Stop and Smell the Passionflowers

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not referring to the anticipated return of Game of Thrones. I’m talking about the time people start gearing up for thru-hikes and brewfests. As much as I’d love to talk about brewfests, that’s a different blog.

Every year, people inevitably ask me one of these questions: “Have you thru-hiked any of the long distance trails?” “Which trail do you want to thru-hike first?” “If you could thru-hike just one trail, which one would it be?”

In-N-Out Burger - ©️ Nicole Atkins

In-N-Out Burger - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Apparently, the direct path from southernmost to northernmost In-N-Out isn’t an acceptable answer. Whatever.

And every year, people stare at me in shock when my response is a casual lack of interest for the thru-hike. It seems every backpacker should be a thru-hiker. I must have missed that day at the Super Secret Annual Backpacker’s Meeting. Most likely I slept in, from staying up to watch Game of Thrones.

I have nothing against the thru-hike. I definitely see the appeal and have a yacht-load of respect for people who do it. It’s a difficult feat to be proud of, on a physical, mental, and emotional level. These are people who make sacrifices so they can enjoy the splendors of the outdoors, in raw form. Awesome.

Kanye Loves Kanye - ©️ Jen Lewis

Kanye Loves Kanye - ©️ Jen Lewis

But if I were to hike thousands of miles in one fell swoop, it would take me longer than it would take Kanye to stop obsessing over himself. That’s a very long time.

You get my point.

It’s not because I don’t like the idea of thru-hiking, or because I can’t make daily mileage. But rather than speed hiking my way through my voyage, I prefer to stop and smell the passionflowers. Then take pictures of them. (I’m not lugging around 20 pounds of camera gear for nothing.)

I mean, sure. I can stop once in a while, get a quick whiff, and push through, barely glimpsing the immense beauty around me. I’d much rather take my time to sniff that bad boy long enough to clog my sinuses for a week. Everything in life is a trade-off.

Passionflower - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Passionflower - ©️ Nicole Atkins

I can also rush through life, failing to appreciate simple pleasures like a stranger’s smile or double ply toilet paper. I’d rather take the time to revel in the moments that remind me how fortunate I am to be living, so I can wipe my ass in comfort.

It boils down to passion. We all have different passions, even in the outdoors. Some of us focus on distance, some of us focus on strength, some of us on aesthetics.

I'm the person who has to pause and freak out over how amazing everything is. Hyperbole at its finest. I snap a few pictures lest I become senile and forget the majestic views I was privy to, and continue on my way.

Shoal Lake in the Gros Ventre Wilderness of Wyoming -  Nicole Atkins

Shoal Lake in the Gros Ventre Wilderness of Wyoming -  Nicole Atkins

Maybe I want to take a nap amongst wildflowers to let my muscles rest. Perhaps I enjoy watching insects engage in their strange mating rituals. Imagine if I did these things for thousands of miles.

I’ll stick to my weeks-long adventures and call it good. In the end, it’s a pragmatic decision.

That’s not to say thru-hikers don’t appreciate their journey. No doubt they do. If you’re in the middle of nowhere for months at a time, appreciating your journey is probably the only thing keeping you sane. All I'm saying is the thru-hike isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

Katahdin at Sunrise - ©️ Jeffrey Stylos

Katahdin at Sunrise - ©️ Jeffrey Stylos

Enjoying our passions is what brings purpose to our journey. If your passion is hiking 15 to 20 miles a day through the wilderness for several months, more power to you. I look forward to living vicariously through your pain. I mean pleasure. Pleasure.

If your passion is in the journey and you like to stop and smell the flowers along the way, you know where to find me. Backpacking is awesome. It doesn't always need to be a three-month commitment. We can even enjoy some In-N-Out to reward ourselves afterward. What’s life without reward?

For the record, my one choice for a thru-hike would be the Great Divide Trail. If I had to choose. But I'd still prefer to section hike it. :-)    

 

What’s your favorite thru-hike?

 

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