It happens every time I walk into a grocery store. I feel overwhelmed by all the possible selections, and my brain seems to shut down. I walk from aisle to aisle in a state of confusion.
I know some of this is because it is such a stark contrast with the simplicity and lack of things on the trail. It made me wonder if the level of stimulation found in most stores is on some basic, mammalian level overwhelming to our very nature. I wonder how much we have learned to adapt and accept situations and at what price.
A lot of hikers talk about feeling the stress fall away as they walk. I hiked one day with a young man who told me he didn't realize how much he needed the trail until he got out here. A part of it may be the physical exercise. But I wonder how much of the destressing comes from the fact that we are living a somewhat simplified life focused primarily on survival. We are immersed in the natural world, which I believe is the state we were meant to live in as mammals.
When I go caving in Vermont or hiking in the New Mexican desert at night with no moon I am reminded what deep darkness is like. After hiking in the woods with no manmade sounds, the road noises are almost painful to my ears. How much background noise and light have we learned to accept and what does that do to our nervous system?
When I built my current house, I was shocked at the level of noise a refrigerator brought into it. I've learned to accept it but miss the deeper quiet the house contained before the refrigerator arrived. I wonder what level of dis-ease I have learned to live with on a daily basis. While I feel a need to adapt to the world, I am not completely convinced the world as we know it is the healthiest environment for me to adapt to. I want to keep my life simple. I don’t want events that overwhelm me, such as walking into a grocery store while on the trail, to become my accepted normal.
When 63-year-old Mary Anderson set out to hike the southern half of the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail last summer, nobody thought she would make it. Hikers give themselves trail names, and Mary’s was Old Lady Hiker. A few days into her solo trek, she ran into some younger hikers who decided she needed a new name. From then on, she was known as Mary Badass. In the fall of 2020, Mary began writing her story in a Korongo workshop hosted by Kimball Library in Randolph. This summer, she is blogging from the trail as she hikes the northern half of the CDT.