Wherever you go there you are.
My mind can be in so many places when I’m standing still. The monkey brain in my head- that inner chatter that feels like a train hurtling down the track out of control, can be relentless at times. Recently, the chatter retreated when my husband and I hiked the East Coast Trail.
Hiking requires me to pay attention and focus on the path in front of me. I love it! There’s something about walking amidst trees, seeing the expanse of sky, and looking out over a body of water, if it’s there, that is frankly meditative.
The East Coast Trail is a series of 25 wilderness paths (more than 300 kilometers in total length) along the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador. The trails provide an inviting challenge – doable but effort required.
Before we departed, I looked forward to the hike even as I pushed away concerns about encountering wild animals. I’m afraid of bears, moose, coyotes- anything on four legs that moves and bites. The woman who owns the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed assured us, we would not see these types of animals, but I was not entirely convinced. Much as I like adventure, I am also somewhat risk adverse.
One important lesson from our trip was to be prepared for the weather. It doesn’t seem to matter what the forecast is or what the day looks like when you start out. Newfoundland weather on the east coast changes by the hour. Our first day was marked by misty weather that made for wet rocks and slippery ground as we climbed up and down -mostly up, to the top of a cliff. Walking through the brush and tall grass, across crevices and small streams, we made our way along a path that twisted its way upwards to a rocky outcrop.
The climb was worth it! I was in awe of the stunning view and largeness of it all: the magnificent Atlantic Ocean, waves crashing into huge boulders at the shoreline, and the rock face below. I felt small amidst the grandeur of this rocky place.
The trails vary in length but once you’re on a trail there’s no exit until the end. As we hiked, I thought of friends who walked the Lake District in England and felt a new appreciation for what they accomplished, knowing they hiked day after day after day.
It takes time for my mind to settle; eventually it does out of the need to attend to what I’m doing. The genuine possibility of slipping on wet rocks or tripping on a tree root focused my full concentration, so much so that I walked into an overhanging tree branch- twice!
At one point my husband asked me: what do we do if one of us gets hurt on the trail? It’s a fair question, given we have seen no one and there is no cell phone coverage. I don’t know, I responded. I don’t go there, just like I pretend there are no wild animals about. That’s about all we say to each other, keeping an easy rhythm and comfortable pace on the path that makes for a pleasing time together.
Hiking cancels the need for anything that is not necessary. I was aware of inhabiting my body- an experience of simultaneously being and doing that pushes everything else to the periphery. Thoughts occurred but they floated by like clouds in the sky. Mostly my mind was blessedly quiet.
By day’s end we were soaked from the mist and walking through wet brush from an earlier rain, but we kept going, stopping to catch our breath and take in the panorama. Always amazed at what there was to see, feel, hear, and smell. Drawn in by it all.
At the end of the hike, I was tired and in need of a hot shower and something to eat.
Feeling content. All is quiet.