The first hike of spring is a special time. The skis and snowboards are stowed for the summer and the backpacks get dusted off once more. For some it is the first time off the couch after a bit of a hibernation through the cold winter months. Spring is calling for you. The trails have waited patiently. It is time for the walk.
The car door opens and the manufactured warmth of the vehicle is sucked away. Sandals hit the dirt of the parking lot and as your body slides from steel to nature. Your in it now. The chilly, crisp air of a spring morning rushes past your nose and you can feel it settle in your lungs. Your lungs expand at the touch of the natural breath and expel the last of the gas-heated air that kept them warm all winter.
The sky is sapphire blue with a sun burning a hot yellow. Your eyes squint to block the rays as your skin tingles as if being touched for the first time by the celestial fingers of light. Your ears are filled with the running of a creek and the wind tickling the branches high in the trees.
At the trunk you find the old leather of the hiking boots, left alone for months, eager to adventure again. You swap the sandals and the familiar boot hugs your foot. The polyester laces expel microscopic dust and dirt from forgotten trails as they pull tight. The nylon straps of the backpack slide onto your shoulders with less complaint than the shoulders themselves. Thin wool gloves slide quietly over stiff fingers ready to combat the cold. The glass of your sunglasses starts to fog slightly from the cold air of the morning. You are ready. It is time for the walk.
The first step onto the trailhead is met with dirt that has been hidden under a blanket of snow for the past months. The hard dirt fights back. A stray pebble rolls into the frost covered grass. The grass is stiff and protests with a sigh of cracking ice crystals. As you look at the trail, time is revealed. The sun shows the future. Bare ground free from the snow and nice. A look into what the summer holds. The shadows hold to the past. Piles of snow tucked against tree trucks and rock outcrops. Unwilling to let go of dark, frigid months of the past.
The trail starts easy, as they all do. Then your thighs start to protest, followed by your calf muscles. The sinew and strength that were trained so well just a few short months ago, are now softened by the winter slumber. You press on. The hard frozen dirt starts to thaw. The wind sheds some of its chill. The sun feels warm. You are on the walk now and remember all the reasons why you love the outdoors.
Middle of the Road
At the halfway point the gloves come off. Literally. You are too warm and peel the wool from your hands. The first of many layer changes of the day. The trail is softer now. More and more people have made their way to the spring ritual. Head nods and smiles through short breaths at the passers by. The lungs that enjoyed the cool crips air earlier are now desperate for a reprieve. The knees and ankles are starting to remind you of how comfortable the couch and comfort food was all winter long.
The trail seems to come alive in the spring with each step. The frost of the morning has retreated to the dirt below. The wind now feels warmer. You can smell flowers trying to bloom and the air tastes like snow melt new grass. Your body protests the walk the first time out but your heart and mind are filled with joy. All of your senses work as one to remind you of the beauty of the world around you. Or to ignore the protests of your nagging body.
Next, the jacket comes off as you are both hot and cold. The game has started. The sun warms you with each step of the trek. The shadows try to freeze the sweat to your skin. The dirt is softer now. The ice that had returned overnight is now dripping and flowing down the landscape. The woods are awakening. As is your soul. The walk has brought you back.
The Rewards of the Walk
As you approach your final destination, you look a mess. Your gloves are back on but your are in a t-Shirt. The seams of your backpack strain against all of the layers that have been stuffed inside for safe keeping and easy access. The dirt trail is full of mud now. Making each step a challenge to gravity and physics. Your lungs burn, legs ache, feet flail. You are fully on the walk now. Somewhere between agony and euphoria.
Finally, you see it. You see the lake, the peak, the meadow that you set out to find. The sun burns its brightest. A heaving chest calms. Leg cramps relax. The beads of sweat that are rolling down your brow seem to stop in place. The reward of the walk is clear and right and front of you. Nothing is more impressive than that half frozen mountain lake. Or a view from a peak seeing a mix of snow and sun on the lands below.
Why we take the Walk
The final view of the walk is worth every ache and pain. Each deep breath along the way filled up the joy of this moment like a balloon. It is like walking into a painting. Every minute, hour, day and day you spent under a blanket in December is forgotten with one glimpse of the view. Your shoulders draw back, your chin raises. It is like your body emerges from a marble statue, frozen in place all winter long, yet now a fluid being. Your mind wants more. Your mind and body, once stuck in a three month long cocoon, has now emerged as a butterfly. Ready to fly up each and every mountain, trail, or adventure you can find.
That is the power of the walk. A moment that has the power to change a perspective. A rebirth that happens year after year. The reanimation of a frozen soul. That is the power of the walk. Each spring, reborn by the power of the outdoors and something as simple as the walk.
More from The Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Screw it, I’m Trying”, “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Lost in the Woods” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.