Monday, September 7, 2009

Taking a Hike

So here's the thing about spending four days hiking in a place as beautiful as Glacier National Park in Montana: you quickly run out of ways to describe the beauty of your surroundings. There are only so many times you can point out how nice the view is or how clear and blue the lake is before these observations become boring. Next time I'll bring a thesaurus.

But seriously, look at how nice these views are and how clear and blue these lakes are.

And I think the inability to describe the scenery combined with just the general human ability to grow accustomed to even the most breathtaking vistas led me to focus more on the hiking aspect of these trails than the destination. Sure, it was nice to reach the top of a mountain and look out at what we saw, but, in truth, there was no shortage of amazing sights from even the bottom of the mountain, not to mention the posters in the ubiquitous gift shops or, even, a simple google image search. This sounds cliche--and, in fact, it is a cliche--but you can learn a lot about yourself and your ability to persevere during the last four miles of a twelve mile hike after you've done more than 30 miles in the three days previous and you've been up since 7:00 AM after sleeping on several rocks and at least one tree root the night before and your knees and ankles are pounding and you really need to find a bathroom and no pit latrines don't count and you still haven't completely adjusted to the altitude and you haven't showered since Sunday morning and it is now Wednesday afternoon and it's hard to remember the original color of your ankles and calves because they are coated in dirt and you're so sick of eating food in bar form that you never want to see anything produced by Chewy or Nature Valley or Clif ever again. Or at least I did. This is the reason to hike.

The other interesting thing about Glacier National Park is how much effort is exerted to create a feeling of being in nature. You would think this wouldn't be necessary in a national park--but it is. The shuttle buses, obviously, are all low emissions. But even smaller touches--like benches, No Parking signs, support beams for pit latrines, and traffic barriers all constructed from logs instead of a sturdier, more man-made material--communicate the idea that this park values nature above man.

All smart places do this: Wrigley Field is old, but it purposely maintains this aesthetic of maturity. The same is true of Glacier National Park--metal park benches would feel out of place. But it's important to realize that these choices were conscious ones, even if they were also obvious ones.

No comments: