As a ridgerunner this year. I am meeting a variety of hikers out on the trail. Some are hiking just for a few days. Others are out for months at a time, attempting to complete a "thru hike" of the Appalachian Trail, that is, hiking the entire length of trail in a given year. And with the people I meet, I also discover their many reasons for coming to a lone trail, enduring pain, fatigue, hunger, heat, rain, snow, ice, wind to walk. They range in ages from kids on up to senior citizens. They are from the neighboring towns or as far away as Germany and New Zealand. But they are all seeking something unique from their wilderness experience that they can take back to the front country when they return.
Some, like myself, returned to the woods in times of grief to find solace and comfort in the trees, flowering plants, and the goal of seeing the view off a mountain summit. Or even to cry in a tent in the middle of nowhere.
One hiker told me how "bad' he had been in his youth and now he wants to turn a new corner and be "good' by doing a long hike.
One young hiker survived cancer everywhere in his body at the tender age of 24 and now he hikes to raise money so young survivors of cancer can enjoy recreational opportunities.
The wounded warriors are walking off the pain and the memory of fierce battle and the war wounds they carry by hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Many hikers have quit their jobs and want to discover what the future has in store by doing something totally out of the norm of the busy society to do a thru hike. They are adventurers at heart.
One went to do work in a third world country and now wanted to experience third world living, so to speak, by hiking and living in the woods with little.
Several married couples are hiking long distances together to see how a marriage works trailside, with one couple married only a few months.
A film crew is out in the woods to make memories and money with their time, and they carry no money with them but wait to see how they will be provided for when they arrive at each stopping point.
This is but a small sample. Others seek many different things in their ventures. So what do you seek when you go out into the woods?