Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Speed of Travel As Measured By Foot

Over the course of our hike my brother in law (he keeps showing up here, so he is hereby dubbed "The Outdoorsman" from now on) and I did a total of about 28.8 miles of direct hiking to get to and from our destination over three days.  We broken it into two days of 7-8 mile hikes and a single return of 12.8 miles.

How long, I wondered as I trudged along, does it take one to hike?

Timewise of course it varies.  The first day we made 7 miles in about 5 hours, but that was with a 1.4 mile almost vertical (at points) hike up a grade at the end of the day (the first time in a long time my legs have felt shaky at the end of the day).  The second day we made the same distance more or less in 3.25 hours, but that was due to rolling hills along a ridgeline rather than climbing slopes.  The third day - the return - it took us 6 hours and 10 minutes to make it all the way back (note these times are inclusive of things like rest stops, snack breaks, and lunch where required).

But how long, I wondered, does it really take.

Hiking - at least the few times I have done it - is endlessly fascinating to me on the mental side.  At some point in the hike one realizes that one has to keep going.  If one turns back early one loses the progress and once one has arrived, there is no way back except to come out the way that one came in:  by foot.  As a result, my mind set has to shift a great deal - after all, even in this hike we are discussing 3 to 6 hours of time which may be spattered by conversation but is largely conducted in silence.  Thoughts in the mind like "Are we there yet?" or "How much have we come since the last signpost?" are as counterproductive as they are annoying (let alone if you start verbalizing them to your hiking party.  You may end up "lost"...).

From the little I have read on the subject, this is a reality for long distance runners and ultramarathoners as well:  how does one keep the mind engaged (and on what) as one pounds through the miles and hours of going across distances?  

For me, it seems to become almost a form of moving Zen.

A lot of attention is paid to the trail, of course, especially if one needs to pay attention to one's footing or, if I am headed up hill, to the placement of the hiking poles as I pull myself up.  I look at the trail - after all, am I not here to see the scenery?  I am walking through it.  I look for things that I usually do not see, like wildflowers that are new or odd plant and rock formations or even vistas.  But other than that, I find that I am largely in the movement of moving through the landscape, sweating or shivering as called for, grateful for the shade and breeze in the heat when they come or the sun on the colder moments when I can step into it.

For me at least, I end up thinking a lot as well.  The genesis of this post was on the trail, as are the genesis of a number of others (all noted in my phone before they slipped away).  But interestingly, what I did not think about - once - was what I was missing at work or (more than idly) how far we had to get or when the next break was.  In that sense there was no "then" or "other", there was only the "now".

So what is the speed of travel as measured by foot?  What it has always apparently been, it seems:  one foot at a time in a timeless sense where there is neither truly arrival or departure, merely the space between each step.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Back From Hiking

 Well, we did not die.

Total hike was around 30 miles spread over 3 days, 5,545 ft elevation gain by the time we went up and down (numerous times).  Temperatures got up to 85 F during the day, which made for some not quite pleasant portions of the day to be hiking through.  That said, other than some spots where I missed sunscreen and a bit of a chafing issues (something to deal with next month), we had a very good hike.  A few pictures will have to suffice for now.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Vacations That Change Us

 Ed over at Riverbend Journal has been re-publishing a series he wrote some years ago about taking a trip in a dory down the Grand Canyon.  It is a well written set of writings (with pictures!), and certainly brings up memories of my own trip last year.  As I continue to read into his saga, what becomes apparent (to me at least) is that for him, this was the sort of trip that was a life changing experience, not just an "average" vacation.

Which brought another question to my mind:  what life changing experience vacations have I had?

In some ways all vacations are somewhat life changing, even if in the sense that after one completes the vacation, one feels a little more relaxed and stress free (Hopefully.  There is nothing worse than coming back from a vacation and feeling worse than when you left).  And at least for me, I would argue that most vacations are enjoyable, but not the sort of things that I look back on thinking "I am different now than when I left".  

But some were.  And so, in not really in any particular order (other than perhaps chronological), here are the vacations that actually changed me.

1)  Japan, 1978:  My vacations growing up largely consisted of two areas:  the coast, where we go camping, and Montana, where my maternal grandparents had a summer cabin.  So in 1978 when my parents took us to Japan, it was completely different (my maternal uncle was stationed there at the time).  Not only was it my first experience in a completely different culture (and as much as anything else, fueled my interest in things Japanese that is with me to this day), it was the year Star Wars came out in Japan.  There was nothing more amazing than being at the perfect age to appreciate the novelty of merchandise that was not at all available in the US.

2)  Japan, 1997:  My second visit, this time with The Ravishing Mrs. TB (as the saying goes, "When we were cool before we had children").  In this case we largely stayed with another relative (a cousin stationed in Japan).  We managed to make our way to some major cities - Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara - as well as north through Tohoku to the island of Hokkaido - completely on our own using the train system.   It was a great confidence builder, as well as the fact that we completely had to get by on my relatively bad Japanese and what English others knew.

3)  Montana, 2016: 

As mentioned above, we had made many trips to Montana growing up. What was different about this one was the fact that I drove with Na Clann from New Home to the Cabin (two day trip) without The Ravishing Mrs. TB (she had to work, so she flew up for a shorter time).  We went to many of the usual places we had always gone - Lewis and Clark Caverns, Yellowstone - but also places I had never been like Butte and Little Big Horn- which was immensely powerful to me and was one of those moments that history really "came alive". It was also one of the few times there was a driving trip that was just me and Na Clann. (Entries are in Late July/early August, 2016)

4)  Japan, 2018:  

Specifically going to train at Katsuura in Iaijutsu.  This was the culmination of 9 years of practicing the art. Going to Japan to train with one's headmaster was both intimidating and amazing, all at the same time. And meeting other students from all around the world - and realizing that in a very real way, training in Iaijutsu was not being "alone" no matter how isolated the dojo seemed - was an experience I had never had before.  I have been back to train in 2019 and 2020 (before The Plague, of course - hopefully next year!), but there was something about that first early morning, stepping into the large dojo with the temperatures in the mid forties, that can never be replicated. (Entries are in February, 2018)

5)  Iceland, 2018:  

Going to Iceland was the culmination of a interest that had occurred in the late 1980's, when I read the book Njal's Saga and was deeply moved by it; almost 30 years later, I finally got to go.  Beyond just seeing historical locations, like standing at Þingvellir  (the traditional Icelandic Parliament location from 1000 years ago, and where Njal himself spoke), the views are such that one cannot help but leave changed by the desolation and emptiness. (Entries are in September 2018)

6)  Grand Canyon, 2021: 

If you had told me that I would hike down and back out of the Grand Canyon prior to 2021, I would have laughed at you.  Long and hard.  But having done it, I realized that a great many of the proscriptions and limitations I feel are simply  proscriptions and limitations that I put on myself rather than anyone else putting them onto me.  I certainly left there with a greater sense of self confidence. (Entries are in November 2021)

What were the vacations that changed you?

Friday, May 13, 2022

Gone Hiking

Responses this weekend will be a bit delayed, as I have Gone Hiking.

Well, in fairness it is more "Gone Training Hiking".  My brother in law (he of The Grand Canyon adventure last year) and I are planning on an 8 day hike this August.  Beyond just the usual "train more", he and I are making a series of three day training hikes leading up to August (besides I need to burn some PTO or lose it).

With any luck, we will be completely excluded from cell phone coverage (so work cannot find me - or more appropriately, so that I will not be tempted to check my e-mail).  I am hopeful that where we are going will give us some beautiful pictures and allow me to refocus a little bit.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

A Prayer Request For Nighean Gheal


I am coming with my hat in hand again for your prayers.  In this case it is for our oldest daughter, Nighean Gheal.

As is probably often typical in this situations, I cannot speak a great deal into the situation, other then she would really benefit from some sustained prayer.  If anything, for healing and wisdom.

Thank you.

Your Obedient Servant, Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

On "Trying To Make Sense"

 Ed from Riverbend Journal has become something of a fixture around here, for which I am grateful - not only for his comments but his eternal optimism (his job title, granted by myself, as "The Resident Optimist" is certainly not a high paying one but is much appreciated).   He is an excellent writer and if you do not already read him, I certainly commend him to your attention.

Thus it was with a growing sense of sadness that I read his most recent post, Trying To Make Sense.  He relates that a young woman, a cousin who had visited him and his family last year (I recall the visit as he wrote of it) had gone missing and then was found.  It was in fact a suicide.

I leave it to Ed to describe their thoughts and situations; their story is not mine to tell.  But it does make me reflect a bit on suicide in general.

I know depression in a way many others do not; for me the black clouds that cling to the mind and body are old acquaintances.  At one time - in my late teen age years - I was very much depressed, so much so that I professed an interest in "not going on".  In my case it was a cry for help, and it did change many things, including the relationship I had with TB the Elder (less so my mother).  It cycled through over the next few years as I went back and forth between colleges and relationships, never quite fitting in with where I was  at the time.

I know depression.  I know the grinding heaviness of day after day without anything ever seeming to get better or improve - and no hope that it will improve at all. I cannot speak for everyone that deals with this as it is not the sort of thing we readily compare notes about; I do know that from what I read, a lack of hope comes across as one of the defining characteristics of those that make the choice. A lack of hope and existence of pain seemingly so endless and consuming that something - anything - seems less of a risk.

Ed says it far more eloquently than I: "Her last stop had been at a 7/11 where she purchased something before driving to some pay for parking lot somewhere and ending her life.  I would be at that 7/11 waiting for her if I could, just to let her know it will get better."

Although I suspect that the bulk of my readers are not in the younger set, I would remiss in saying that my e-mail address is over there on the right.  I check it at least once a day.  And I bet if something was posted in the comments here, there would be more than an outpouring of support - I know my audience that well, at least.

  National Suicide Prevention Hotline