So What Could I Do But Laugh And Go?

Yes! Yes! It has been a long time. Too long, if you ask me. Life has a way of going off on a tangent. Six months later you wake up and realize, “Wait! You mean I haven’t hiked since July 4th?!”

“Yup! That’s right, Michael.” (This is my conscience talking, in case you didn’t know.) “It’s been awhile. Something’s gonna snap if you don’t do something about it.”

Hmm. I wonder if my conscience really talks like that. Anyway….

Fortunately, the weather couldn’t have been more agreeable for a day hike. It was 52 degrees and sunny at the trailhead. The sky was clear, blue, and bright. Having lost my trail legs from inactivity, I decided to take the rather flat Park Creek Trail at Standing Indian and amble along the beautiful Upper Nantahala River.The multiple trail heads at Standing Indian.

Inactivity. It’s an insidious thing, you know. It builds up. At first you tell yourself I’ll go next weekend, but it never happens and, before you know it, too many weekends pass by like posts in your social media feed.

Anyway, the parking lot at the Backcountry Info Center was packed – the most cars I’ve seen in a long while. Being the end of a beautiful three day weekend, I imagine most of the people had been there since Friday, backpacking around the Appalachian Trail. They’d be heading back soon enough for their long drive back to Atlanta, or Charlotte, or to wherever they call home.

Surprisingly, with all of those cars, we didn’t pass a single soul on the trail. We had it all to ourselves.

A beautiful view of the Upper Nantahala River.

The beautiful Upper Nantahala River in Standing Indian Basin.

For me, I definitely reach a point when it’s been too long since my last hike. If I’m being honest with myself, I probably reached that point months ago. When this happens, all I can think about is hitting a trail. My brain shouts, “Enough!” It starts resisting me, sabotaging me, playing little games with my thoughts. It causes me to be forgetful, distracted, OTL (which means “out to lunch”, as in mentally checked out, in case you didn’t know this one).

I’ll find myself standing in the middle of someplace, daydreaming about Silers Bald or Rufus Morgan Falls, then waking up and wondering what the hell am I doing in the kitchen?

Maybe you experience something similar?Blue blazing on Park Creek Trail in Standing Indian.

We ended up doing 5 miles – a quick out and back, stopping frequently to sit by the river and take in the sights and sounds or gobble some trail mix. Our dog, Phyto, could hardly contain his enthusiasm for being on the trail – or in the water – either. He never stopped grinning.

My conscience has a not so subtle way – kind of like a kick in the head – of saying, “You’re lost. Slow down. Reconnect to what’s important, my friend. So, listen up! Get your ass on the trail…or else….”

I know. My conscience sounds like a big bully, doesn’t it? It’s right, though. I’m always more relaxed, more productive, more creative, more focused, in fact, happier when I’m hiking regularly.

The Blue-blazed bridge over Park Creek in Standing Indian..

The Blue-blazed bridge over Park Creek, which flows into the Nantahala River.

So out I went. After a string of beautiful winter days I said enough is enough. I don’t care if I have work to do. I’m going hiking! And as I was getting ready to go, I suddenly remembered a poem by Richard Le Gallienne, who, by the way, celebrated his 149th birthday on the January 20th, entitled, “I Meant To Do My Work Today.”

Oh no! It’s not what you may be thinking. It’s not an ode for slackers; people who shirk their duties. Au contraire, mon ami! It’s a call to action. An invitation to awaken from the industrial wasteland. A ballad for the call of the wild rather than the inharmonious sound of a  9 to 5 punch clock.

I imagine people like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and people with similar sensibilities would wholeheartedly line up with the sentiment of this poem.

Here’s it is…

I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?

Soaking in the sights and sounds of the Upper Nantahala River in Standing Indian.

“So what could I do but laugh and go?” Amazing day! It felt good to be out.

I’ve known this poem since I was 7 years old, but the older I get, the more I understand the message it’s conveying. The sentiment gets stuck in my brain, demanding I listen…and take action.

But never more! From now on, when I hear the call, my only option will be to “laugh and go.” This is no longer just a poem. This is my anthem.

See ya on the trail!

What’s it like for you after a long spell of not hiking? How do you get your hiking mojo back? Share your thoughts in the comments below.