I don't hike for the love of burning quads, burning lungs, or a sweaty back hugged up against a day pack.
If anything, I'm a seer. Not in the prophetic sense; I'm talking about an addiction to visual stimulus. I get hung up on details in the most ridiculously minute way. If it were possible, I would inhale entire landscapes just so I could absorb everything they hold.
But, like most addictions, mine comes with a problem: I don't like seeing the same trail twice. And if it's a popular trail, one that’s been documented endlessly on Google’s image search, I don't want to be on it — at least not when it's in prime season.
Searching for new sights keeps my mind open. It helps me realize that adventure and scenic beauty aren’t designated to one kind of environment (e.g. the go-to mountains of Colorado) but are widespread, found in areas people might not readily consider:
Singletrack in northern Florida.
The historic mountain culture of the Appalachians.
The contrasting colors of land and sky in the prairies.
Backcountry skiing over the Atlantic ocean.
No, they aren’t “the classics.” But trails through these less-popular areas provide me a space to move through varied ecosystems, cultures and landscape. They offer connections between people and the subtleties — or grandeur — that make each region unique; that’s helped me see the appreciation people have for their corner of the continent.But truly “seeing” a place is nothing without fuel from the other senses.
Have you, for example, ever noticed how the sun bakes the morning dew off Florida’s fallen pine needles, filling the air with a warm Christmas scent? And how, in the rainy season, clockwork thunderstorms empty over the southland’s hammocks, lingering in muddy patches where wild boars stomp their grounds?
Or have you heard the insects clap in flight as you disrupt their place on prairie tallgrass? Their sounds are amplified in the afternoon clouds, thundering across the sky line. After summer’s storms finish feeding the grasslands, autumn’s wind brush against the stalks, moving them in formation like golden waves.
And what about the Atlantic Maritimes, where the Appalachian Mountains submerge below icy waters, shoring a legacy of explorers who tread a land once considered wild? If you look in its quiet folds, in the regions surrounding the whitewashed fishing villages, you’ll find the mountains of the maritimes still hold a salty breath of mystery. Or top off the Appalachian Trail with its International section, and you’ll pass through the system’s most remote and rugged region — the Chic Chocs — showing that the Appalachians do hold a candle to the rugged peaks of the west.
Because of my unquenchable addiction, I’ve held open the doors of perception and allowed North America to show me what she holds, no judgements. And she’s shown me, as I’ve traversed her trails over many regions, that she’s exquisite.