Updated: May 24
I came to more realizations than I can count during my 31 days hiking The Colorado Trail, but one of my first moments of clarity came early on, around day three of my hike.
Even before I embarked on my thru-hike I had started to wrap my mind around the idea that my adventure had already happened. I was just experiencing it, as it was always going to unfold, in the present moment. I imagined myself following the dotted line that was already decided. I know that sounds super woo-woo, and it kind of makes my brain hurt even thinking about it, but I’ll try to explain what I mean. I don’t buy into the concept that things were “meant” to happen, I buy into the concept that I meant for those things to happen. I was the one to draw the dotted line that I was following.
One of the first mornings I was on the CT I woke up, packed my gear and tent and hit the trail. About 30 minutes in I noticed a campsite just a little off the trail. It was flat and sheltered and had a great view. I remember thinking and I should’ve walked a little further last night so I could’ve camped there. I did that a couple more times over the next few days thinking if I had gotten up earlier I could have made over a ridge before a thunderstorm or if I hadn’t put new insoles in my boots my feet wouldn’t hurt.
I was in my tent one night, writing in my journal, and in the middle of writing the sentence “I wish I had…” it hit me. I couldn’t have camped at that perfect campsite, or gotten up earlier or left my insoles alone… because I didn’t. I made the choices I made for good reason. I camped at the closer campsite because I was tired and done walking for the day. I didn’t get up earlier because earlier is darker and colder. I swapped out my insoles because I genuinely thought my feet would feel better that way. Obviously if I had known about the great campsite or the earlier-than-usual thunderstorm or that my new insoles would pinch my heels, I’d have made a different decision.
Thinking that things could have happened any differently just ignores the reality of what did happen. We all think “if I knew now what I knew then” as if that knowledge was somehow available and you overlooked it.
Having the awareness as I was writing that journal entry to see that I was arguing with reality allowed me to release my grip on past focus and turn my mind toward present and future thinking. After that it became fun to start each day thinking about where the previous days choices had brought me and excited about where todays choices would lead me.