|Looking out from the Balsam Mountain Firetower|
I've had a lot of people ask me what it is that keeps drawing me back into the woods and onto long trails for months at a time. I enjoy sharing these thoughts in particular because I think that there is something in there for others to learn and just may make them curious enough to venture out and do the same.
|Trail somewhere between Bossard's Cabin and Hornell along main FLT|
|Hiking near Seneca Highlands Road at dusk|
|Star Left, Shepherd, and the trail magic of Mike on Bailey Road|
Now this means that pain is heightened as well. Walking on an open blister for miles or being so tired that you don't want to lift your foot for another step, or so hot that your vision starts to blur or so cold that you think you won't possibly make it through the night seems like the hell on earth. But then guess what? You keep hiking until your feet go numb or stumble upon a cold stream or the sun warms your bones the next morning and you realize that for as intense as that all was...you made it through and you always do. Pain is passing and really so is the elation of hearing a beautiful song. But that's part of the wonder and excitement of not only the trail but of life, you never know what is next. I thrive on this unknown. Not a whole lotta point in running from it, may as well embrace it.
|Standing on trail, yes that's right, on trail, through the Catskill Forest Preserve|
The one continual fountain of support or the greatest luxury I should say you experience on the trail is the beauty. Living life simplified also allows space for the beauty to come into clarity and fill you up. I have mentioned before that the Finger Lakes Trail is not a trail of daily summits and rewarding views...but it is grand in its simple everyday beauty that continues for miles. Hiking through a landscape that changes but is repeated over and over again, gives you the chance to pick up on different aspects of a similar place each time you pass through it. The tenth pond you've seen in the last week suddenly is no longer a pond but a body of water nourishing a host of algae and Pond Lilies and Milkweed and Cat Tail and home to dragon flies, toads, humming cicadas, and that beaver that has built his pile of sticks along its edge. The dead trees standing in the center and green mountainside in its reflection and sun bouncing off its surface is the most beautiful thing you've ever laid your eyes on. Although you aren't aware of it, you stockpile these experiences. After days, weeks, months of this, they fill you with a quiet contentment and deep down happy that although it may not always be at your surface, you may always draw upon it.
|A pond along the FLT outside of Ellicotville|
This is what keep me hiking. I'd be curious to hear what draws y'all to the trail...keeps you hiking. Comment on this thread either by blogger or facebook and let me know. I'm curious.
And what now?
I'll be continuing to blog for certain. Expect posts particularly about the plant life that I encountered as I start to pour over my notes and begin the process of writing the guide to the edible and medicinal plants of the Finger Lakes Trail. I will also be posting about other local adventures on trails in the northeast and upcoming events in the area. I may very likely be speaking about the Finger Lakes Trail at the upcoming Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association Gathering and will be the guest speaker at the FLT Spring Campout this coming June.
Depending upon the post, these may or may not be posted to the Finger Lakes Trail or Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association Facebook pages, so please do take a minute to like my page: https://www.facebook.com/thebotanicalhiker on Facebook and/or become a member of the blog (you can do this by entering your email in the space provided to the right of the present post) so that you will continue to receive regular updates.
I will be remaining in the northeast, primarily in Milford, Pennsylvania for the next couple of months. During this time I would thrilled to offer some plant walks and talks about my experience, so if you have an idea or a group that would be interested, do drop me a line! I will be returning to Asheville, North Carolina for the winter to continue working on the upcoming book and promoting my already published, A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail, about NC's 1200 mile long distance trail. Come late spring, I will be returning to the northeast and planning to relocate to New York state so that I can offer educational classes, workshops, and plant walks about the flora of the local area and the logistics of long distance backpacking.
|Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)|
Thank you to all who supported me along the way. It's true I was a solo hiker and hiking without a support team, however thanks to the FLT community as well as folks who lived along the trail, it hardly felt like a solitary endeavor. I rarely felt lonely given the number of people who reached out to me via Facebook and my blog. Remarkable. All of you made this journey so much more meaningful. Beauty really is greater when shared with others.