The Trail Beyond the Trail
There is something beyond magic that occurs when you bring yourself into an unknown. A darkness intentionally pursued, inevitably expands the mind. We all have our own personal mysteries, but the unknowns I inhale lie on the trail beyond the trail.
Around the curves which I cannot see, exist another climb or plunge into physical and mental challenges. Beyond the bend live wildlife I have yet to encounter, conversations beyond my imaginations, and inevitable inspiration.
Every time I lug my backpack onto my shoulders, I question why I inflict so much unnecessary pain to my body…
“What is the point of all this walking, I tell myself? What am I doing in the middle of the woods, with less-than-necessary survival skills and freeze dried meals shoved into a 10-year-old pack? Where is the sense in all of this? Didn’t we evolve as a civilization to not need this anymore? Cities, technology, Chipotle…they were invented so we could avoid the suffering I am volunteering my body for. Did I mention it’s raining today? Or that I have 15 miles to the next campsite?”
This repeating monologue chomps away at my gumption, sometimes even causing a breakdown in the middle of a 40-mile trip. But then I imagine what might lie just around the next bend: the magic. Lacking the ability to see through mountains, I inspire myself to put one foot in front of the other and labor forward. My hips groan and my shoulders ache, but my mind’s expansion provides the ibuprofen necessary to summit each mountain.
As the route unravels, having to carry a 15–30-pound pack becomes less of a laborious chore, and transforms into a necessary gateway to future unknowns.
For anyone who has yet to walk the trail with their life on their back, backpackers appear insane. People always ask the questions of “why?” or “what are you trying to prove?” But for those who have tasted the woods intimately, no explanations are necessary; the magic is palpable and all-consuming.
I invite you to taste the unknowns and discover the magic yourself.
“I argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort doesn’t mean much.”
— Robert Pirsig, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Each backpacking trip I embark upon injects new wonder and perspectives into my mind. Follow along as I share what I’ve learned.
Logan Stoneman is a writer, backpacker, minimalist, and the creator of LogStone.co.