Last week, the ShoeFitzes hiked a new-to-us part of the Appalachian Trail. Recently, we've spent evenings hiking an easier section, but that day we took a rockier path. With room for one person at a time, the trail sloped stubbornly upward.
From a distance, the Appalachians don't appear to hold the challenge of other mountain ranges. Over time, they've lost the sharp physique of a fitness model. Angles smoothed, our mountains curve a mother's silhouette, welcoming tough hikers and small children alike. Other ranges gleam stark and jagged; the Blue Ridge stand steady, quietly protecting.
Yet smooth mountains aren't necessarily easy hikes.
Climbing last week, my hand gripped Little Man's tighter and tighter. (He, like his mama, has the propensity to walk too close to the edge.) We found the hike muddy and rubble-strewn. And if mud had made the upward hike tricky, it made the last part fully intimidating -- steep cliffside, overlooking brush falling maybe 60 degrees down to the road below.
Little Man asked, of course, why I wouldn't let him walk by himself. (Six years old is the new 16.) When we finally made it to level ground, he was poised to begin the hike all over again. His parents, on the other hand, were finished, exhausted.
How strange that on a hike that looked relatively simple, we could run into muddy hills, steep cliffs, and rubble-strewn paths. Less than a mile from the highway, our muscles strained with exertion. I wondered as we climbed whether people down there could see us. . . and whether, from far below, our hike appeared easy.
After all, from a distance, worn hills look so small.
It's strange, this hiking thing, because we all do it. We all hike. Sometimes, from the ground below, I watch friends climb their own trails. They tug families uphill, tiny children atop shoulders, older ones running ahead. From where I stand, their hills can look easy, soft.
From far away, I can't see the strain of their muscles, their sweat-stained shirts. I can't see the fear when someone slips, the push to get back to safety. All I see, from where I stand, is a walk in the sunshine.
And I wonder whether I need glasses.
I wonder how many times I've envied the hike of friends, not realizing they were walking paths tossed with mud and rubble. Not seeing the rocks that gave way when they should've held firm. Not realizing their backpacks were heavier than mine in the first place. (Some of us, you know, carry more than water on our backs.)
How many times have I been so focused on the trail in front of my own feet, that I've been dead to the journey of others?
It's so easy to forget we're all hiking straight uphill.
Getting these eyes checked,
Shared here:Deep Roots