With all the recent attention given to the Pacific Crest Trail because of Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, and the movie, and the Oscar nominations, there seem to be some who worry that their beloved trail is going to see a huge spike in activity. While most hikers are generous, caring, helpful and kind, there is a seedy underbelly of fear that has prompted a few on social media to be… well, less than kind in their criticism.
From what I can see, it’s all just a tempest in a teacup. Twenty six hundred miles of trail is a long, long haul and the dedication and hard work involved in just getting to the PCT will thin the herd. The trail will not be loved to death, there is still plenty of long, lonely miles to cover. If anything, more attention to the PCT will ensure it’s protection in the future. Sure, there may be some growing pains, but time marches on and interest will ebb and flow. There are many other trails out there and new ones to blaze.
I myself have trod more than a few of those miles and will continue to visit the wilderness for its beauty, solitude and the replenishment of my soul. I love it out there and always have. I was the girl who played in the woods, and I grew up to be the woman who dives deep into the forest. Spending an afternoon following a deer path almost always sounds like a good idea to me. When I die, I’d like to curl up under a tree on the edge of a meadow with a view of the mountains and let my soul escape to the wilderness. My idea of heaven has craggy peaks, moraine lakes and clear blue water.
The older I get, the more all the facets of my life appear to converge into one vanishing point. That point seems to be focused in a small cedar sheathed studio in my backyard. As I painted Hope Pass (https://skyevans.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/hope-pass/) I was struck by how easily this landscape came to me. I hadn’t done a landscape that I felt so moved by until Hope Pass. It spoke to me and brought life to a seed that I had forgotten. That seed was my favorite place and I found myself longing to see it again.
So I am returning to the wilderness, but this time, I am returning to be inspired. Because it seems as if images of the trail inspire me in that lightning bolt way that I am yearning for. That bolt struck me last week as I was flipping through Facebook, reading posts by women hikers. I came across another image I had to paint; thank you Jennie Norris for taking that wonderful photo and generously allowing me to use it. That is the spirit of the hiking community, a heart that is so full of joy from the trail that they just want to share it with the world. It’s not the trail itself, the hardships, the gritty, dirt, sweat, heart pounding work that we want to share. It’s the joy and the feeling and the emotion of wonder. That’s something that can’t be boxed or quantified. You can get out there and experience it for yourself or you can find someone to recreate that feeling. Someone to move you.
It takes poets and writers, musicians and artists to do that. Which is why Ms. Strayed’s book is so powerful. That’s what great writers do, they move you to feel something. If she didn’t move you, well that’s ok, she’s not for everyone. But she DID move thousands and maybe eventually, millions. And that, my friend, is powerful stuff.
I hope my art can move you too. Because it is moving me. Tremendously.