I was not always an avid hiker. There was an extended period where I was quite sedentary; staying smartly sedated the majority of the time. After my divorce, there came a time where I was given to bouts of extended wanderlust. These treks emerged as an antidote to a disquiet born of spending too much time in a limited living area after having enjoyed, for so long, the luxury of square feet. In short, enclosed spaces gave rise to an impulsive need for expanded horizons; accordingly, I took to the trails.

Initially the hiking opportunities were myriad: so many trails, so little time. After a while, though, I was covering extensive ground; my hikes were getting longer and, by extension, each time out, the duration was redoubling. Soon, I found that tramping eight to ten miles on any particular ramble was fast becoming the rule rather than the exception and, gradually, proving that much easier. Before long, I was running out of new terrain to traipse. I was just as quickly coming to the realization that traversing now familiar trails, though still satisfying, simply failed to pack the same emotional wallop.

There is something about the promise of new trails: the unexplored horizons, the veiled vistas yet to be revealed. At times, simply turning a corner or mounting an unfamiliar ridge, affords a fresh vantage point, bringing into view a previously obscured panorama. Such casual encounters engender a muted ecstasy that resonates, however modestly, deep in the psyche. The moment of these occasions may not rank with, say, the discovery of love, fresh and new; but, surely, they provide welcome solace to a weary soul.

Notwithstanding grand vistas, it never ceases to amaze how the least of things can arouse the most poignancy: a turn of the head at an opportune moment, a fortuitous materialization in close proximity: a wee animal or bird may cross the path or a small singular bloom may catch the eye; or perchance, a larger, seldom seen feral creature may abruptly appear: an ever vigilant black-tailed deer bounding away, a skittish bobcat bolting at first whiff, a wary coyote caught momentarily unaware, the usually diffident skunk spied waddling indifferently along. Inconsequent as these encounters may in the bustling world of metropolitan man, stumbled upon in their sphere on their terms seems, somehow, something of a small blessing.

Yet, the peril of unknown topography is not lost: treacherous terrain wants vigilant navigation; rapidly running rivulets, rain-swollen into swiftly swelling streams require prudent passage; and the underlying unease innate to our interaction with the wild demands recognition. All of which can bring about a creeping paranoia; but confronting these fears is a necessary, even elemental part of the experience. Certainly, caution is the watchword; yet, without venturing forward there would be no adventure. Still, it is imperative to keep wits within reach and at a certain pitch.

For it is wandering blithely forward – and onward, even after or imprudence is revealed, that seems to get us into such quandaries. Creating contingencies to deal with the unexpected is only good sense, a wisdom that history imparts. Obfuscated outcomes, quixotic quagmires are a given in a world impossible to reliably predict; yet obdurate fools press on with no realistic vision to guide them, not even the good sense to grasp that reasoned alternatives beyond their purview may yet exist. In the end, if our current obstinate leadership persists with its wayward agenda, what will come of us?

© Stephen Alexander 2008


stephen hewitt

Lanexa, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A look at the pastime of hiking

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