Remembering Your Why

Thru-hiker packs in Hot Springs, North Carolina. 

Admittedly it takes very little prompting to get me to talk some trail. I overhear a conversation about hiking or see someone traveling with a 50+ liter backpack on the subway and I can’t help myself but to ask where they are headed. I have to all but bite my tongue not to chime in when I see people debating their gear selections at the Soho REI store – not because I am a gear snob, but because I get excited for them that they are embarking on a new trip in the outdoors.

Maybe I wouldn’t feel this way if I lived in a place like Colorado or Seattle, where it seems like the desire to go mountain biking, trail-running and camping is all but pumped into the water. But here in New York City, us outdoorsy folks are fewer and farther between. It takes real work just to navigate getting out and away from the masses and the traffic to then drive or take public transit an hour or more to a trailhead. It gives me a sense of pride when I see my fellow tribe out on the city streets, because I know they have to be dedicated.

Tree Tunnel in The Great Smokies National Park, North Carolina.

Near Woodstock, Vermont.

Deep in the Maine woods.

Last week I was invited to give a talk and a slideshow about my time on the Appalachian Trail. Pulling images together from my six months on trail gave me an opportunity to reflect upon my own AT experience and share how those 2200 miles continue to play a role in my life seven plus years after I first stepped foot on Springer Mountain.

Sunrise at Rice Field Shelter, Virginia.

Deciding what to talk about put me back in touch with my why. Why did I go out there? What was I seeking? I was reminded how being out amid the scenery of the woods provided me with serenity and clarity then and how it continues to provide me solace from a busy city life now. I was reminded how getting away from my everyday thoughts and checklists allows for me to be more creative in my photography work.

At this point in my life, spending six months on a long-distance trail is not an option. But what I can do, what I am trying to do, is to make those connections with other outdoor-seeking city dwellers. To help others take that much needed break from the chaos, noise and grind and to simply breathe in.

Budding Magnolia Tree, Tennessee.

Melissa GoodwinComment