Hiking thoughts

The Man in the Arena.

Finding the man inside who you may of never met before.

It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again. Because their is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed. Who knows the great enthusiasum, the great devotion. Who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. (Theodore Roosevelt)

Solo hiking over longer distances involves being self sufficient. It involves being confident that you can handle any circumstance that may happen to you or fellow hikers that you may meet. Solo hiking is completely different, there’s nobody to ask “What do you think, what direction do you think we should go now?”  You ask yourself the question and you need to take the time to contemplate the answers. There is definitely a need for careful planning, which means there’s a better chance of success. But the best plans can unravel very quickly on the trail, when you are reliant  on your mental and physical health to achieve your goals. I met the man inside me whom I had never met before on my latest hike and he was more confident than I thought.

The Credit belongs to the man in the arena.

Credit always belongs to the person who tries their hardest in any situation. I try my hardest, but I am not obsessed with outcomes anymore, my mental ability plays a greater role as a grey hiker. As a younger hiker, it was only a question of turning up on the trail, with hardly a thought that anything could possibly go wrong. It’s not that I can’t achieve exactly the same outcomes now, but it generally takes more time, effort and preparation. I’m a purist on the trail, in the sense that I like to carry everything I need on my back. Which makes for a heavier pack and an obsession with the weight of every piece of equipment.

Nearly every effort I made in the beginning contained error and shortcomings. It begs the question, how do you become proficient at hiking long distances, or anything else for that matter. The simple answer is, to hike as much as you can, in as many diverse environments and weather conditions that you can find. That doesn’t mean to say you have to like every type of weather or environment. You could be a warm weather person, or a cold weather person, but it never hurts to experience both, as you can experience sub-zero temperatures in the desert too. I have experienced the disappointment of not finishing a hike that I hoped to complete. But I gave it my all and failed while daring greatly and even though it was disappointing, my mental fortitude remained intact.

Don’t be a cold and timid sole.

Be open and honest in every situation you find yourself in. There is so much to learn from every hiker you encounter, because the most insignificant insight can be the one that saves the day. Don’t be timid, it’s often the things you fear the most that turn out fine and vice versa. On my first solo hike I was very apprehensive that I might be lonely and it filled most of my thoughts. But it turned out I was very comfortable with my own company. I thought very little about the hiking components, traversing steep and slippery gradients  and the more difficult part in descending them. In a group situation, it never entered my consciousness, but alone it was more significant. Going down a steep gradient with a heavy pack on, one slip and the momentum of the weight on my back could cause me to land very awkwardly.

I was aware of this situation all the time, but my hiking poles and intense concentration prevented any mishaps. As I said, this situation never entered my thoughts, but it certainly should have instead, loneliness was my primary concern before I started to hike solo. I don’t think you can ever know, when you first start hiking what part will be the most problematical. So it’s best to strive valiantly and take everything as it comes. Don’t worry about everything, worry about nothing until it actually happens. The brown snake that was at the water tank, when I needed water. My guard was down, dressed in shorts and open sandals at the end of the day, it passed quickly between my feet before I had time to react. I learned a valuable lesson, luckily I have the chance to implement it in the future.

the man in the arena
Don’t be a cold or timid sole

 

More walking less talking

Walk the talk.

More walking
Ocean walking

It’s a another year over and another one has arrived for us. The holidays are over and it’s time to start putting some meat on the bones of 2018. First up, thank you so much for your subscriptions to the blog. I have had a lot of trouble with spam content, which frankly, I don’t understand and as I’m not unique, I have learnt not to take it personally. I’m one of millions that these things are happening to. Anyway, I have sorted through my lists and cleared out all the dead wood. I hope this leaves me with genuine people who want to interact with the Grey hiker community.

It’s going to be a busier year for me I hope, I have a few things planned already. March 18th I plan to do the Cape to Cape hike here in Western Australia, it’s on the south coast of the state between the lighthouses on Cape leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste. Around 84 miles that should take me about 6 days and if my mathematics are correct will be around 14 miles a day walking. Good weather being my companion, I hope that this will be doable for the Grey hiker. Although I will be carrying a full pack, as I’m camping and cooking this time.

More walking.

Then on the 6th of April I will be in Melbourne Victoria, to hike the southern coast, this time from Apollo bay to the Twelve apostles, a rock formation in the southern ocean. This will be around 5 days and 63 miles to cover which will average out to be around 12.5 miles a day, again, very doable. Carrying a full pack again and the weather will be more problematic this time, as it will be in the autumn. I’m walking every morning and doing some other strength building exercises. It’s the first time for a long while that I have carried a full pack, I’m sure it will make for more interesting and intense walking.

I have been thinking about that Henry ford quote. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t-your right”. So the Grey hiker is going to do these hikes, I think I can and therefore I can. Good physical health supports good mental health, the reverse is also true. Poor mental health can contribute to an increased risk of developing physical illnesses. Hypertension, cardiovascular disease and obesity to name just a few. Apart from all the usual suspects that effect physical and mental health, my own personal one is setting goals that are realistic and achievable. When younger, my mantra was, “Just go for it and power through.” But now I’m older and possibly, wiser, I know a major setback could have devastating consequences going forward.

Keep walking.

It’s possible to walk your way through a lot of small physical problems. But you have to know they are small and not something that may turn nasty.  In my case it was hernias, it started with one,  but ended with three. After my surgery, I was off my feet for eight months, so as I said previously, possibly more sensible going forward. “Above all do not lose your desire to walk every day. I walk myself into a state of well being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one can not walk away from it” (Soren Kierkegaard)

I believe there are thousands of tired, anxious, and over civilized people, who would receive a tonic for their health and well being, by going into nature. Spending time alone in the wilderness, is the ultimate cure for so many of our mental health problems. Hiking the trail all day and eating in the fresh air is a feeling that’s hard to describe. Crawling into a sleeping bag at the end of a day on the trail has to be the best feeling available, better than any feeling we could ever get in a five star hotel? Depending on the depth of the feeling one requires.

 

Walk the talk
Camping in the wilderness

Will part of us always be a “hunter gatherer”?

Will part of us always be a “hunter gatherer” at heart ?

hunter gatherer at heart
Hunting for food was a way of life once.

No matter how sophisticated we think we are in our comfortable western society, there will always be an element of the “hunter gatherer” within us. A certain few still have the desire to hunt and kill animals. But for the majority of us, these tendencies are concealed in a less noticeable way. Myself and many others experience this feeling when we are exposed to nature for a period of time. The first opportunity I had to really experience this, was when I was around seventeen years old. I went to Canada with a friend of mine where we met up with his older brother, we took a camping trip through the national parks and countryside between Toronto and Montreal. This was in the late sixties and even though it was a popular pastime, it wasn’t quite as sanitized as it is today.

Sitting around the “camp fire” in the shadows listening to the wild life all around us. The wind blowing through the trees, the clear night sky and in those days the proximity of bears, foraging for food, gave me a “primitive” feeling. This felt very different to what I had been used to living close to London. It didn’t feel strange or even different though, it felt “right” as if this was how it was meant to be. Today, the first major problem most people will have, is disconnecting from social media. Dare I suggest leaving all the electronic gadgets at home, this includes the satellite navigation system. Even in the late sixties, where life was relatively simple, we were closer to our “hunter gatherer” roots than we are now in 2017.

Are we getting farther and farther away from our “hunter gatherer” past?

Is this the fundamental underlying problem that we have, without even realizing that we have a problem. Food sharing and cooperation are central to “hunter gatherer” societies. “Hunter gatherers” exist in multi-level social structures, to help regulate cooperative systems. Furthermore, these social structures regulate rules, friendship, kinship ties and the spread of social norms. Central to this, is an extended family environment where everyone looks out for each other. We see this as primitive now, because we think we have evolved into a society that has all the answers. At an intellectual level we may have a lot of the answers, but unfortunately we also have a lot of unanswered questions to think about.

Community is an essential part of life in these “primitive” societies, we have almost stopped “hunter gathering” for our food supply now. We eat more and more processed food now, as it’s convenience helps us cope with our hectic lifestyles. At the same time that I was in Canada on my trip through the forests. My mother was walking to town everyday with her shopping basket. Purchasing fresh food from the “fish mongers” the “butchers” and other individual outlets. I can remember “Tesco” being no bigger than my local newsagent is today. Community was organic, it just existed, by virtue of  people walking everywhere. Loneliness the disease of the 21st century, had hardly been “invented” at this stage. A lot of the ailments that loneliness would bring, hadn’t as yet, started to develop.

A “Hunter gatherer” problem manifesting as something else.

There is always an internal battle going on in each of us in two conflicting parts, one is our center of rationality and high minded logic. But unfortunately these feelings are trapped inside a biological animal, who mostly cares about survival, which is linked to our tribal past. The farther we move away from this  tribal past, the worse this problem seems to be. But we can design our lives like a “hunter” traveling light, and in doing this, we can set up our lives in such a way, that we can be quite comfy with very little money. The “Hunter Gatherer” is not possessed by his possessions. The modern worker unfortunately, is often one pay check away from the street. With more attention paid to our basic needs, instead of our wants, we can have long stretches where the “hunting” is not so good, but we can still survive.

 

hunter gatherer at heart
A more simple way of life could be the answer.

 

Why it’s depressing to stop walking after an extended period

There is plenty of evidence that walking is good for us.

Supporting evidence overwhelmingly confirms that walking is good for us in almost every way possible. Research shows getting up and walking around for two minutes out of every hour can increase our lifespan by 33 percent, slash our risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and more. One study found that walking for two miles a day, can cut our chances of hospitalization from heart disease by about half. Another study found that a daily walk for at least an hour, reduced the risk of having a stroke in men over the age of 60, and it doesn’t  matter how brisk the pace is. While a three-hour long walk each day slashes the risk by two-thirds.

Walking also triggers our body to release natural pain-killing endorphins, so the more steps we take during the day, the better our mood tends to be. It’s even known to improve sleep, support our joint health, improve circulation, and reduce the incidence of disability in those over 65. One of the most common mental benefits of walking, is stress relief. It also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. Regardless of our age, or fitness level, it’s never too late to start walking and enjoy the physical and mental health benefits.

Walking a long way.

Walking depression
Walking long distances

With all this overwhelming evidence, it seems natural to assume, if we hike a greater distance we must get more benefits. Most of us who embark on a long hike, do so, seeking change, with the hope that we can walk ourselves into a new body or a new state of mind. The therapeutic benefits of long distance hiking are well documented. There is historical evidence, of men in military units experiencing these therapeutic benefits on the lengthy walk home, after fighting a campaign abroad. On this journey, soldiers would slowly process and come to terms with the experiences they had lived through. Unlike today with modern transportation, where military personnel can be back home in a matter of days.

Various organizations, started by the men who suffered these experiences, have appeared. Sean Gobin hiked all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail in America, after returning home from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Sean founded “Warrior Expeditions” that supports combat veterans transitioning from their military service by participating in long distance hiking expeditions. A few return year after year, the trail  becoming the center of gravity around which their lives center.

Depression after walking a long way.

Taking an extended hike for months at a time, necessitates being able to find the time and commitment, so it’s not a decision taken lightly. It also demands that you get to know pain intimately on a daily basis, and to be able to push through it. The complexity of life also changes, because for an extended period of time, we truly live in the present. This presents problems as the hike draws to an end, a realization that what has become “normal” is about to change. It also takes the body a few days to realize that we have stopped hiking, and this grace period seems to last for a few days. It is as if, after these few days without hiking, the body’s control center says, “finally this death march is over, now I can begin doing all of the repairs I’ve been putting off for months”.

For many through hikers, after months of living in a world where you’ve had a lot of control over every detail of your life, you’re again thrust into a world of decisions and conflict. It seems as if, people who live in the “real world” and haven’t experienced what you have, just don’t get how different the world can be. On a through hike, life is simple, but back here in the real world, things are complicated. The desire to give up all the advances of society to go back to a “better world” is strong. You may be hit with a sense of “powerlessness with an absence of hope”

When you stop walking there is no community anymore.

One of my favorite parts of  through hiking is the community. A place where people from all walks of live come together, irrespective of their socioeconomic class or background. On a through hike, we share self-imposed struggles that bring us closer together. Real society, for all of its comforts, is often lacking any sense of community. At first, being home is great after your long adventure. No more foot, leg or back pain, a temperature controlled home with real comfort, with a family who wants to hear about your hike and see photos. But after a while they’re over it and you’re over it and your through hike is still all you can think about. Your homesick for a place that doesn’t have a roof, again.

 

Walking depression
A sense of community

Childhood vows subtle decisions made.

Childhood vows subtle decisions made
Childhood vows

 

Childhood Vows how subtle ways of thinking effect us later in life.

Questioning childhood assumptions is a good place to start. I’m not talking about social and cultural conditioning, which effects all of us. These social and cultural beliefs can be and often are very limiting for us. There was also nuance thinking, unique to me, caused by subtle childhood vows I made. Innocent as they were, they became part of how I saw the world and the people around me. Attitudes were cemented throughout my childhood and teenage years, these moments were like forks in a road. They could have been catastrophic things or traumas, that may have been easier to understand. But these situations I have been thinking about were not significant at the time, but subtly put me onto a certain road for a period of years.

It’s these minor forks in the road, these were the choices I wasn’t aware of making, these choices are the ones that I have taken for granted as part of who I am. I realize now, that some of the forks in the road have caused me to have certain values and principles that I uphold, or have moved away from. This has made me think of the cost I may have paid, or am paying in my life in the present moment.

Having perspective.

I’m realistic, I’m not blaming myself or others, the pitfalls in the road are minor setbacks. I’m trying to be more flexible going forward. Often we are so sure of our beliefs, that we defend them and have arguments over them. We are so sure of the correct way to live life, that we look down on others who live and think differently. Liking the people who support our beliefs and disliking the one’s who don’t. We seek and defend the “truth” because we think such a thing really exists.

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius. There are thousands of remarks and situations we may encounter through our early years. Not every remark in life causes us to make a vow it’s only a decision to be a certain way. Having an attitude towards a certain situation, or no attitude at all. Or a vow is never made because the impression is not strong enough.

Childhood vows.

These could be some childhood vows that may solidify later. A young boy prepares a speech to give to his class, he’s really excited and his parents realize how important it is to their child. He stands up in front of the class and in his excitement forgets the words he wants to say. The teacher remarks “that wasn’t very good, did you memorize what you were going to say as I asked you to. I’m sure the others will have done what I told them, and not forget their words.” The boy makes a vow to never speak in front of people again, because he feels humiliated. He doesn’t tell anyone, but for the rest of his life, he can never summon up the courage to ever express himself properly around people. Obviously this leads to all sorts of problems.

A young girl is walking down the street with her mother. There is a homeless person begging for money on the sidewalk. The mother tells her daughter that the person is a bum, worthless and no good to anybody. If you don’t work really hard in school and make me happy by being a good girl. You will end up just like that and disappoint your father and me. The young girl makes a vow, I will work extra hard in everything I do. I don’t want to end up like that homeless person or disappoint my parents. She goes on to have a good career, but has little empathy for others, which causes problems in her marriage later on. This vow could have taken the girl in another direction, depending on her perspective. She could have resented her mother for the same remark.

More Childhood vows.

A boy is chastised at school for being untidy and having a messy desk. He makes a vow to be good and never be messy again, always wanting things to be tidy in his life. He ends up avoiding any type of confrontation and maintains order in everything he does. His own children are messy and he finds this extremely hard to deal with, leading to other problems.

A girl is at the outdoor market with her mother. A man is eating a take away, chewing with his mouth open. The mother makes a disparaging remark, “that man is a pig, do you see the way he chews his food, he is no better than an animal.” The girl makes a vow to never be like that, but in doing so, makes constant judgements of others manners. Becoming very dogmatic in her attitudes towards people. She carries this into her relationships, with obvious problems.

My Childhood vows.

I can remember a couple of forks in my road that I believe, had a profound effect on me. My father was reading the local paper, he came across an article about a man who had worked at the same company all his life. He made a remark that he felt sorry for the man, how could he waste his whole life in one place. Never experiencing the world and everything it had to offer. What good was a watch and a retirement party, when he had given up so much. As a result I realized years later, that I made a vow to never be like that man, I would travel and have different jobs and experience as many things as I possibly could.

I have been in the work force for 50 years and have never been in a job for longer than four years. Due to my apprenticeship where I had no other option, but I managed to take time out to travel even then. I married and had two sons, we moved around a lot, working in different places. I look back on that vow today and realize what a profound effect it had on my life. Not only that but other peoples lives as well. Lots of positives though, both my sons are very confident men now, I’m sure that going to different schools, may of helped their confidence. They have both said “thanks, we  know what we don’t want, we want to settle and provide a stable life for our own children.” In a counter intuitive way it has all worked out.

Another Vow.

We lived in a quiet street in a very conservative town in England, everybody knew each others business and made judgements accordingly. Our next door neighbor who lived on his own for a number of years. Suddenly went to prison for child molestation offences, it was the talk of the street. No smoke without fire of course, but no one knew the full story, unless you believed all the gossip. Evidently something happened, because he returned home a few months later. No one would speak to him and tried to pretend he didn’t exist. My father surprised me with his reaction, much to my mothers distain.

I heard him say “I don’t care what anybody says, he’s a good neighbor and he’s still more than welcome in this house.  I’m not going to judge him. While he’s lonely and ostracized and I’m not prepared to stand by and let this situation continue.” They were good friends from that time on and for many years, they had a cup of tea and a chat every afternoon until my father passed away. The vow I made then, not to judge others and help out when I can. Has stayed with me from those teenage years until this day. Those two vows I made, worked out well in the end. Since there were other moments, but as I said before, not every remark makes us take a childhood vow, it comes down to our attitude at the time.

 

Crabs in a bucket

Crabs In a bucket, “If I can’t have it, neither can you”.

The crab in a bucket theory, refers to the behavior of crabs, when placed inside a bucket.  While a single crab can escape if several are in the bucket, none will escape.  As one crab claws it’s way to the top, the others pull it back down.  The other crabs will kill the one trying to get out, if it continues to pull itself to the edge of the bucket, while not staying down with the other crabs.  This is a true phenomenon.  The crab mentality is a metaphor for the human response to self improvement in others.  So often when people see others advancing, they subconsciously or consciously reach out to hold them back.

Also with negative talk, gossiping and biting at each other, and not achieving anything in life.  While never trying to get out of the bucket.  Members of the group, will attempt to negate and diminish any member, who achieves success beyond the excepted normality of the group. Hence they will use envy, spite, conspiracy or competitiveness and other methods.

Do you have the crab mentality ?

Do you have the crab mentality or are you surrounded by others with this mentality?  There are so many reasons we don’t want to lose people in our lives.  Since we don’t want to be lonely, be excluded, feel disappointed, or upset people.  Therefore we are in fact being people pleasers.  We have to be willing to lose people in our lives who are not supporting us, or who have the crab mentality.  They want to drag us back down, kicking us in the “guts” passively or aggressively. While talking to us in a way that makes us feel unworthy, we end up selling ourselves short.  While missing out on the dreams we may have been capable of achieving.

1. Request support.

When I go after my dreams, I would love you to be supportive of my efforts, it’s not going to be easy for me to attempt these new things.  Because it’s important to me that I have your backing in this endeavor. With your help, I would like us both, to benefit from any positive feelings we can share together.

2 Set boundaries.

Don’t allow yourself to get caught in a trap.  We may not be ready to let go of this person, but if their unwilling to support us, or help us to realize our dreams.  We have to advise them it’s not going to be as comfortable spending time with them.

3 Cut back your time with these people.

Reduce your time with these people, spend more time with people who believe in an “abundance” mindset not a “crab” mentality.  Most of all spend more time with people who want everyone around them to win in their endeavors.  “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” Jim Roan

The crab mentality has to go.  If people are saying negative things, or have a bad attitude, running off at the mouth about what’s not possible.  Or are, opposed to taking action and showing others what is possible, then you don’t want to spend time with these individuals.  You can continue to love them from a distance, but not allow your energy to be pulled down, with this negative crab mentality.  It’s time to be true to yourself and eliminate the crabs from your life, our calling belongs to us and us alone.  If we continue to hide behind beliefs we were raised with, people pleasing to make others feel comfortable, we’re never going to grow into the person we’re meant to be.  More importantly, we’re never going to do the work we’re here to do.

Don’t be afraid of losing people, be more afraid of losing yourself.                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Crabs in a bucket
I’m free at last

                                                                     

Adventure Gap

There is an adventure gap between our purchases and the activities they may be able to perform. These products allow us to feel like we are living an adventurous life. While remaining comfortable and safe.                                                                                                                                                                 

Adventure gap
Destruction of nature

The new Toyota Highlander blurb highlights some of these anomalies. While already assuming that we can be driving in the highlands of Scotland. Now we don’t just sit around we go out and discover nature, the new aggressive front grill, says you have an attitude, for adventure. It does go on to mention 5 ports to charge up your mobile devices, enhancing convenience, but still suggesting that they are mobile like their users.  The “highlander” branding connotation, struck me as quite odd when I was in Scotland at the start of the West Highland Way hike.

The small town of Milngavie is the gateway to the Highlands for hikers. Walking across the Tesco car park, I could not believe how many four wheel drive vehicles there were.  I’m used to that living in a small country town in Australia. Here a woman in a normal car, was trying to reverse out of a car space between two of these high sided monsters. I acted as a car park attendant and guided her out into the flow of other monsters.

An advertisement in Australia came to mind, it felt strange there, but here it felt ridiculous. The”highlander”driving in nature, to the top of a beautiful hill, the vegetation being flattened.  As the “highlander” carries it’s passengers into a comfortable adventure. Multiply that outwards and we quickly have an ecological disaster to deal with.  The edginess of the advertisement implied, that you are getting away from it all, on your own adventure. Yet not explaining that you would be surrounded by other adventurers. Like the four wheel drive park at Tesco’s.   

Adventure brands.                                                                                     

As the economic market seeks consumption, it’s looking to the edges to involve the”wild”of nature. To tame it with comfort, for economic advantage.  Hybrid branding is everywhere, as we become separated from simple adventure, we naturally crave more. The branding can be all that’s needed, leaving only a word association to the freedom of nature. Utility vehicles once carried the tools and equipment of working men in a functional way.

Now their being branded to apply to a younger man. Certain utility vehicles are becoming edgy, suggesting one use but supporting another. A sports car look with striking metallic colors, canopies enclose the back, but lower to the ground. Nature can’t be left out in this branding of a free spirit, Breeze and thunder are two names that feature on the livery, but I’m sure there are others.

The high costs.

The relatively high purchase cost of all these recreational vehicles compared to most normal vehicles. Suggests, that many individuals are taking out loans, to fund this sense of freedom. Get away from it all, but make sure you work hard enough to service the loan.  For a while I noticed a small sprig of colored flowers as a decal on small sedan cars.  This was intended towards the feminine market, but I haven’t seen these around for awhile. To win the hearts of women, they needed  to create an emotional response, which I’m not sure a car can do.

Four wheel drive vehicles can evoke a feeling of safety for women and their children. Surrounded by various heavy duty components and also being higher above the road.  “Highlander” has a different feature with women in mind, a microphone system that makes talking to passengers in the back seats easier.  Telling the kids to pipe down and behave is a breeze, but neglects to say if they’ll listen.

The gap.

There is an adventure gap in our clothing as well, the things that we own were designed for more dangerous activities, than they actually perform. A Patagonia puffer jacket, designed to withstand freezing temperatures on the side of a mountain, is traversing the freezer section in the local supermarket. Hiking boots designed for the Himalayas are scaling the terrain of the local farmers market. There is an anomaly as well, as the outdoor equipment stores adopt clever disguises. The local outdoor shop is selling socks that picture hikers on the lower slopes of Everest. There  pretending to sell adventure equipment, but they are actually selling boring stuff like normal clothing.

Don’t buy this jacket” Patagonia to give away all retail revenues on black Friday”                          

Adventure gap
Putting nature back

While not the biggest supplier of outdoor equipment. Patagonia made a grand gesture when it gave away 10 million in Black Friday sales. The American Presidents lack of support to the global warming debate supposedly caused this action.  Registered in California as a benefit corporation donating 1% of annual gross revenues. So far it’s given around  74 million through this initiative. It’s still a small player in the American market and with only a tiny slice of the 4 billion a year European market.

The black Friday gesture was a move to eschew capitalist values on Americas busiest shopping day.  Despite telling customers not to buy its jacket, Patagonia’s sales on black Friday actually increased. The companies grand gesture didn’t include discounted items, but drew thousands of first time customers.  Thoughtful consumption, the idea is that enlightened consumers don’t buy what companies do, they buy the reasons why companies do what they do.  Intelligent consumers, or another branding trick?

Rewilding humans and nature.

Rewilding principals.

A Forest Monks program is offered by the rewilding university based in Wisconsin USA.  Also intensive training in ancestral skills, mental and emotional strength, primal fitness and much more.  Furthermore a less practical version that entails, joining an online community of monks who explore the connection with nature and self.  Rewilding, is the latest craze in the health and fitness world, its all about living a feral lifestyle.  Also this lifestyle may bring you back into sync with nature.  Probably making you healthier and happier than you ever thought possible.

There is a promise to rewild  your taste buds and access your nourish sense.  As a result the body uses it’s own natural ability to know what is good to eat for health.  Not relying on prescription drugs to solve chronic health issues, wild food, herbal and mushroom based medicines are often used.  Criminals are locked up to rehabilitate them back into society. It’s only after we become domesticated, that we are more capable of unnatural acts.  Most of all these show up as prejudices violence, greed and selfishness that seem to characterize modern society.

Human experience.Rewilding

The truth is, rewilding is more about inner change than outer change, but this can present a problem.  As we move further into an urban, technological future, we move further away from the natural forces that shape our minds.  How do we get back in touch with them?  The human rewilding model suggests that with an increasing awareness of nature, we start to remember where we came from. We forge a connection with our inner essential being. Our experience of nature is being changed by technology as we experience nature second hand through a variety of screens.  Wild walk apps are starting to appear on our phones.  With articles that advise on how to do it  with regard to walking in nature.

What you need.

What you need  for a thirty minute walk heading into the wilderness.  Wear hiking boots, trails can be uneven, watch out for your weak ankles, carry water, a first aid kit, find your adventurous spirit, with endless products to buy.  Another piece of  sound advise, but for a thirty minute hike!  Since how far are we going into the wilderness?   Another sign of social correctness gone to far, trying to wrap us in a warm fluffy blanket.

Back to nature.

Rewilding, can have many forms, we can’t all go back to nature as many of us feel the need to, it’s not practical, luckily for nature.  The rewilding experience that’s on offer at various locations, can help us to see things through a slightly different wilding lens.  Many wild animals make the transition to establish their homes in our civilized environment.  Hence they still retain their wildness, foraging for food and shelter, but their footprint is not as heavy, or as pervasive as ours.  Most of the time in our busy lives we never encounter them. Unless we consciously observe them on rare occasions.  Can we be in nature and not be noticed?  As each generation passes, we move farther away from our wild beginnings.  Rewilding and many other disciplines recognize, that emersion of any kind in nature, can only help the human spirit.

“Wild” into nature.

“Rewilding Australia” aims to improve the trajectory for Australian wildlife, and increase ecosystem resilience to future threats.  Part of this rewilding is introducing native species back into the wild.  Most countries around the world are attempting similar programs. In addition, nature has to be preserved for itself and for the benefit of future generations. Rewilding humans or introducing wild animals back into nature can only be a good thing, together it might make a profound difference.

Is the soft blanket attempt the right solution? making it more inviting for everybody.  The less serious should be encouraged to walk around the park.  While still walking for half an hour but carry less equipment.  Consequently they won’t roll their ankle on uneven ground, or need  to carry a first aid kit.  Propaganda is often used with great effect, propaganda needs to be used now to try and keep the wild in nature.  “Keep out” rewilding in progress.

Rubbish and erosion

Rubbish and erosion.

While hiking on the local tracks I have become aware of the erosion that is taking place as more people use the tracks for recreational use. Rubbish and vandalism is another problem.  An old mattress dumped and boxes of old clothes, obviously didn’t drop out of some one’s pocket by mistake, it was a conscious act.  I’m sure there will be lots of  reasons to  justify this behavior, as there usually is nowadays. Empty fast food boxes and discarded beer cans say the same thing, it’s easy to pick up, or is it just laziness. I know the tracks are not there just for my benefit, they are there to be shared.  The erosion from trail bikes can only make matters worse.  Erosion can’t be put in a bin or taken down to the local landfill

Close to the road.

The tracks are relatively close to roadways, so they become an easy target for abuse.  A closeness to the public, who will not be using the tracks for there intended purpose. If your there to enjoy nature and an experience out of the everyday.  Then you will not want to bring a sense of the everyday into nature. Is there a naïve mindset taking place that see’s nature as a benevolent parent.  Nature is harsh and inhospitable at times, it can also be inviting as well.  Is a form of escapism the thing we are really looking for.  Or is it a sign that someone is less in love with nature, than out of love with society.

Hiking Etiquette.

Green science can be learned by hikers to protect nature, hiking etiquette is quite obvious in straight forward ways.  “Take you litter home” “keep on the pathway” bury human waste at least 200 feet from water sources or campsites.  The not so obvious, take your used toilet paper with you, at the other end of the scale, but just as valuable.  Clothing without natural earth colors, can be seen from miles away. This can contribute to a crowded feeling on the trail.

Encouragement to not litter.

The Hong Kong government has taken the bold step of removing litter bins from certain hiking trails on a trial basis.  This sounds a bit backward, but over filled bins where rubbish was blowing everywhere and foraging animals was adding to a serious problem.  Posters at the entrances urge hikers to take their crap home with them.  Nature ambassadors, along with park rangers try to enforce the trail laws.  Variations of this concept are going on in many other places around the world.  These hiking trails are referred to as “country parks”  that can attract up to 11 million visitors a year.  This is  a huge volume by any standards.

The West Highland Way.

The “West Highland Way” in Scotland, while not attracting millions of visitors every year, is still a very popular hike.  The trail is crowded at certain peak seasonal periods, which creates its own issues. The trail is 95 miles, therefore it’s not a “park” and can’t be policed in the same way.  Most of the organized groups have leaders that understand nature etiquette.  Individual hikers maybe not so much, but there were no signs of serious littering. The erosion of the track in certain areas is particularly bad especially when traversing the edge of Loch Lomond.  Though not very far from civilization, it’s extremely inaccessible and problematic to repair or to regenerate in a successful way.

Repairs.

Closing the trail for repairs or regeneration, would take away the ambition and self glory of completing a very iconic hike.  A badge on one of my bags says “I walked the West Highland Way,” that’s the problem, I’m part of that problem. Not wanting to go home and say that I nearly completed the trail but not quite, it just wouldn’t sound right. Unfolding that concept, is a work in progress for an older newbie who still has things to learn.

Everest.

Vanity, ambition and self glory are creating problems on the slopes of Everest, the worlds highest mountain.  These concepts are driving individuals seeking publicity, a very dangerous combination in a potential “death zone.”  Death on the lower slopes and on the slope to the summit have not gone up, but haven’t come down either.  Not withstanding the earth quake that claimed so many lives in 2015.

Clean ups.

Clean up’s have collected tons of rubbish, empty oxygen bottles, lost and abandoned gear also remain scattered on the peak.  Lack of a solid waste management system, has for decades seen expedition members emptying their bowels wherever they could.  Human feces has accumulated in the snow, with streams of excrement periodically regurgitated by the glaciers on the mountain.  Most disturbing, are the corpses which can’t be safely removed.  Some corpses have been there for years and have become part of the landscape.

Glory seekers.

The rubbish at the top of the world is caused by humans and has roots in the culture of ambition and self glory.  Client climbers are part of a high altitude business, capitalizing on dreams of triumph among a relatively inexperienced, but wealthy elite. Client climbers breath bottled oxygen for much of the climb, it’s been said that without artificial means, many hikers and climbers, wouldn’t stand a chance of making it to the summit.  Purists say that using bottled oxygen is lowering the height of the mountain.  Tighter regulations in a relatively poor country could lead to a sharp decrease in the number of hikers trekking the Everest region, striking a huge blow to the local economy.  Imposing more stringent controls is understandable but have been pushed to one side.

Local hikes may be the answer.

rubbish and erosion
As the volume of people increases so will the rubbish

From local tracks that have problems with rubbish and erosion on a small scale.   To countries that have vast amounts of hikers needing  to contain huge amounts of rubbish and erosion.  Issues can only be solved out of nature within the public realm,  money is part of the problem and part of the answer.   Attaining  a sensory experience within nature, in a natural environment, will be progressively harder to find.  Going back to the local tracks around your area, could the answer. I would encourage you not to tell everyone about your plans, you may need signs and extra bins, or a smart strategy to take care of your once quiet track

Grandmas way or the Credit card

Grandma

The tent, sleeping bag and backpack, are the major items carried by a through hiker. There are various arguments to consider, with balance for each individual, being the most important. Ray Jardine the rock climber popularized ultralight backpacking in a 1992 Hikers handbook later retitled Beyond backpacking, the foundation for what was to follow. Grandma Gatewood, was aged 67, when she became the first woman to hike the entire 2050 miles of the Appalachian Trail alone in 1955. A mother of 11 and grandmother of 23, she survived more than 30 years of marriage to a brutal man who beat her repeatedly.

Media coverage.

It’s been said, that the media coverage of her hike, led to the restoration of the trail, inspiring a new generation of hikers. The reporters thought they were talking to a widow, as that’s how she described herself. They didn’t know the awful truth, so couldn’t describe, what we now know, as domestic violence. This begs the question, was she walking towards something, or walking away? She carried a blanket and a plastic shower curtain to protect herself from the elements. She had no sleeping bag or tent, but relied on the hospitality of strangers and her own resourcefulness.

Circumstances.

Circumstances dictate most things in our lives, most people today, would not choose to set off on a hike with extremely little preparation. In 2017 we have a plethora of choice, with designers making better tents and equipment giving consumers a greater choice. Modern tents, began to take shape around the 1960’s, pegs were introduced to stake the tent down, and new lightweight metal poles began replacing wooden frames. The 1970’s, saw a boom in interest in backpacking which has led to a linear progress towards the equipment we can choose today. This hike and seeker has his own way of organizing things, weight is important, but I’m not obsessional about it.

My tent of choice.

My tent of choice is the Wilderness equipment space 1 person lightweight tent with an inner tent for warmer weather, or just the fly as shelter, or combined. By inverting the walking poles to become part of the framework, weighs 1.53 kilos and has stood up to many high winds. This tent, already has lots of memories, setting it up in the garden numerous times, more than I would care to mention, with much laughter ensuing. I read somewhere you can never get your tent up and down fast enough in a strong wind or rain, the laughter was worth it. The tent, felt safe, snug and almost womb like, this may be pushing the boundaries, but that’s how it felt. My wife said that it looked like I was sleeping in a coffin, so who knows.

Other choices.

As more people began to enjoy the benefits of hiking in nature, tent makers saw the need for season and activity specific tents. Generally as weight decreases, the skill to use a shelter safely increases.  There are many alternatives for weather protection, single layer hybrids, hammocks, poncho-tarps or a bivouac sack configuration. A lightweight enclosed tent, works for me on many levels. The space 1 is a four season tent so its very adaptable to what ever season you find yourself in. The inner layer for warm weather, the outer layer, for wet weather protection.  I have always combined the two, because it suited the conditions at the time.

Comfortable sleeping.

I have a thermarest neoair ultralight hiking mattress. A bag can be attached to the inflation toggle, to inflate and be used as a carry bag. I have used this as a laundry bag when camping out for longer periods.  To top off my sleeping arrangements, I have a Mont Prolite 300 sleeping bag, this is down filled, another personal choice. The use of down as an insulation material, is lighter by volume, than currently available synthetic fibers. The argument between down and synthetic goes on. Moisture causes loft loss in down, my choice is down, it’s lighter and condenses better for packing away. If getting it damp is a problem, then don’t.

Convenience.

It neatly teams up with the thermarest mattress as it has no down on the bottom and Velcro straps that pass around the thermarest, to hold it in place. I have my backpack outside the inner tent but protected by the outer fly sheet, which becomes my organized storage area. Easily reached by unzipping the inner tent door without having to leave my sleeping bag on a cold night.

Credit card

Looking  at this from my own perspective, I have a sense of the “tool box” effect, I can’t remember the countless hours that went into researching all my equipment, it could be  a male thing, to have an organized tool box. Grandma Gatewood, set off with nothing, by todays standards, I can’t imagine many hikers wanting to put themselves in that position now. We can still have less, but better quality and embrace the absolute minimum like Grandma, but have our credit card in our pocket just in case.

Grandma
Wilderness equipment ultra light tent Swiss farm camp site Henley-on-Thames  England

 

Hike and seeker

Hike and seeker.

Seeker
Seeking

Hike and seeker, is a site for linking ideas and thoughts while on the trail. I hope to provide a platform that while not age specific, will possibly link a more mature agenda to the content. I should add that just because it leans towards a more mature hiker.  It doesn’t mean that we mature hikers can’t be told to “get our heads out of the sand” and look at things in a different way. My only fixed point is, I’m nearer to the end of my life than the beginning.

I have been seeking ‘something’ for as long as I can remember. It started in my teenage years, and has been my constant companion ever since. A knee injury a couple of years ago, changed my life in so many ways. I had over a year to reflect on my feelings as life became a very long weekend for me. My recovery process started with a rehabilitation program so that I could walk properly again. Part of the program was physiotherapy, starting with walking short distances, then building to longer walks over time.  The rehabilitation program included visits with a phycologist as my mental health was not progressing as well as my physical health. There were lots of  “why me” moments that those close to me were having to deal with as well.

Seeker.

The seeking part of my life was becoming more exposed now. As I grappled with thoughts of retirement and how that might work financially. Hide and Seek is a game we have all played at some stage of our lives. It seemed to be a metaphor for how I viewed my life.  Hide, was something I had always been doing.  Hiding my feelings, emotions, abilities and how I truly wanted to interact with the world around me. I was wrestling with all these feelings, trying to seek a way forward to firmer ground. A lack of confidence was locking my emotions in, and without these being released, the seeking was becoming harder to achieve. I started walking around the park. Then on rougher and more undulating ground, to test my knee.  This is where my journey really begins.

I started to become aware of a gradual change in my thoughts, as I walked in the forest and tracks around my home town.  Looking for solitude, with my hikes getting longer, seeking that solitude. Everything started taking on a new meaning, with one thing leading to the next.  Which started me thinking about my physical health apart from my knee. I wondered what a hiker might wear, what to eat for energy, how much water should I drink.?  Could I extend these hikes with a tent.?

The terminology behind what you would imagine is a simple concept, started to mean more. Layering your clothing, goose down or duck down, hiking boots or shoes.  The list of new words were endless at this stage, as I was being drawn into this new world of possibilities. Of course, as with any leisure pursuit that regular people can attempt, business possibilities were endless and accordingly, confusion started to be a part of that.

Destination.

People have been putting one foot in front of the other for as long as anyone can remember. Then the benefit was simply to get to a destination, with hardly a conscious awareness of the activity of walking, as a form of exercise. In our multi-layered and complex world, where we are bombarded with choice. Nothing has fundamentally changed we still walk, but it’s different now. Our thoughts have also become more complex. But once we’re on the trail, for an extended period of time, it changes again. The mental baggage we carry, seems to fall  away and again we are just putting one foot in front of the other.

The thoughts we do have seem to be more in the moment. This has become part of being a hike and seeker enjoying this feeling.  Now that I have become aware of these changes in myself. I plan to extend my hiking onto tougher trails, with more solitude and with more time to think. My first venture was in April 2016, when I went to Scotland to hike ‘The West Highland Way’ camping out each night. My next hike this year, will be the ‘Cape to Cape’ close to my home town here in Western Australia.

Retirement.

I don’t think that age should have any effect on our abilities or our dreams. We do need to take better care of our health.  Not that we can’t perform as well as younger hikers, it just takes a bit more effort to arrive at the same destination. As I go into my retirement years, I hope to prove all these things to myself. I’m working hard to keep myself fit and healthy. Exercising, and trying to eat the right foods. I’m passionate about an activity for the first time in my life, I have arrived late on the trail, but not too late.  “Better late than never” springs to mind.

If you are starting your hiking experience late in life, I would love to hear your story.  How you got started and what, if anything you are seeking. I’m making an observation, that most hikers are predominately younger. Younger than me anyway, but I don’t believe this is a reason to not be a Hike and Seeker.

Seeker
Which way ?

 

Hiking for therapy.

Hiking therapy.

It would seem obvious that hiking in the fresh air and in a quiet environment would be beneficial to our health and well being.  I think this would be hard to dispute. While I don’t think there needs to be a scientific answer to everything. Yet I do think being aware of how we are feeling in the moment, can be very helpful in a therapeutic way.  Being able to recognize what a good feeling actually feels like, is different from an affirmation of  ‘this is how I’m going to feel.’  Its very much like happiness, we are always striving to be happy, but happiness comes when we least expect it.

Often it happens when we are immersed in something outside ourselves, which has been my own experience. While it can’t be denied that happiness can be found inside ourselves. I think our minds are becoming overloaded with data, due to our very busy lives and constant exposure to social media.

Our brains are having to filter much more information and adding to the problem is, the shallowness of this information. This mainly comes to us in bite size pieces now. Looking at something more substantial requires our brain to reason and contemplate more. Yet in the mainstream media anything substantial is becoming harder to find. I was reading a book recently and on a page at the end of the first chapter were these words.  “Congratulations, you are one of a select few who have made it to the end of the first chapter, please enjoy the rest of the book.”  Then I wondered if it might of been better to issue the challenge on the front page.  “This book has substantial content, are you up to the challenge?”

Hiking therapy
Therapy amongst the trees

Hiking in nature.

Research shows that even brief interactions with nature can soothe our minds. Also it’s similar to immersing our minds in something more complex and at some point, reaching a state of flow. Nature has its own unique qualities. The benefits of hiking in nature are, decreased anxiety, brooding and negative emotions. Also decreasing ruminations, the habit of thinking over and over about causes and consequences of negative experiences.  “Shirin yoku” a term that means” taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing,” was developed in Japan in the 1980’s. Consequently becoming a corner stone of preventative health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

Various studies have concluded that inhaling air containing essential wood oils given off by plants. Also the sound of birds, cool air, green leaves, trees, wild plants and grasses.  Finally coupling this with the atmosphere of the forest, all leading to a very calming affect.

I have had all of these experiences myself. My sense of calmness comes from open countryside, green fields and country lanes, with very few trees. I think this links to memories of childhood and earlier experiences of that beauty. Other people may see it in a similar way, or for the scenery in its own right. If I had lived around the forests of Canada, my bias may of been different. My  experience is, that often every aspect of nature can happen on the one trail, forests, fields, mountains, rivers and the list goes on. When a part of the trail starts to meander through your particular idea of beauty and calmness.  You can feel yourself smiling and drinking in the feelings. Nature provides a live and dynamic environment, which can lead to a sensory experience. This could be similar to putting your feet in an icy mountain stream.

Hiking in solitude.

Hiking in solitude, can create a different perspective from our everyday life. The longer you spend in solitude the more your perspective starts to change.  A new way of seeing things begins to happen as our relationship with nature becomes more intimate. I think you come into an alternate grounding with the world around you. Losing any sense of hierarchy, or rights of possession. They no longer seem relevant to your experience. You only realize these feelings when you return to your everyday surroundings. For a while many things may seem odd or strange, because you have lost those formal boundaries for a while.

Hiking therapy
Solitude for therapy

These higher level feelings of connection with nature take time and can’t be rushed.  They come slowly, as the pressing thoughts you began with start to dissolve. While a high level of fitness helps, not in the experience itself, but in allowing you to forget about your body. Your more able to take your fitness as a given, which allows you to concentrate on inner feelings. As if you were in some way, separate from any bodily constraints. This can be seen as a form of walking meditation. How long you need to be in nature to achieve this, is a personal thing. Since it will depend on many variables.

Personal feelings.

Time in nature and what can be achieved is a personal thing, while our time constrained lives allow only brief encounters with nature, this can be all that’s needed to make a difference to our perceptions.  Hence this can be in a forest. Walking along the beach. Visiting a local park or at a micro level buying a pot plant that will soften and enhance your personal space. Hiking, in my experience, can be a source of therapy and the benefits for me have been easy to feel. I would encourage you to find out for yourself, if the benefits I have found from hiking, will apply to you.

Hiker for ever.

Hiker for ever.

The Australian pension age requirements are 65 years of age or older. From 1 July 2017, the qualifying age for the age pension will increase by 6 months every 2 years reaching 67 by the 1 July 2023, I’m sure this will increase in the future. Regardless of any argument, either way we are perceived to be living longer than when the pension was first introduced in Australia. In 1909, it was originally 60 for women and 65 for men, living longer is being acknowledged in the pension debate now. Giving us every chance to imagine we could be a hiker for ever.

“Why” factor.

I have been thinking, we are living longer and that is official, so shouldn’t we be trying to enjoy those extra years.  If our investments and income are high enough, then of course we can pursue the high road and do it in style.  Am I using this argument that I’m making to ease my pain as I’m unable to finance my life going forward in style and comfort.?  I acknowledge that these thoughts did cross my mind as they are reflected by the people that surround me.

I am sure you have experienced the “WHY ” factor.  Why are you doing this, why do you want to camp out at your age and why do you want to hike that distance, can’t you act your age and be sensible.  If you are lucky enough to have not encountered any of these’ WHYS ‘ then you can consider yourself very lucky.

“Grey” hiker

When you’re hiking the trail and ascending that steep pathway your lungs burning and your heart racing. Or descending a pathway with loose ground under you feet, just remember to keep it to yourself.  Only share it with your fellow hikers who understand and except that’s the way it is.  The grey hiker never go’s home at the end of the hike and admits to anybody they were ever in that position.  Rather slip quietly away and get yourself checked out. So if anyone asks, just say you went to get some Viagra to harden up for your next hike.

Of course age does have a way of showing up whether we like it or not. Hands up anybody past sixty who has not suffered from back problems. Hence it makes getting in and out of your small tent more problematical. Sleeping on the high tech mattress never feels quite so high tech in the morning.

Hiking etiquette.

I remember thinking about and experiencing these things and others on my hike in Scotland on the West Highland Way.  I admit to wondering how the hell you take a leak when you are hiking with a group, including a number of ladies as well. Like everything else it somehow works when it needs to. Dropping to the back of the group and stepping off the path is easy if your a man. Of course, harder for the ladies for obvious reasons. Since they require more of a pit stop but the pace just slowed until they caught up. Hiking etiquette at work.

Hiking for fitness.

The benefits from hiking are tremendous in a physical and mental sense.  Age does not need to become a factor at all with some simple precautions. First of all if your over fifty, overweight, out of shape, then get yourself checked out. If you need to be a work in progress, be that. Take on the task of getting your body and your mind into shape.  Since there really are no short cuts to this process, if you want it bad enough, you will get there. Don’t put a goal up on the board that is unrealistic to what you can achieve.

 You intrinsically know where your edge is in your fitness, just go to or a bit beyond that edge each time.  Just out of your comfort zone, but not too far. Therefore with incremental steps, if your disciplined, you will show quite rapid progress. If you go too fast too quickly, you will need more luck on your side to prevent injuries.

Sensible hiking.

While all this boring fitness stuff is going on, of course you will still be hiking, it obviously will become part of your program. This was part of my routine coming back from a knee injury. I can testify that it works and I will explain how it worked for me in another article. I went from moderately fit to walking twenty miles in one stretch on my first real hike. Of course all you seasoned hikers are scoffing at that. My experience was to go just beyond my comfort zone, at that particular part of my journey that was my edge.

 Hiking is a personal achievement it should be fun and not torture, hard work at times, but rewarding as well.  Hike and seek and enjoy the experience but, you will need to be fit enough to forget about your body.  Rather your able to spend time in your head, filtering the things you see and building your own story.

Hiker
Hiker for ever