Hiking the Appalachians – A Crash Course in Being Present

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On our last full day in the mountains DCT and I decided we wanted to go hike and explore the Shenandoah National State Park.

We were going to try hiking the Rose River Loop trail, a 4-mile hike through the woods alongside a river with waterfalls and mountainside views.

The trail was rated as moderate in terms of difficulty and though DCT and I are novices when it comes to hiking, we’re overall pretty active and thought we could take on this trail no problem.

Spoiler alert: there were problems.

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For starters we totally underestimated the length and difficulty of this trail.

While we by no means thought it would be a paved walkway, we also weren’t expecting to spend the majority of our time crawling over slippery rocks, snaking our way through trees, or climbing up the mountainside.

Nevertheless it was quite the experience. The scenery was like something out of Lord of the Rings and I started fancying myself a badass hiker like Cheryl Strayed from Wild.

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There is something so pure about being in the middle of the woods with no connection with the outer world that makes you very self-aware.

There’s no email to check, no Instagram or Facebook post to share. It almost becomes a sort of crash course in getting comfortable with your thoughts and being present.

You find your mind flooding with those existential questions of ‘why am I here?’ and ‘what’s my ultimate purpose?’.

But you also quickly learn that trying to rehash the past or worry about the future does you no good, mostly because you need to focus on what’s right in front of you – as in that big slippery rock or those gnarled tree roots you keep tripping on.

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In fact, I take back what I said earlier – hiking in the woods isn’t almost a crash course, it IS a crash course in being present.

As you’re walking down the trail you can’t keep looking behind as you’re bound to get tripped up by some obstacle right in front of you, and you can’t look too far ahead because the path could change unexpectedly, without warning. All you can do is focus on what’s right in front of you, taking it one step at a time.

If all this metaphorical, woo-woo, mumbo jumbo is going right over your head, what I’m trying to say is – in life, as in hiking a mountain trail, you can’t spend all your time looking at the past, as you miss the things right in front of you.

And you can’t use all your energy trying to see what’s ahead in the future because things change unexpectedly – there are no guarantees for what may happen.

It turns out the best way to keep moving forward is to focus on the here and now, what’s right in front of you, your very next step. Because with each step you’ll get closer and closer to where you want to be – whether it’s a change of career, losing those last stubborn 5lbs, or reaching the end of 4-mile mountain trail.

One step at a time.

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Back to DCT and I, with about 1.5-miles left, as we hiked back uphill at what felt like a 45 degree angle it started pouring down rain.

We were both exhausted, our legs felt like jello, every muscle in my body was begging me to stop. And yet I never felt more alive.

We actually started laughing, probably from a combination of exhaustion and wonder at what the hell we were doing in the middle of the woods in the pouring rain.

We had an experience alright. One we surely won’t forget.

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Thanks for reading!

| Photos by your’s truly |

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