Put Your Head Down

“Some days, you just have to put your head down and hike.”

I have been fortunate to share camps on the Appalachian Trail with thru-hikers, those people who set out to hike all 2,000 miles without significant breaks. One summer, my hiking partner and I happened to be in the Shenandoah Mountains while the thru-hikers were coming through. So we got to converse with people who had hiked over 1,000 miles within the previous 2 months.

We were basically taking a cello lesson with Yo-Yo Ma because for all my outdoor experience, I can’t add up 1,000 trail miles in my whole life.

One thing they kept talking about was the need sometimes to just hike. Whether it is rainy or snowing or hot or that blister on your heel is particularly bulbous that day, sometimes you just have to put your head down and push forward.

And this is true for most things. As a musician, I get up every day and do a daily routine that takes at least one hour. Sometimes that routine is like waking up on the trail to sunshine streaming through the tent mesh and birds chirping softly above my head. Sometimes it is the best part of starting my day.

And sometimes it is like waking up in a downpour, realizing that you left your boots outside and your tent has about a half-inch of water in it. Sometimes going into the practice room is like putting on cold, wet socks.

As much as I love the outdoors and have tried to reach a Zen place with its many tribulations, nothing sucks worse than putting on damp socks in the morning.

But I put my head down and just keep hiking.

What is the alternative? Staying in one place and running out of food? I would still be wet and then I would be hungry on top of it. It often would take as long to hike back to the car as it would to push forward to the end point.

And, in fact, ever time I have decided to continue on rather than wallow in despair, I have ended up feeling much better.

Because a day that sucks but I still covered ground is far better than a day that sucks and nothing got done. Wet socks or dry socks, I would rather be moving than sitting still.

(Image retrieved from sectionhiker.com)


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