Stories from the Trail

Janene Sullivan: Why I Hike

Fireflies in Grayson Highlands, Virginia.

In my head, the list of reasons is extensive and would include: for the views, to meet great people, to feel challenged, for the adventure, and to reconnect with nature. However, each item on the list circles back to a common theme: I want more of less. I want more living, less work, less complicated, and less of being connected. What better place to do that than on the Trail?

Hiking is the antithesis of work. Work is the place where I spend more hours than I like making sure everyone but me has what they need. The place where I ask questions like, “How can I help you,” “What can I do for you,” “Is there something I can get you,” from 10 to 16 hours a day.

When I hike, no one matters but me.

I walk as long as I want, rest when I need to, eat when I’m hungry, and stop as often and as long as I’d like when I want to enjoy a view. When I hike, the biggest, most important decision I might make, is where I’ll get water today or where I’ll stop for the night. If I want to stop and watch the fireflies for hours after dark, then I will. And I do.

When I hike, I like to go out for weeks at a time so that there is no schedule, agenda, errands to run or appointments to make and keep, for as long as possible. I just want to walk, eat, drink, sleep, repeat for hundreds of miles.

Eventually, I have to resupply, shower, and wash clothes. But even that I do quickly enough to return to the Trail within the same day, keeping the interruption as minimal as possible and allowing me to remain as isolated or insulated as I’d like. On the Trail, there is no CNN or Fox News. World news that includes tragedy, crisis, wars, and drama, with few exceptions, happen somewhere else. The overwhelming bombardment of media meets a brick wall that I like to call “No Service.”

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter meet their kryptonite. Unplugged really happens. Less happens. And, for a little while, I can enjoy just being. That is why I hike.