• Mary Anderson

Why I Hike

Walking in Glacier National Park reminds me of how lucky we are in the United States to have a national park system. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Considering that I have hiked close to 15,000 miles in my life, that is saying something.

Nature and wild places such as this feed my soul. In fact they have saved my life, as well as my sanity. When I was just thirteen years old and contemplating suicide, I remember looking at a sunset and thinking, “If I can see something as beautiful as that, maybe I am not all bad. Maybe it is okay if I stay alive.” I used to hug a tree that grew right in the middle of the sidewalk, drawing strength from its tenacity. It was right around that time that I learned about the Appalachian Trail and met my first thru-hikers. Immediately, I knew that someday I wanted to do that.

Hiking in nature has helped me find peace. It has helped me feel better about who I am as a person. And it has helped restore my belief in the human race.

I shudder to think what this gorgeous national park would look like were it in the hands of developers whose main thought was for profit. There is absolutely no amount of money that could bring me the same inner healing that these mountains provide. Every one of my senses is alive out here. I hear the wind in the trees. It sounds different than the wind whipping up white caps on a glacial lake. And that is different again from the wind as it howls through a high mountain pass. The smell of spruce and fir tells me I am entering higher altitude. I am still searching for the origin of an amazing sweetness that sometimes fills the air out here in Glacier. Some smells alert me to the presence of certain animals. In the desert the smell of water was always a welcome pungency that brought joy to my heart. I feel the wind and salty sweat on my skin as I climb up 3,000 feet. I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. I feel chilled to my bones when trying to navigate blowdowns in a cold, windy hail storm.

Eating and sleeping become so much more enjoyable and tactile when I am truly hungry and bone tired. It seems I feel every muscle in my body as I move up a mountain, carrying my pack. Often It feels wonderful. The beauty I see with my eyes is nothing short of stunning. High, steep mountains in shades of red, green, gray, tan, and more, dotted with snowy glaciers all set against a crystal blue sky, feed my soul in a way nothing else can. Fields of multicolored wildflowers and deep blue glacial lakes add to the eye candy. I take it all in and imagine the beauty pushing out old pain and restoring my spirit.

I know that some people thrive in the city, but I am not one of them. When I lived in New York City, with its constant noise, crush of people, and never-ending lights, I became a wreck. I need some silence, the sounds of nature, and real darkness. It gives me a sense of connection with the living world. I suspect everyone would do well with a dose of true nature once they got used to being out of the city.

I hope our national parks and wilderness areas remain wild and out of the hands of those who would develop them for profit. The well being of many of us visiting them even for one day is dependent upon these awe-inspiring natural places

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