I’m running down a dirt trail, full steam ahead, sandwiched between two of my friends, and I realize how strange we must look to our fellow trailblazers. The two of them are running freely, and several feet ahead of me, and I’m there with my jean shorts on and my hiking backpack securely clipped around me (which contains all our cell phones, sunscreen, and water). People must think we are running away from a mountain lion with the way we weave in and out of couples and groups of children- but in all honesty, I can’t tell you which one of us started to run in the first place.
I'm feeling slightly hung over after going out with friends from work the night before, but I’ve already sweat most of the whiskey out of my body, and am now smiling from ear to ear as we continue to sprint instead of hike the path. My mind ceases any unwanted thoughts from entering, and I am completely in that moment. I am running through a canyon with about twenty pounds strapped to my back, for no reason at all – simply for the hell of it- because it’s what needed to happen right now.
The first time I came to this trail was back in November. I came here because a coworker had recommended it to me after we bonded over our love of hiking. At that moment, I needed to get away from a slew of thoughts that were haunting me in my apartment. They're called the "mean reds" actually (based after Holly Golightly of course) but instead of wandering over to Tiffany’s, I tend towards nature.
I came here by myself that time, back in November, and had not looked at a map or read anything about the trail before setting foot on it (which is odd for me since I usually am one who needs to have a plan). That time though, I wanted to walk amongst strangers and not have any idea where I was going. As I walked the trail alone, I started writing an internal monologue about the importance of being with one's self, why we should bask in our solitude, and how crucial it is to take the time that is so needed for yourself. That time can change your life and help you reevaluate each and everything around you. (I highly recommend it.)
So I kept walking. I continued to watch the people around me and observe the hills surrounding all of us. Little did I know what this trail had in store for me. As I turned the corner around this cliff, I heard a large crowd bellowing, and a sound too familiar to describe. It was there that I witnessed the most gorgeous site before my eyes.
I stopped. I took it all in: the sounds of water splashing, children laughing, and the feel of my hands grasping onto the rocks as I made my way forward. It was there that I had this insight:
Many of the people that stood there were the same people that I had seen along my trek. We had crossed paths and nodded towards each other without saying a single word. We had been a part of an experience all too similar, and ended at the same destination. While we took various paths and traveled with various groups or by ourselves, we still ended up at this waterfall. We all shared in the same beauty.
That moment has stayed with me, and is why I keep going back to that canyon. That’s why I’m running through it right now with two of my friends. I feel free. I feel unstoppable. I feel… happy.
We stop running and start walking at a steady pace as the crowds grow larger around us, and due to my friend almost getting kicked in the head by a guy feeling the need to show off his hurdling capabilities. We're walking now. The steady pace of our shoes against the dirt is all that can be heard. We laugh and smile and continue our conversation from before.
We're back at my car and I toss my sweaty backpack in the back seat. The key goes in the ignition, and the windows roll down. None of us are saying a single word in this moment. We're just breathing in the air and letting it fill our lungs. It's so peaceful. My hand rests upon the steering wheel, and my foot hits the pedal. Onward we go.