Last week our family hiked 95 miles with 6 children and I had some time to think. These are a few of my scattered and incomplete reflections from the experience.
Favorite Quote From the Trail:
“I had this dream last night: I was on the computer.” – Kami
It is a beautiful gift to be able to see how unnatural and new many of the activities and tools that compose the majority of our day really are. Water, food, shelter, relationships, movement; these are things that are real and outlast technologies. Maybe spending our time staring at pixels on a screen of people and places on the other side of the continent SHOULD be the dream world NOT walking through the woods with your family.
Second favorite quote from the trail:
“Seven miles? That’s not bad.” – Clayton (who has never backpacked in his life, AFTER hiking a 12 mile day)
It’s amazing how versatile kids are. We dictate their expectations and what is “normal”. The majority of limits are a result of our own fears as parents and should be addressed accordingly and not forever blamed on children or worse, “common sense.”
There was an interesting moment when we were driving out to the mountain at 5:30am on Monday on highway 167 past 15 miles of bumper to bumper traffic of people waiting to get to work in Seattle. I felt bad for them as we were heading the other way. The great irony though is that if all those people knew that we were about to hike 95 miles they would probably feel bad for US! The worst kind of slaveries are always voluntary. It comes by our own choice. It comes from having our desires bent so that we actually believe that we want the very thing that is keeping us from freedom.
While we were gone I know we had people worrying about our safety. When we got back to civilization I wanted to announce that we are safe from that dangerous mountain so now we can be safely killed by comfort and convenience. It’s fascinating how attuned we are to certain physical dangers but how numb we are to those most pervasive in our lives. I wonder which is more dangerous? I don’t think it’s bears or landslides. THOSE things actually scare people. It’s the things that don’t scare us we should probably be worried about.
For 11 days we were at the mercy of the weather. If it rained we would be cold and wet, if it was hot we would sweat, if it snowed we would be hosed. We had no technology or information to predict or prepare for it. And we were fine. The morning we got home I woke up and thought: “I need to check the weather to see what to wear”. So, I compulsively checked the weather in Seattle, back in Kentucky, Rainier, and then Jerusalem, just for kicks. All of this in a world where I have a roof and I can control the temperature of my house and even my own car. I don’t think there will ever be enough information to satisfy our restless brains. I deleted the weather app.
When we came back into cell range I was talking to one of my children and my cell phone beeped. I took my eyes (and concentration) off of my child to see who it was that was electronically beckoning me. After that experience I couldn’t believe that I just let some stranger on the other side of the planet let me inadvertently communicate to my child that they were more important then them. I was only able to see this because for 11 days I did not have one thought or conversation interrupted by a notification or ring…and it was normal..and coming back it became weird. I think it’s really scary that this is a unique experience.
One of the more interesting mental dilemmas came at the end of our trip. I was thinking about going out to eat afterwards and one of our favorite local fast food joints on the way home. I was imagining the paper cup they would give me for my water. We would use them for 10 minutes, then we would throw them away. This was shocking and a little scary. If you understand trail life you know why. For the last 11 days we had been living off of one Gatorade bottle. On the right day it can save your life. And you protect it like crazy. It’s good day after day after day. In some ways it starts to get better because you get comfortable with it and actually start to develop a bit of a relationship with it. On the second to last day one of Kami’s caps fell into a stream and was lost. She stayed behind hoping she would find it even though we had enough bottles. She had to say good bye. (Think about Tom Hank’s relationship with Wilson from Castaway) These relationships are normal. We have relationships with people, animals, and even our tools. But in a fast food culture you simply cannot develop a relationship. You’re only in contact for 10 minutes. Dramatically put, our hearts would be broken too often. So we use. Numbly and sterilely. But this prevents us from falling in love and truly appreciating the things in our lives.