Mary Anderson wrote this post while crossing the Wyoming desert between South Pass and Encampment on the CDT, a 250-mile trek that she hopes to complete in 15 days. —Ed.
Many times a day I have to dig deep to keep going. For example, when it is 16 miles to the next water and my feet, knees, hips, and shoulder hurt. It would be easy to stop and give up. But I don't really want to end my hike. Neither do I want to sit still and die of dehydration in the desert.
To keep going I often resort to song. One song usually lasts two minutes. If I have 4 miles to go and walk at 2 miles per hour that's 60 songs. Often it is the same song over and over. In the basin I have sung every song I know with the word wind in
I don't have a great singing voice, but out here it doesn't matter at all. In fact, it works to scare away the cows when they are blocking my path. I hope it works to scare away grizzlies rather than annoying them!
Most of the songs I sing are songs I learned as a child. This got me thinking about how we devalue art, music and recreation in our public schools in favor of teaching to the test. Trust me, when I am struggling to go those last miles, it is never a complicated math problem I am working out in my head. It is my connection with music, the beauty of nature, thinking of writing and my friends back home that keep me going.
I home-schooled my son. We seldom spent more than one month a year on hard-core academics, yet he graduated WPI with honors. He learned to hike, cook, sew, appreciate music, grow food, and a host of other life skills not learned in school. I hope the time people have spent at home with their kids during COVID helps shift the focus some away from teaching-to-the-test to a more balanced approach to academics.
I encourage you to watch a movie called Alive Inside. It depicts quite well the importance of music for the aging brain.
Mary Anderson is writing a book about her trek along the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she began in her sixties. Mary hiked the southern half of the trail in 2020 and is undertaking the northern half this year.
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