Hobbies New and Old and Some Lessons That Tie Them Together

I’m not sure that my hiking is a hobby at this point, but it’s the best word I can come up with for my level of interest combined with my level of activity.  I’m probably classified mostly as a “weekend warrior” since I get to hike once a week, provided family commitments don’t prevent me from getting out one day during the weekend.  Occasionally, like this past Friday, I’ll take a day off from work to go hiking when the weekend schedule doesn’t work out for me.  However, I want to take it beyond this.

On the other end of the “hobby spectrum” is blogging.  This one is new for me, or at least a new attempt.  I’ve previously blogged briefly and failed miserably to keep it going.  My original blog, done a few years ago, was going to be a hiking journal with some pictures to keep family and friends included in my hiking adventures.  It didn’t last long.  This one is already more developed than that one was and is going much better in my mind.  Some part of that is the increase in social media connections and another aspect is that my mindset has been much different going into this attempt.

A small stream crossing Bickford Brook Trail

Obviously, there is a connection between these two hobbies, which is that the blog is an extension of my hiking, my goal to hike the AT, and the preparation to achieve that goal.  There’s also a connection between my two blogs (outside of the hiking theme).  I’m at that point where outside influences are taking priority over my desire to write blog posts at a reasonable frequency.  This was the death knell of my original blog.  Summer started and family time became a higher priority.  I didn’t have the motivation to spend time in front of the computer writing a blog post immediately after my hike and after I was a few hikes behind, it just seemed like a total waste of time to continue blogging at all.

I’ve hit that point again.

Sort of.

I took this past Friday off work to go hiking due to a combination of weather and family activities over the weekend.  With a busy weekend followed by a couple of days at work that has kept me significantly occupied, I have had the desire to write a new post, but not the motivation to actually do it.  Every night since my hike I have sat in front of the computer thinking about writing a post about Friday’s hike.  Each time I ended up doing something else instead, whether it was catching up on paying bills, or playing a game, or surfing internet sites on hiking or other topics.

Despite continuing to try to avoid snow, there was still this patch along the trail.

I felt like I was spiraling into the same trap as last time.  I was getting too far removed from the hike to write a good blog post about it.  Then I was going to go on another hike this weekend and would trap myself into the mindset that I couldn’t write about that hike until I’d written about the previous hike I’d skipped writing about.  Then, I got to today.

I don’t know what happened.  Sometimes the mind processes things in strange ways and makes connections that you’re not even considering.  Today, I realized that I haven’t been having a hard time motivating myself to write a blog post.  If I’d forced myself to do that, it was probably going to be a standard-type trail report:  Trails hiked, miles hiked, trail conditions, interesting things seen, throw in some pictures, and so on.  This was the reason I hadn’t written it.  It wasn’t what I wanted to read, so it wasn’t something I wanted to write.

The survey marker at the summit of Speckled Mountain.

What I needed to realize was that I wasn’t interested in a typical trail report.  The hike was wonderful with beautiful weather in Evan’s Notch that day and I have pictures to prove it.  However, while the hike was fun and interesting, a trail report wasn’t going to capture the spirit of the hike nor was it going to be interesting to myself looking back at it, let alone most readers.  Instead, my subconscious brain forced me to consciously realize more important lessons which will hopefully lead to a more interesting and longer lasting blog site than my previous endeavor.

First and foremost:  This is Hard.

I’m not a writer, I’m an Accountant.  At least, that’s according to training and education.  I can be a good writer and I can be a very creative person under the right circumstances.  I would be a horrible reporter or anyone else who had to write on a routine schedule or a deadline for a living.  My writing doesn’t seem to work that way.  I’ve always been able to write excellent papers when the spark hits me.  It’s like a spigot fully open with creative ideas, interesting imagery, and extensive vocabulary.  The problem is that I can’t voluntarily open the valve, or at least not close to fully open.

One of the many feathered friends hanging around the summit.

I think it’s one of those skills that good professional writers have.  The ability to tap into that creative pool of ideas and language, as needed, is a gift.  It’s a gift that probably gets refined and honed through use and practice, like most skills, but it’s still a gift.

For me, when the valve is open, the writing comes easily.  I’ve received lots of positive comments on my writing from people who have read my work when this happens.  Teachers and professors have said I should write more.  When the same teachers and professors read other papers written for a deadline which didn’t have that spark behind it, the reactions are definitely more muted and then the constructive criticisms come out about structure and grammar and voice and other “English Class stuff”.

From front to back are the Baldface Range, then the Carter Range, and Mt Washington poking up behind them all.

My second lesson learned really goes back to a saying, of which there are lots of variations:  “Nothing worth doing is easy.”

There are lots of paths I could follow to tie this lesson into hiking or blogging.  Hiking is hard and to me it is worth doing.  On the surface, I initially wouldn’t have made the same statement about blogging.  I looked at blogging as something that would journalize or document my process and learnings about preparing for an AT section hike.  I hoped it would be useful to other people as they prepared to do the same thing.  However, I thought it would be fun and easy and something I could look back on after my AT experiences as a bit of a memoir.

Boy, was I wrong.

In the beginning, the energy and enthusiasm for the blog was there, making the writing and posting easier to do and interesting like most new endeavors.  Looking back at the past couple of posts, the rote of trail reports has infused itself into the posts and while it helps to provide a timeline of my hiking and a basic story along with it, the post doesn’t convey any sense of life to the story it is trying to tell.

Looking north to the Mahoosuc Range.

This spring has been a series of personal growth moments for me, which is something I haven’t opened myself up to for a long time.  Apparently, I’ve got some catching up to do. 

For a long time, life has been a lot about family and work responsibilities, with hiking mixed in for recreation.  It was just a “grind through life” mentality.  I’ve now made the conscious decision to balance life more, or bring myself to the center of it.  Work will take a lower level of priority overall, with my family and my self increasing in priority, hopefully to a relative balance of the three.  Making that decision was the first step in the growth process.

Kezar Lake (I think) from Blueberry Ridge Trail.

Once I made that decision, I followed it up by deciding to attend the AMC 4000 Footer annual meeting.  I’d been hemming and hawing for months since I submitted my completion application and received the information about the meeting.  My wife and I are both definitely introverts and large gatherings with lots of people we don’t know aren’t really our usual scene, but I finally got off that fence and decided to go.

As I posted back in April, about that meeting, this was a continuation of that growth.  It was an opportunity to realize what hiking meant to me overall, but also what other people have gained from hiking.  Some of them gained far more than I have and had much harder journeys to completing their lists than I did.  It further reinforced the decision I made earlier in the year to finally start section hiking the AT, but more importantly, the presentation opened my eyes to the fact that while I am a goal oriented person, I could change my outlook and make goals that were more flexible, allowing me to enjoy my hikes more.  No longer did I have to make the summit the goal.  I also didn’t need to have a finishing time as a target.  It was going to be about the hike, the enjoyment, and the experience, rather than the time or the distance, specifically.

Shell Pond from the Blueberry Mountain ledges.

Now, I’ve extended that lesson to this blog.  I finally realized that I don’t need to blog each hike to be successful at this.  The important thing is to write something worth writing, which isn’t necessarily going to be easy each time.  If it is worth writing, then I hope it ends up being worth reading for more than just myself.  However, as long as it’s worth it to myself to read, then that’s all that really matters.  If I take care of making it worth writing, then things should just take care of themselves and all the readers after me will hopefully enjoy and learn from what I write.  Hopefully, this will help me practice opening up that spigot and I can start getting better at doing so.

And that ends up leading to the next (and maybe most important) lesson learned so far.  Take care of the most important pieces for the right reasons and in the right ways, and all the rest should fall into place.

Bickford Brook from Blueberry Ridge Trail just before the southern junction with Bickford Brook Trail.

To finish up, I don’t want to leave out those people who were checking in to see what trails I’ve hiked since my last post, so here’s a quick trail report summary of Friday’s hike.  I’ve interspersed pictures from that hike throughout the post with captions about what the pictures include.

Hike Date: Friday, May 31, 2019
Location: Evan’s Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Stow, Maine
Trails: Bickford Brook Trail, Blueberry Ridge Trail, Blueberry Mountain Loop
Total Mileage: 9.1 miles
Redline Mileage:7.4 miles
Redline Progress:From 30.0% to 30.5%

Maybe the next post will be more trail report than philosophical reflection, but we’ll see what comes out of the spigot next time.