While I was walking the road south of Hachita toward Antelope Wells, a border patrol agent pulled up next to me. He rolled down his window “You know, I’ve seen other people doing this walk. I just don’t get it… I mean, what do you get out of it?”, he asked. There I was, only a day from the border, and for the first time someone had asked me the direct question, “why?”. I couldn’t articulate a proper response. “It’s just a great experience…”, I told him, “It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom.” He squinted at me, like that made no sense to him. What he really seemed to want was reassurance he wasn’t missing some great truth, and that’s what he seemed to get. He drove off shaking his head.
Further down the road, I posed the question again to myself. “Why?” There were an infinate number of choices to take in life, a million routes to happiness, why had I picked this one? I suppose, I always knew the answer, but like so many things, that answer was complicated. I thought of all the things I could have told the man…
I hiked the trail because life was made of experiences, and I hoped to have as many as possible.
I hiked the trail because unfulfilled dreams became regrets, and I intended to have as few as possible.
I hiked the trail to share in something unique that few have known, or will ever know.
I hiked the trail to experience beauty, to be immersed in it.
I hiked the trail to see and to better understand the country I lived in.
I hiked the trail to learn about my own limitations.
I hiked the trail to learn about how the world worked, and to better understand my place in the natural order of things.
I hiked the trail to avoid living a life that had already been played-out by countless others.
I hiked the trail to think, to dream, to imagine and to reflect, unencumbered by the distractions of modern life.
I hiked the trail to endure mental and physical hardships, and perhaps become stronger as a result.
I hiked the trail to learn what was truly important in my life, in any life.
I hiked the trail to separate my wants from my needs.
I hiked the trail to meet people, and learn from them.
I hiked the trail to live an active life rather than a passive one.
I hiked the trail to gain perspective, not only to think, but to live “outside the box”
I hiked the trail to be able to share the experience with others who either could not or did not care to do it themselves.
I hiked the trail to achieve a level of physical conditioning I’d never though possible.
I hiked the trail to experience things that could not be described with words or pictures.
I hiked the trail to live not in fear, but in wonder.
But I was fairly certain that even if I had told him all those things, he still would not have understood. And frankly, I would not have fully explained anything. What I really should have told him was that if he had to ask, I could never provide a sufficient answer. It was a question that could only be answered within. Finally, I thought that maybe all those things were just details, that hiking the trail wasn’t a thing to be thought of that way. Maybe it wasn’t what we did, rather who we were that was important. I hiked the trail not to “do something”, but to “become something”… to become someone. I didn’t know if that person I’d become was good or bad, but there it was, I was someone else. I thought about all those people that had been ruined by trails… The trails hadn’t really ruined them at all, the trails had created them.