• Mary Anderson

What Hiking Teaches Us About Timing

I’ve heard it said “Timing is everything.” While it may not be everything, it certainly can have huge impacts. Timing is important in music and in breathe control when giving birth. It matters to children growing up, as until one is ready to learn something, it will not come easily. And timing certainly can make or break a long hike.

I’ve thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail twice, once in summer and once in winter. The timing of those two trips made for entirely different trail experiences. When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, I was in twenty feet of snow for weeks at a time. Timing is why I chose to break my CDT hike into two sections. I wanted to minimize my time postholing on steep mountain slopes and maximize my time in meadows full of wildflowers. This year on the CDT there were record numbers of hikers holed up in Chama, New Mexico, because of late snowfall and deep ground snow in the San Juans. Many hikers complain of hiking the Great Basin of Wyoming because they do it in midsummer. While not an easy environment to be in, I found the Basin beautiful in late spring, decked out in spring flower glory.

I realize, too, that timing in a conversation sometimes makes the difference in how something is taken. If I am hungry or tired, I am more apt to be snarky. I may be less able to react in what would appear to be a normal manner if I am in a situation which triggers my posttraumatic stress. (I drop the D from PTSD, because it really is not a disorder. It is in fact a very understandable and sane response to a disordered environment.)

While I am not thrilled to be living with PTS, I am grateful for the awareness it has given me. I understand how people can do some terrible things without really meaning to. It doesn’t make the behavior acceptable, but it does make it understandable, and when we approach one another with understanding it is easier to have compassion.

I try to remember not to react when someone barks at me, Instead, I try to assume they are having a hard time in the moment. I try to pull deep inside myself to discern what is going on, understanding that in a different place or time their reaction might be different. And I try to observe my own behavior from the outside, recognizing that when I feel despair it may be just a matter of time until it shifts. I don’t always achieve this goal, but I’m working on it.

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