Veteran’s Day Hike

One of the things that I enjoy doing is to go hiking. To me, the outdoors have always appeared serene and tranquil, and they have always instilled in me a profound respect for the noisy silence that only nature contains. Additionally, when I am in nature I find that my own thoughts and dialogue are stilled, as I appreciate the wonder and beauty of everything around me. While I find myself physically tired after a hike, I also find myself spiritually restored.

On one such hike in the local hills (Trabuco Canyon, CA), my roommate, his sister and I ascended the steep Local Hikeslope of a hill and gained quite a bit of elevation. The houses down below (in the bottom left of this picture) is near where the trail began that day. It was a bright, breezy day near Veteran’s Day 2012, and we had stopped for a rest atop the summit on which this flag is planted.

Buried underneath a pile of rocks, there were a heavy plastic film canister, a pen, and a plastic bag full of playing cards and paper. Inside, there was a log of everyone that had reached this summit, often with the day and the weather conditions described as well. On a side note, before beginning to hike more regularly, I was unaware that such summit logs are a fairly regular part of hiking.

Anyways, the dog tags hanging from the flag were particularly sobering (seen in the picture next to the pole and right underneath the flag itself). They belonged to a recently fallen Marine, and, on such a beautiful day so near Veteran’s Day, their impact was immediate. Without conscious decision, we had a moment of silence and contemplation at the top of the hill for this fallen soldier. I was reminded of the precious fragility of human life, and I was aware of my own life, one that should be lived fully and well. The conversation eventually picked up and changed topics, but the impact of such a sight did not completely dissipate; it stayed with us in some small way and still does.

This is why I think all people should travel, if possible, even if they are short distances. The outdoors, new places and people, and especially new experiences have the power to remind us of who we are, what unites us as all human beings, and to remind us of what is important. Travel to see new sights and eat new foods, but remember that such transient sensory experiences are not the only thing or the most important thing that traveling can show you.

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