Hike for the moment, not the distance

By Abbey Barden | May 28, 2014

The first time I ever went backpacking was right before graduation in college.  We didn’t know what we were doing — we just borrowed some packs from my friend’s dad which means that his pack, made for someone over six feet tall, dwarfed my barely 5’3” frame.

The second time I went backpacking was in grad school. This time we decided to hike Mt. Mitchell and, being a broke grad student, I decided to buy the largest book bag I could find at Walmart. While both excursions did have their high points, my equipment made the experiences uncomfortable. I concluded that backpacking was not for me.

Flash forward three years. For personal reasons, I needed a break from Raleigh. My friend, who was the trail director at Camp Daniel Boone, exclaimed on the phone one day, “I know! You can come to camp and work for me. It’ll be great.”

While I have always loved being outside and I grew up spending my summers in camp, my mind recalled those first two backpacking trips. “Do I have to backpack?” I asked. She told me that of course I did, and against my better judgment, I said yes.

Over the course of that spring, I followed my friend’s gear suggestions and began collecting proper-fitting gear. The week before camp started we went on a practice hike in Pisgah National Forest and I learned that hiking could be an amazing experience, a chance to appreciate the awesomeness of nature if you weren’t worrying about all the aches and pains from inappropriate gear.

Thus began my love affair with hiking. I spent four incredible summers as a trail guide for Boy Scout troops at Camp Daniel Boone. That job was any hiker’s dream; getting paid to walk in the woods all day, sharing nature with kids, and hanging out with some pretty amazing people in the down time because, let’s face it, hikers are the best. I even met my husband through hiking.

Nowadays, as a middle-school teacher and a mother of a very active 17-month-old, I don’t have the luxury to spend my weeks rambling around the mountains of WNC, but my husband and I do try to get out when we can.

When I was offered the chance to write this hiking column, I gladly accepted, thinking this would give me the excuse to hit the trail more. I am looking forward to sharing my family’s trail adventures with you. I also plan on passing on helpful tips for how to improve your hiking experience and occasionally sharing some of my own hiking memories.

A word about the title: Milepost 2.2 comes from my days of hiking with the Boy Scouts. If you have ever hiked with kids you have probably experienced the dreaded question, “how much farther?” and its partner, “Are we there yet?”

The answer that we trail guides would give the Scouts was “2.2 miles.”  It worked well with the boys — 2.2 miles seemed long enough but not so long as to feel hopeless. When they would finally catch on that “2.2” was going to be the answer any time they asked about distance, they stopped asking, stressed less, and enjoyed the hike more.

“2.2” represents what I love most about hiking: that hiking is all about the moment, not the distance. You will always have miles to go and you will, barring any wrong turns, always be moving forward.  If you worry less about the distance, you will have more time to appreciate your surroundings.  And that, my friends, is really the heart of why I hike.  It’s all about the 2.2.

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