By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
We shouldered our backpacks, picked up our tools, headed uphill and disappeared from the world. High in the Rockies of Colorado, just west of the Continental Divide, we walked and looked and suffered and, along the way, made our separate peace with it all.
I haven’t hiked just for the sake of hiking since my Boy Scout days a long time ago, but visiting with the core of enthusiasts who’ve recently formalized the Tupelo Trekkers, a group dedicated to walking the walk in the world’s out of the way places, reminded me what the sake of hiking really is, and reminded me again of the joy found in the field covering open ground from Point A to Points Unknown.
Each day for five days, one September not long ago, I walked with a professional elk guide and a 20-year-old videographer and covered a fair sample of the ground the mountain man Jeremiah Johnson called home.
Each trek began at an altitude of 7,500 feet, and each time went uphill from there.
I arrived in Colorado ready to walk with a pack, but there’s no way to train for altitude in advance.
The first morning was brutal, the second morning was a lot better, and by the third day I felt like Superman.
The air was clear, the wildlife was abundant and the exercise was good for the soul, something the Tupelo group’s members know well.
“I enjoy the beauty that can’t be seen anywhere else,” Carolyn Beasley said, and that’s certainly true. What Beth Townsend offered, though, hit even closer to home.
“When there’s something big to climb or a distance to achieve,”
Townsend said, “I relate it to something in my life that I’m working through or thinking about. ‘If I can get over this,’ I think to myself, ‘I can get over that.’”
There’s definitely a peace to be found by simply being outdoors, by looking at nature instead of listening to a cell phone, but the uphill path to the places most people do not go leads to nirvana.
“My husband Andrew and I had some friends who were into hiking, and they always brought back the most amazing pictures,” Julie Battaile said. “I said, ‘We can do that,’ so we went to Olympic National Park and fell in love with it.”
From the Sipsey Wilderness near Double Springs, Ala., to Tishomingo State Park even closer to home, there’s a path less taken somewhere nearby.
I’m looking forward to finding hiking’s sake again soon.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.