Memory is a curious thing. Sometimes, it’s relatively clear and straightforward, offering facts we’re trying to recall; other times (often times?),it’s jumbled and random.
I’m convinced that all of my hiking memories get filed in the same part of my brain. These memories can be tough to access in civilization, where discussions of trail life often turn to generalizations: “The hike was amazing and challenging,” “I met wonderful people,” etc.
Out on the trail, memories of past hikes flood my consciousness when I least expect them, reminding me of moments of the last eight summers.
When I’m hurrying down a trail, I’m not running alone. Fain and I are dodging mosquitoes in Pennsylvania. Gluten Puff and I are racing for the shelter in the chilly Vermont downpour.
When I’m filtering water, I’m at a spring in the Smokies, or a tiny Pennsylvania stream, or a cottonwood grove in Southern California, or a public fountain in Spain.
When a storm blows in, I’m back on Moosilauke with the Hubbard Brook crew in 2010, wearing cotton. Or, I’m huddled at treeline next to Apostle John, who’s entertaining me with stories of snakes and shelters.
When I’m swinging on my poles down a descent, I’m not hiking solo. Quiver is behind me, playing word games all the while. Pine Nut is following, too, along with some pie-carrying, RV-living adventurers who comment on how graceful we look.
When I’m setting up my tent, it’s that first night back on Springer again. Or maybe it’s that frigid night everyone huddled together on Stratton Mountain.
All these people, all these places blur together in a tired mind. What emerges is a string of memories I’ll treasure all my life.