One of my favorite places to be is outside. There is just some majestic feeling of being connected to the universe when I am outside taking in all that nature has to offer. John Muir said: “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”, and I most certainly have to agree. Many times I have gone to nature, not even sure what I was looking for, and every time, I come back with so much more that I could have ever expected.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to take in several different trail hikes in the North Georgia mountains and since it was an extra beautiful weekend as far as the weather was concerned, there were a lot more feet itching to get on the trails and take in some of what nature has to offer. One of the things I am noticing is more and more folks getting outside which is awesome. But I am also noticing with a lot of these new folks, there is an absence of understanding about hiking and how it works, so I thought I would share five unwritten rules that make the experience better for everyone.
As I thought about these unwritten rules I could not help but think that these things are just common sense, and I also could not help but notice that these same rules apply to the living of life. Practice these five things everyday and your life and hike will be better! So here we go:
Number 1 – Step To The Side! I noticed on the trail, a lot of folks taking pictures, which I think is great. I love taking pictures of things that grab my attention or a selfie to remind me of the special moment. The problem was that a lot of folks were taking pictures and then stopping right in the middle of the trail to look at, assess, edit and post their pics and all the while they were totally oblivious to the hundreds of other people trying to get up and down the trail. Two girls stopped in the middle of a suspension bridge and had hiking flow stopped in both directions as the rest of us dangled a few hundred feet above the gorge waiting for them to decide which photo they liked the best and who was goin to post first. Again, I don’t have any problem with any of that, just make sure that you step to the side and not block the trail and hikers that are coming or going. This is also true in life. I have noticed that most folks seem to move through life totally oblivious to there being anyone else around them. Let’s wake up and notice one another and give to others what we expect for ourselves – respect. It makes the trail and the world we live in a better place.
Number 2 – Say Hello! What do you do when you pass someone on the trail that you do not know or have not ever met? You make eye contact, smile and say hello. What do you do when you pass someone in life who you do not know or have not ever met? You make eye contact, smile and say hello. This word is a very lonely place and everyone needs a little acknowledgement. It’s nice to know that you exist and that your existence matters. Eye contact, a smile and a friendly word goes a long way in making this world and the trail a better place and a sweeter experience.
Number 3 – Turn Off And Turn On! When I head out to the trail it is usually to get away from my cell phone. This is usually not a problem for me, because a lot of the places that I hike have very bad or spotty cell reception. Our phones have become more than just phones. They are our cameras, maps, calendars, encyclopedias and everything else. If you can’t turn it off, then at least turn it down, so that it doesn’t distract you or others from the natural miracles that you are surrounded by. A break from the screen is a good thing for everyone. The plain hard truth is that we are surrounded by beautiful miracles everyday, but most of us never witness them, because we are stuck in the thing that is wearing us out. Turn off, tune in and turn on what really matters!
Number 4 – Downhill Yields To Uphill! The hardest part of the trail is going up the mountain because it’s a hill of course, but also because we don’t have as clear a line of sight. This is why downhill hikers always yield the right of way to those that are coming up the hill. Hiking downhill is easier for obvious reason but also because you have a much better line of sight about where you are going and what is coming at you, so the courteous thing is to yield. In life some of us are blessed and it’s like hiking down hill, we need to yield to those that are going through challenges, give them a break, cut them some slack and be an encouragement. On a hike this weekend on the way up the trail to the top of the mountain to see a magnificent waterfall, the folks that were coming down would say to those coming up the trail: “It’s not much further and it’s worth it!” They had experienced the struggle of pulling the up hill climb and knew what it was like and it was there way of saying: “I know what you are feeling and thinking, but hang in there and keep pulling because the view at the top is worth the climb!”
Number 5 – Leave No Trace! This is one of those that should go without saying, but we live in a world where folks are often so wrapped up in themselves that they give no consideration to others. “Leave No Trace” is actually the number one rule of hiking! We appreciate nature, we enjoy nature, we share nature, but we do not disturb nature. Someone said that a flower is a beautiful thing, but once you pick it and try to posses it, the flower begins to lose it’s beauty and die. On a trail if you pick the flower, then those that come behind you will never get to enjoy it. If you leave trash, then those behind you will not get to enjoy the clean and beautiful trail that you enjoyed. My Grandmother used to say that we should always try to leave things better than we found them and this is why if I am walking along and I see a piece of trash on the ground, often I will bend over and pick it up, even though it was not mine. Think about it just a moment: How much sweeter and more miraculous would this world be if we left things better than we found them???
So rules of the trail and rules of life, they are kinda one and the same. So why not put these into practice everyday in every way and see what kind of difference it makes???