Recall: 2021 Winter Hike, Cole Mountain, Virginia, Logged 6 miles

I wanted to share and recall a hike from a couple of months back: January of 2021 and my Gryphon team’s first hike of the new year. It felt pretty monumental to welcome in new goals and taking lessons from the woods. This is why I love these friends so much. They all think it is crazy fun to hike a mountain in winter weather, bundled in layers and sweat, on their Christmas holiday vacation.

What I loved especially about this hike was the loneliness and moodiness of the pine forest. It was breathtaking and magical, with that eerie atmosphere and quiet, beautiful stillness that is only experienced in the dead of winter. It reminded me of the hours I would play in the snow as a child in the park and forest behind our house. It was always the most magical at twilight, when the trees seemed darker and full of secrets, my breathe frozen in front of me.

“Phenomenologists like to say that nothing is so silent as that which is taken for granted or self-evident.”- M. Van Manen

Personally, I think it is very easy to hike through spring or fall, when everything is alive and vibrant. But hiking in the winter requires a fortitude to see past the dull and the grey and the brown. Rather than viewing the landscape as barren or empty, it brings reality into sharper focus. Without their constant dress, the trees become seen. Without green to cover over everything, patches stand out in relief against their backdrop. In fact, the backdrop of the mountain becomes the focal point. And it requires of me to stop thinking while I am there and to just take it in, to observe, before some meaning can be derived from it.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”- John Muir

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” – Edward Abbey

“For that which cannot be shaken shall remain. That which is immortal in God shall remain in man. The death that is in them shall be consumed. It is the law of Nature–that is, the law of God–that all that is destructible shall be destroyed.” – George MacDonald

“It is a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, in their struggles to truly be free…I see the evil of this time…gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.”- Charles Dickens

“On the human imagination events produce the effects of time. Thus he who has traveled far and seen much is apt to fancy that he has lived long; and the history that most abounds in important incidents soonest assumes the aspects of antiquity.”- J. F. Cooper

“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words are a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.”- A. Dillard

“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance a palace or a temple on the earth, and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them.”- H. D. Thoreau

“When through a rent in the rain-clouded sky a ray of the sun suddenly glides over the gloom of the meadows…We never come to thoughts. They come to us. That is the proper hour of discourse. Discourse cheers us to companionable reflection. Such reflection neither parades polemical opinions nor does it tolerate complacent agreement.”- Heidegger

“It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, amid all the common places of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never quite draw it aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realms beyond–only a glimpse–but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile.”- L. M. Montgomery

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” – Psalms 19:1-2

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