The love of a trail

shoot-188My whole life, when I face a trail stretching away from a trail head, I have felt compelled to take it.

Not a sense of impending doom if I don’t, or a feeling of some sort of powerless control it exerts over me. But I always want to take the trail. I wonder where it goes, and I wonder what I can see, and I wonder what is just around this next corner. And before long, I’m looking at some alpine lake, or mountain vista and thinking, “Well, that was worth the walk.”

To paraphrase Tolkien, because he was right, going outside is a dangerous business. If you don’t watch your step, there’s no telling where you’ll end up. I think of this often when I go out.

I admit, I go out now with the goal of wandering an exploring much more than I used to. You’d think I would have learned, or grown tired it by now. But I haven’t. In fact, the opposite is true. In my old age, I expect to look back at the time I spent home safe and by the fire not with a sense of contentment, but as time I wasted that I could have spent on a trail somewhere. So I try to keep that time to a minimum now. Although I will admit a fire does feel nice after a long slog out in the cold.

shoot-88It’s not always just a trail. I can stand next to a rail road track and look at the ribbons of 130 lb steel stretching on out of sight and feel the same pull. I know those rails eventually peter out when they meet a sea, far from here. But think of what there is to see in between the place my feet stand on and that sea. It’s a big country we live in, and most of us haven’t seen much of it. And if you head north or south, there are other big countries as well, and most of us haven’t seen any of them. Those rails will take you there.

Sometimes, the trip back is a bit of an afterthought. I stand somewhere thinking about the view I’m taking in, or the experience I’m having, and at some point I’ll remember I need to turn around. I’m never sad to do it, I’ve never run away from anything my whole life. But sometimes I forget I have to back track after running in pursuit of something. It always works out well, unless I run short of water. That never adds to the fun of a trail, ever.

shoot-143But every time I get to that point when I have to turn around, I wonder.

What would it be like if I didn’t have to turn around? What if I could always answer the question about what was around the next corner? Would I run out of trails before I ran out of life?

You wouldn’t have to ask me to find out twice if the opportunity came up.

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