It was kind of funny…
I’d walked the same stretch of trail only 6 days before but it was completely unrecognizable. And not for the first time I wondered why… Was it because I was going in the opposite direction? Was it because the time of day was different? Was it because my pack was lighter on my back and my body was more comfortable with it after 6 days on the move? Was it because I had changed so drastically over that time that how I viewed the world was no longer the same? Was it, as is most likely, a combination of all of these factors?
Of course. Of course the trail would look different. Of course I had changed.
When I had walked it before, I had been heading South, climbing away from Tuolumne Meadows. Each step was a fight against gravity pushing against my heavy pack. Each step was working muscles that hadn’t been tested since the last backpacking trip. The terrain was headed towards thinning groves of trees and the barren expanse of the pass fourteen hundred feet above. The morning’s coolness soon gave way to the heat of a humid thunderstorm laden afternoon. The threat of the unknown, the potential obstacles, the hard fought miles, the aches, the pains, and all the other struggles of a multi-day trip lay ahead and weighed down every forward movement.
When I returned, I was trekking North, descending from Tuolumne Pass and returning to the shade and comfort of the ancient trees at the lower elevations. The morning cool had held sway over the stretch of trail above tree-line and then the afternoon’s warmth was kept at bay under the expansive canopy. My pack had been relieved of my share of the week’s meals. My muscles had hardened. My body had grown accustomed to the weight strapped across my hips and held securely to my frame over my shoulders. Gravity had become my friend. It helped my feet move forward and press down as each step went downhill from the last. I had survived the previous days, the aches, the pains, the struggles. All that was left was the final miles that would return me to the car and civilization.
Still, it was the same stretch of trail. The same trees. The same rocks. The same winding path. The same major landmarks. It should have looked familiar. Shouldn’t it? That’s where the source of confusion comes from. My mind was thrown off that it knew I’d walked those miles before but didn’t recognize them. It expected to and it riled at the disconnect, sending me warnings and demanding that I pay attention rather than relax and enjoy the beauty around me.
Because I’d felt that sensation before I was able to push it aside and still enjoy the final steps of my trip. It did make me wonder, however, how often we have similar perspective shifts in our day-to-day lives that cause us to worry. Those times we break from our routines, even only by a little bit, and our brains are thrown into overdrive… Driving familiar streets at a different time of day? Visiting a different neighborhood store than normal? Wearing a different style to a routine function?
What else? When have you felt a bit of that fight-or-flight response kick in when there was really no reason for it, when an almost routine, almost normal situation made you pause because it felt wrong, felt scary, felt funny?
I’m not really sure what the point of this post is. I was struck by the oddness of the situation on the trail and it made my mind wander a bit so now I’m sharing with you and maybe it will make your mind wander a bit too.