening as it lit upon my small fingers (we call ’em “lightning bugs” in North Carolina).

Wild…what I saw as a young boy at the state natural history museum.  Wild, but wild that was “preserved,” with all the life-energy drained away.  Still, echoes of life abounded in the bones and skin and stuffed display.  Wild was always there — never to die, though the animal was but preserved carcass.

Wilder…when I was in my early 30’s and visited a zoological park.  Real wild — more so than in the museum — yet caged, restricted.  Wilder…looking me in the eye.  Wilder…telling me it would be a wondrous freedom to raise the latch and let it go; a foreign creature roaming free in the land.

Wilder…as I roamed into the forest and had a nerve-shaking encounter with a rattlesnake.  Wilder, fiercer, rattling rage which said “stay back, beware!”

Wilder…encircled while in camp by a black bear, who wandered around my tent coming ever closer.  I remember striking the cooking pan with a stick, blowing a whistle, all to no avail as wilder came…nearer.  Only striking the earth with my hiking staff in a desperate attempt to drive the creature off met with success.

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Wilder…jangling the nerves.  Storms ambushing me while I scaled great heights, pummeling the ridges with rain, savaging the peaks with lightning, causing me to pause and duck and dart beneath sheltering trees for fear of being struck.

Wilderness…in the deep balsam forest, amid a million mirroring lakes and ponds, across land studded with peat bog and few signs of human activity.  Wilderness at last…home in the deepest sense.  Wilderness!  What I had been walking for, seeking for, ever thirsting for.

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Wilderness…atop the high-winded peak at velocity enough to tip me over.  Elemental threats amid the glory of sailing clouds and bright sun and deep cold.  Wilderness that pounded my soul and heart with a message: This is life!  Breathe in, feel the caress; embrace the moment as the space between you and eternity becomes thin enough for you to reach beyond daily cares and concerns.  The mundane will soon return…but or now…

Wilderness!

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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, challenge, Courage, danger, Decision making, Fear, Hiking, risk, Writing

An effective way of processing a long distance hiking trip

pen-1342655_1920Point, focus, click.  Blog, take a selfie.  These are just a few of the ways to document your hiking and backpacking trip.  None of these methods existed when last I did an extensive trip around 1989.  The dawn of the worldwide web and the Internet was just breaking.  Now, with so many technological means of recording your trip, you might think it’s the best way to go.  And there’s nothing wrong with using tech to tell your tale.

I would like to suggest, however, what I think is the most powerful and personally meaningful means to putting your story down for posterity, and it involves not new, edgy innovations — it’s distinctly and intentionally “old tech.”

I had recorded my journey using pen and paper.  Not longer after “re-entry” when my trip was over, I looked over the water-spattered and smudged pages.  I noticed my entries were sometimes lacking detail and somewhat sketchy.  So, I decided I would do a complete revision of my journal, before the “little gray cells” lost their grip on the memories.

Here’s what I did.

First, I got a headquarters; a place I would go at least one or two days a week to get comfortable, grab some coffee, and have space to write in.  I chose a Dunkin’ Donuts.  I would camp out there about one or two hours, coffee and donuts at hand, and with a fresh, new notebook, I would transcribe my old journal into the new one.  At first this felt awkward.  But, then things began cranking along and I was remembering things I had forgotten which happened to me on the trail, and I also discovered that as I rewrote paragraphs I was expanding them, which made them more memorable and made for richer reading.

Next, I said I did the work by hand — yes, longhand!  That slowed my brain down and gave ample time for the memories to sort of re-process and for forgotten episodes to be remembered.  This was exciting and engaging.  It felt like I was reliving the trail adventure, which I was, but in a way I had not anticipated.  I used a pen and paper, not a laptop, so I could spend the time I needed to make the memories indelible in a way only handwriting can do.

The entire process took about three months, and I ended up with more than a record, more than a journal.  I created a keepsake that will be part of my legacy, and will have my own personal stamp of effort on it.

I suggest you try it.  Nothing will make your re-entry from the trail to daily life more meaningful, and process the experience at the same time, than revisiting those glory days on the trail in this way.

Try it and see!

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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking, journaling, Journey, Long distance backpacking, Writing

Hello Autumn!

Steve Zigler unveils the wonder of the Great Smoky Mountains at the turn of the season!

Steve Zigler Photography

Hello Autumn!

It finally happened! It doesn’t feel like it, it doesn’t look like it, but Autumn finally began today. The autumnal equinox in technical parlance. My favorite season in Steve parlance. And just this week, the first traces of autumn began to appear in my back yard. Not much yet really, but a few leaves bear the signs of seasonal change.

Not finding much Autumn in my back yard, I went looking for signs of my favorite season with my buddies Richard and Brian at the Foothills Parkway this morning. We didn’t find it there either. It was warm, downright balmy even. No Autumn at Foothills. Rats! However, on a more positive note, we found a nice layer of fog blanketing the valley. It was like Summer had pulled the covers up to its neck in an effort to keep out the change of season. Nice try, Summer!

It…

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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, Living, Long distance backpacking, nature, outdoors

“Nature Don’t Care Who You Are!” The wisdom of Ricky Ruiz for the Appalachian Trail.

Risk has reward, and backpacking the Appalachian Trail – while tough – fills your life with rich dividends!

Write in Front of Me

A Walk in the Woods

Forget what Bill Bryson said in his book “A Walk in the Woods” about hiking and backpacking the Appalachian Trail.  Abandon the notion that your hike will be a thrill packed adventure.  Get the thought out of your head that the journey will unfold a certain way.  That’s a guarantee of disappointment.  When you leave your expectations at liberty, you’ll be prepared to experience the trail on its terms.

Despite its popularity, frequent foot traffic, and common road crossings make no mistake — most of the Appalachian Trail runs through remote land.  In some places, such as the Great Smoky Mountains, and upper reaches of Maine, you’ll be hiking some of the last genuine wilderness east of the Mississippi.  This is unbroken nature and, as trail philosopher Ricky Ruiz has said, “Nature don’t care who you are!”

Considered Long-Distance Hiking at Half Price ...

Ricky is right.  To sign on the hike the Appalachian Trail is to…

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, Courage, danger, Decision making, Hiking, Life direction, outdoors, risk

The 2,000-mile barrier

hiker-1149898_1920There is something which stands in the way of an Appalachian Trail backpacker and success. Something that makes even the day-hiker hesitant to head out the door into the wild.

Vast and dominant, it looms over the beauty which beckons the heart and soul, daring the brave who wish to enter the sanctuary of wood and stream, glen and crag.

There is something which intimidates and defeats, which cripples and discourages. Even the seasoned backpacker who is armed with profound skill might in a moment collapse into discouraged retreat. Rather than forge into the green, they will pack up and head for home, tail between their legs. Rather than return to the world with wondrous stories and rich memories, they bear the shame of having given up to a simple and pervasive enemy which will haunt them for their lack of fortitude.

Countless expeditions and numerous souls who might otherwise push hesitancy aside lose all sense and intention when faced with this one, single, seemingly-mighty barrier.

wrangell-1721526_1920Should you be among those with the will and ability to endure this demon, you will find it accompanies you the entire length of your woodland sojourn. It will gawk at you across the fireside and pester you as you walk the miles.

Nevertheless, this creature which plagues the wilderness is deserving of existence. For it is the guardian and force which prevents lesser prepared travelers from crossing the boundary into the mystic mist of remote lands.

Should you be among the few who can tolerate its company, you will find that it does not disempower or distract you from the joy to be found in walking wild places. In fact, this jinn obstructs lesser souls, but nourishes those wise to the gift it can bring.

What is this force; this barrier? Simply this…

the unknown!

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Apprehension, Backpacking, Courage, Fear, Hiking, Journey, nature, The Appalachian Trail, Walking

An Appalachian Trail Backpacker’s Code

As backpackers and hikers gear up for another season in the wild, it seemed appropriate to revisit this post.

Write in Front of Me

Photo courtesy Jim Dollar @ Flickr Photo courtesy Jim Dollar @ Flickr

Daniel Wood left journals from hikes he had taken. Among those pages I discovered this document. I testify it was written by him. He requested whoever discovered it would post it online for all Appalachian Trail hikers and backpackers.

A Backpacker’s Code

I realize that choosing to hike this trail is a fulfilling, but serious endeavor. In setting foot here, I choose to be responsible not just for myself, but for those I meet on the trail. While I may never find myself in such a situation, I owe it to myself and others to hike responsibly and stand ready to help another backpacker should the situation arise.

I realize that I am to be responsible to myself first, and self-reliant to the extent of my backpacking and camping skills. If I do not have the basic skills of the art I will seek out seminars…

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Life direction, Long distance backpacking, Outdoor sports, Travel, Walking, Wildlife