The artist always has the masters in his eye.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Foot Notes for Real World Travelers

Even though we’re petrified of bears,
snakes, ticks, spiders and wild boar,
had no proper shoes
or a clue what we’d find;
this summer David and I managed to do a lot of
walking around in the woods
of north Georgia

This was all pretty much his idea.

But I was game because I had a plan to trade the required exertion for certain

after-dinner carbs.

Our simple daily plan:

*See map for medium difficult trail

*Top off water bottles

*Spend two or three hours at the mercy of nature

Now on a trail, when you’re not mopping up sweat or

tripping over roots

or looking for the port-a-potty

you have considerable time to think.

And I got to thinking about all the ways hiking is like real life.

1) It helps to have something to lean on.

Awhile back I broke my ankle and ever since it’s not as reliable on uneven terrain. So we found a dead branch with just the right heft and made me a walking stick. I leaned on it in the uphill’s and it steadied me going down. Was like having an optional 3rd leg. It got me where I needed to go with a little added assurance.

In the real world we don't much like asking for help

or leaning on people.

I especially don’t.

But after this experience I’m wondering:

What’s wrong with needing a little help?

Do we really think we get some special award

for making things harder on ourselves than they need to be?

2) You have to stop moving to see where you are.

The trouble with hiking is you spend most of the time looking down. For reasons of self-preservation this is necessary.

However by doing this- you miss considerable scenery-

which, in my opinion, is the


you’re in the woods to begin with.

So every now and then (sometimes to David’s dismay) I stopped hiking.

I mean -are we in a race here? Is someone timing us at the top?

I sat on a log

Took pictures


caught up with my breath

sipped water

surveyed the view

smelled the air, savored the sounds

and all that quiet

Watched light stream through the trees

And then I was ready to go again.

3) There will be bugs.

Even drenched in repellant, we still got bugged on the trail. They sensed our sweat, buzzed our heads and at certain points drove us batty. Funny how they always seem to attack at the hardest, steepest parts when all you can do is put one miserable foot in front of the other. You whine. Swat the air. Yell, exasperated, at these deaf, demonic creatures.

But they do not care.

They have no heart.

They are not moved.

There will always be bugs on the trail.

Get used to it.

4) The weather may change.

Twice it rained on us in the middle of a hike. We were too far from the car to run for cover. Of course we had no ponchos. We could hear it coming from a distance pecking at the leaves-- sounded like water rushing through a stream getting louder and louder.

We didn’t expect it to rain. We got soaked.

Trudged in mud and soggy socks the entire rest of the hike.

But it did cool us off.

5) Forgo the cargo.

Don't ask me why- I love rocks. I have them sitting in bowls and baskets all over my house.

I have rocks from Africa, Israel, Colorado, California, British Columbia, The Virgin Islands, Greece, France, Italy, Turkey… I need a bumper sticker that says


On the trails of north Georgia I hit the mother lode.

But rocks get heavy when you’re hiking.

To keep it doable, at least semi- enjoyable I learned not to pick them up too early or too often. Too many rocks slow you down and wear you out.

I think it’s important you know, I left some really great rocks on those trails.

6) Sometimes it takes longer than you plan

and feels harder than you can stand.

On one of our first hikes we don’t have a map. We just see a sign that says “ This way 4.5 miles” and go for it. Piece of cake.

Joe, Catie and 1yr. old Miles are with us.

We hike up and down and around this mountain for what seems like a really really long time and start to wonder is this trail is ever going to end. The baby gets heavy. Joe’s back hurts. It’s late in the afternoon. Maybe we've taken a wrong turn.

Time and distance get weird in the woods.

So how far do you think we’ve come? Surely we're almost there-

what if some joker switched the sign and we’re really on the 10-mile trail?

It's easy to question a path you've never been on

especially if you’re right in the middle of it.

You have no idea what's over the next hill. You’re hiking blind.

We’d set out for a nice little walk in the woods. Now we’re thinking- rescue helicopters. We should never have come to the woods. The fun drains out when worry sets in. All you can think of is getting to the end where you know it’s safe.

A tad bit anxious we send David ahead to look for the trail end. He likes this. It’s starting to feel like a disaster movie where in a last ditch effort the stranded people draw straws to send one poor soul for help.

But we do have cell phones.

Call us as soon as you see it, we say.

(* you could kiss Steve Jobs at a time like this)

Joe, Catie, Miles and I keep on walking. No one talks. Everyone’s in their head. Once in awhile the mother in me pipes up, “Guys, I’m sure we’re fine. Time just feels different in the woods. I’m sure it’s totally fine.”

20 mins. go by- feels like eons.

Finally. The phone rings.

Yes, folks, you’re on the right trail.

You are not lost.

Just keep walking.


  1. Something so simple...how do you make it so interesting? How do you always find a "lesson," for lack of a better term, in just about everything in life? You simply are just the most wonderfully talented person I have the priviledge to know. Keep walking...for all of us. Keep walking.

  2. Love the pictures with your reflections. Your photography was great! Who knows, maybe one day a book with your photography and paintings mixed with your great writing! Awesome!

  3. Is there ANYthing better than a sister who thinks you're wonderful?

  4. Great Caron....really loved this piece.

  5. Jackie- we were just saying how much we'd give to hike again in BC!