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Why Hike? by Mike “Hiker Box” Henrick There is a long, silent simplicity in hiking long trails for periods of time that seem to stretch beyond measure. Days are enjoyably repetitive. Wake with the chirp of birds before dawn, eat, walk, eat some more and sleep not long after sunset. Watch the landscape transform before your eyes as the earth turns under the soft soles of your feet. That quiet simple life changes you after the opposite terminus is reached, celebrations are had and the return home is over. Home doesn’t seem to mean what it used to once you’re back with all the added complications of job, life and family. Few around you truly understand what you’ve just left back on trail; you don’t understand either. At first I imagined some of what I felt was shared by captured animals, once wild and now confined to cage by some imaginary zoo keeper. I now see that it’s closer to finding something incredible you never knew you had and watching it slip from your grasp. All it takes to get back is a long tenuous reach down to hold it tight and close for a little while longer. I admit I am still new to this and just now making the first long reach to pick it back up. The first and only trail so far was the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – an incredibly scenic journey along a well-established route among a community of supporters who were almost too helpful. That trail was initially daunting, the most I had ever hiked was 28 miles in three days and nearly 2,700 and five months were ahead! Occasionally, I would meet past through hikers on their second, third or fourth through hike and stand in awe of how so many miles could be walked in such short time. After I reached Canada only four days before snow storms piled six feet of snow on my friends still on trail, I would often sit in awe of what I had just done, that it had actually happened and was not some uninterruptable dream or drug induced hallucination. I quickly found a new job in a new city, only slightly different than the one I left and tried to readjust. Soon my aching feet began to heal and life settled back into a dreary repetition of wake, eat, work, eat some more and sleep. Ironic that I had swapped one day cycle for another, the biggest differences being money and nature – two opposites that don’t seem to coexist. Could I still see everything I wanted to on three weeks of vacation a year and weekends? I had just been hiking for almost five months! I struggled with the job, both with my own performance and the fate that I had temporarily signed up for. My mood seemed to slide back into the dull restless anxiety


I thought I had left behind when I left for the PCT. No amount of day hikes, skiing or bike rides seemed to help. One day I started planning the next trip. Maybe a week in the Sierra, this time going west to east on the High Sierra Trail? Or a week on the Wonderland Trail? What about a section of the Sierra High Route? Could I keep putting off life for work and money until… Something? Retirement? No. I can’t do it. The anxious waiting for life is too much but if I was going to quit my job again, to take that long tenuous reach down, it wouldn’t be just for one trail and I would have to do something drastically different when I got back. Eventually I thought about the places I wanted to go, which trails I wanted to hike and when they would best be hiked. At that moment they seemed to line up. A southbound trip on the Arizona Trail in fall, just after the southwest monsoon season replenishes the water and the same desert heat that once nearly ended my PCT thru-hike starts to mellow. Then to New Zealand, for one of the newest long distance trails – the Te Araroa. Even most Kiwi’s haven’t heard of it but it’s there and it looks incredible (minus the road walking). After it all I still didn’t want to be done and felt a strange draw to biggest, toughest, and loneliest of the Triple Crown – the CDT (sorry AT!). The timing would be ripe for a spring northbound hike – or if something comes up I could southbound in July, making it a year of south bounding, towards the pole not just the equator. What about when I finish, whatever that ends up meaning? I believe opportunities exist when you aren’t chained to a desk for five days a week, desperate for recreation in the little time left on weekends and evenings but welded to the temporary stability and certainty working for someone else provides. I have a small chance for some contract work that would be well paid but requires flexibility on my part. I could restart my old sports photography company, maybe write a book. Who knows? For now I’m still young, capable and restless. Three trails, over 5,000 miles, but how did they get there? I find it incredible that I was able to walk almost entirely on trail through linked wilderness areas, parks, federal and conservation land from Mexico to Canada with few road walking interruptions. The amount of labor required to build and maintain even a few miles of trail is huge, but for thousands of miles unimaginably vast. This time around I

September 2014 CDTC Newsletter Passages  

CDTC's official newsletter sharing stories, reports and images from the CDT!