What Three Days in the Wilderness Will Teach You About Life

Backpacking in the White Mountains“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir

Last weekend, I joined my brother and a few friends for an extended backpacking trip through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This northern end of the famed Appalachian Trail running from Georgia to Maine was ablaze with fall colors and (quite) cool with fall weather. During three days we traveled over fifteen miles, up and down a number of peaks (the Wildcats and Carter Dome), across a few rivers swollen with recent rain, and even glimpsed moose.

We try to get a few trips under our belt each year. In a way, the mountains call you. The wilderness beckons you back to itself. While months and months may pass between visits, when you arrive and plunge deep into its heart it is like you never left. It’s a conversation between friends that you can pick up again and again. You are Nature and Nature is You.

This particular trip had me thinking about essentials. With all you need to survive (literally) stuffed into a thirty-plus-pound pack on your back, you begin to take stock of what is truly important and what is not.

As I hiked the well-worn paths of root and rock, these essentials became catalysts for bigger things. The wilderness opened up — from the deep blue skies above to the plush moss brimming with the previous nights rain below — and invited me to be still and listen to what it had to teach about what is most important in life:

  • Warmth of body and spirit. Keeping our core from being cold and unpleasant. Radiating love and compassion; practicing tolerance and understanding; living deeply and with intent each day. Lush green moss in the White Mountains
  • Sharing what we have with others. This goes beyond your hiking buddies. The abundance in our lives does not have to be material or financial to make a difference. Time, skills and experience can be shared to create waves of change. And remember, other beings besides humans can benefit from this too.
  • Impermanence is the only constant. Just like the fickleness of mountain weather, the fleeting nature of each moment and all that dwells in that moment is what we can rely on most. Mindfulness helps us make each of these moments count and embrace the beauty of change.
  • Fortitude is more important than strength. Having the will to go on, to meet the challenge before you and see the path through is more important than how much baggage you can carry along the journey. In this regard, training our minds is just as important as training our bodies and we should take time to do so.
  • With balance comes abundance. The mountain environment — largely untouched by human hands — is well-balanced. As a result, its ecosystem thrives. So too can it be within our own lives and personal “ecosystems” if we take the time and effort to establish and embrace such balance.
  • Humans must be out of doors. We are One with Nature. And as such, we must regularly place ourselves in the palm of its Hand. We spend far too much time inside and away from the life-giving essence that being outside can bring. Opening our eyes to the amazing world outside our doors is one of the most important things we could ever do for ourselves.

I’m sure there are other lessons to be taught. All the more reason to get outside more, I suppose.

Has spending time in Nature helped you see Life differently? What lessons have you learned?

Be well,

Thanks so much for spending some time with The New Pursuit. If you enjoyed this post and think others will too, I welcome you to share it via Twitter, Facebook or one of the other social media tools below. Subscribing to receive future posts is also great. While you’re here you may also enjoy these posts:

16 Responses to “What Three Days in the Wilderness Will Teach You About Life”
  1. RedMango says:

    Very nice post!

  2. Lisa says:

    I just spent a couple of days in the woods. Your article summed up my feelings exactly! Very well – written and said!

  3. Bill Gerlach says:

    Thanks, Lisa. There’s nothing quite like it! Glad to hear you were able to get out there too!

  4. Bill Gerlach says:

    Thanks, RedMango. Appreciate it. It was an experience worth writing about. Be well!

  5. This is a superb post Bill. Congratulations — on the post, and on the 3 day journey that made it possible.

    You say, “The abundance in our lives does not have to be material or financial to make a difference,” and there is so much in those words just as there is in the whole post. It seems to me that ultimately true abundance relates to character. To the extent my character or expression of life is genuine — a reflection of the truth of myself — I know abundance regardless of outer situation.

    Great to share this journey of life with you Bill (including the blogging part of it). Thanks for following me on twitter by the way and as soon as I can get to it I’ll be following you…

  6. Robin Easton says:

    Aww Bill, This is sooooooo lovely. I have read this twice and still cannot express how strongly I relate to it. I had to write a whole book to express how the wild changed my life (it just came out in in Sept). I am not even the same person since my time in the wild.

    It is good to meet a kindred spirit. There is another kindred spirit you might enjoy. He is a beautiful soul and a friend of mine in New Zealand, Robb Kloss, at http://ruahineramblings.blogspot.com/ If you love nature I think you will love Robb’s writing. If you “stop in” just tell him his “Wild Sister” recommended him. He will know who you mean. :)

    Having lived many years of my life in the wild I connect with both your’s and Robb’s passionate writing and love of the mountains. For Robb Kloss it is the Ruahine Mountains of NZ. I am in New Mexico and he grew up in Maine, but my book is about my life in the Australian rainforest. Robb grew up in Michigan (I think), but now lives in NZ. But he is a wild free spirit with clean genuine energy, who often writes about his treks into the mountains, both solo and with friends. One day I hope to hike with him there. His whole family is kind and good.

    Many many years ago I hiked the White Mountains. Did a lot of hiking in the Presidential Range. Once skied Mount Washington with my father. It was SO steep. LOL!

    Thanks for a great post. It is much appreciated by me.

  7. Bill Gerlach says:

    Christopher // Thanks so much for stopping by. Abundance in character — so very true. Genuine expression of life — I LOVE that. I appreciate your perspective and insight.

    Glad to connect with you on Twitter. There is an ebb and flow with that. Don’t get too caught up!

  8. Adrienne says:

    Hi Bill, this sounds like a fantastic trip! I know exactly what you mean about being called by the mountains. I often feel as though I could wander away into the mountains for weeks or months without the slightest desire to come back. In fact, one of the dreams on my bucket list is to thru-hike the AT! As you said, every time I’m out there, I’m always learning valuable lessons. For starters, it makes me realize how much I really don’t need in terms of material stuff and how much I really do need in terms of the important stuff…fresh air, adventure, connection to the earth, and typically some good hiking buddies.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure…I hope to hear about many more. :)

  9. Bill Gerlach says:

    Hi Robin // I’m so glad you stopped by and shared. It means a lot.

    It IS good to connect with kindred spirits. Therein lies the warmth of community; of shared experience and understanding; of support and guidance along this path. After reading Sandra’s review of Naked In Eden I have been looking forward to reading it (waiting for our library system to pick it up) and learning more about your story and experience.

    I spent some time with Robb’s blog and left him a comment. Incredible! You are two for two with blog recommendations — Robb’s and Christopher’s The Happy Seeker. I appreciate your willingness to help make connections! Be well!

  10. Bill Gerlach says:

    Hey Adrienne // An AT thru-hike is STILL on my to-do list. I am hopeful that one or all three of my kids would want to do that with me one day. I just hope my knees are still up for the challenge by then!

    In fact, one of the highlights of our trip was running across an AT thru hiker on our first night. His trail name was “Country Gold” and he was on the back half of his journey. As with all thru hikers there is a story to be had and his was no exception. People come to the mountains to find themselves, to cleanse themselves, to find that ONE(NESS). And like with all things in life, our brief interaction was over just as it began. Impermanence rules, even on the AT.

    Hope all is well. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. What a lovely story, Bill. I grew up near the Appalachian Trail in New York and it’s one of the things I miss. Hiking really does strip you down to the core of what you need and force you into the now. I’ve thought about hiking the whole AT myself once I get 100% healthy again.

  12. Robb says:

    Kia ora Bill,
    Finally had a chance to pop around and see your wonderful place here. Great stuff. I just returned from 4 days alone the mountains. I always find joy in the way my pack becomes both figuratively, and physically lighter as the journey progresses. Alway enjoy discovering a kindred spirit. I am off on a day tramp with my wife and son on what looks a lovely morning emerging. Have a great day.

  13. Bill Gerlach says:

    Kia ora Robb,

    Sorry for the delay in responding. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking time to leave a note! You’re absolutely right about the load becoming lighter. Even my ache-y knees don’t hurt as bad after a few days.

    While we were on this latest trip, my brother and I found ourselves stopping quite a bit and just being still with whatever was around us — tapping into it in a way and daydreaming about what it would be like to have this at our fingertips each day. It sounds like you might have taken the bull by the horns there and created just that for you and your family. I look forward to learning more about it all through your posts.

    Be well,

  14. Paul F says:

    This may be tangential, but your post makes me think of the awareness and observation that can come from quiet. When we are allowed the chance to perceive things at a “less-busy” level (sorry for that term), the beauty of those things is more apparent.

    At the end of my two week vacation in August, I had the chance to take a day all to myself and visit my home away from home, Old Orchard Beach, ME. I had one goal in mind, apart from taking in some rays – to be quiet, slow my racing mind and observe my setting. Now, when I say setting I’m referring to Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Portland as the primary settings for my second novel (which has ground to a halt). I wanted to create a photographic journal of at least parts of my protagonist’s journey with my trusty Nikon. The other was to observe. I took a long walk on the beach – much longer than I would ever attempt when I’m there with my three kids. My head on a swivel, I thought about the colors of the hotels and condos lining the beach, the limited activities that people can actually do on the beach, the smells and sounds of summer merriment.

    When finally I put down stakes (or a towel) and sat, I was in a section to the south of the OOB pier which is normally pretty crowded. This was a Thursday morning around 11am and that section of beach was sparsely populated. I pulled out a John Connolly novel and spotted two seagulls. One was a darker grey and seemed desparate. The other was like an attractive female trying to fend off an aggressive (if annoying) suitor. I watched them dance for twenty minutes, drew out the similes and metaphors I could build off the interaction, and like that – between the walk and the gull dance, I had the last scene for the book (if I ever get the last third written to get to that point).

    As you saw in the wilderness, the beauty is out there. Nature and other objects we should be aware of are present everyday. They wait for us. In our everyday lives, the rush of accomplishment and consumption, we lack the clarity to appreciate. We don’t see. I was thankful to change gears that Thursday in August, and I suspect you were too.

    My best to T; missed him at a recent wedding.

    Thanks for this post and the recent interviews.


  15. Bill Gerlach says:

    Hey Paul // Thanks for swinging by and leaving such an awesome comment. I felt like I was right there with you. This is powerful:

    “Nature and other objects we should be aware of are present everyday. They wait for us. In our everyday lives, the rush of accomplishment and consumption, we lack the clarity to appreciate. We don’t see.”

    How absolutely true. How easily we are blinded by all that ‘noise’ out there.

    What do we need to do to get you back in the swing with writing? :) I’ll let T. know you reached out. Be well!

Check out what others are saying...