Sunrise over Kessler Peak.
Henry David Thoreau wrote in his essay, Walking:
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering; which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la sainte terre” — to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a sainte-terrer“, a saunterer — a holy-lander…every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this holy land from the hands of the Infidels.
In that sense, of every walk being a “sort of crusade” Thoreau was referring to those walks in the wild and remote places of the earth. Those far and quiet and sacred realms of high altitude and pine and snow and treeline. Places where prophets talk with God, and villains hide from Justice. Indeed, the wilderness is a sort of holy land, where men saunter and explore, live and die. A dangerous, alluring, unpredictable and primitive world free from the din of modernity and bureaucracy (mostly). Places in which there is no need, no place, and no purpose for regulation and law and politicking. A place where men are strangers and travelers, like wind, merely passing through as a temporary visitor destructive and constructive all at once.
I wonder if I have yet learned the “art of Walking”?
I seem to be understanding more each time I go sauntering into the Wasatch mountains. Seemingly endless and infinite they are. With room enough for the ski tourer and the snow machines, and perhaps even the helicopters dropping clients onto summits for an expensive day of “touring”. Perhaps. But then, on further thought…perhaps not. And yet, there they are. And while the existence of machinery in the mountains does little to disturb my experience, I can’t help but wonder about that of those whose walk in the woods is aided (hindered?) by the commotion and propulsion of the gas powered engine.
And while I border on the contradictory, and falling prey to that which I have criticized, namely the subjectivism of arguing which form of recreation is more worthy of the mountains and the wilderness, I still cannot grasp, having been once a budding sledneck myself, that there is much to gain from the truncated and artificiality of gas-aided exploration of the mountains and deserts. But then, Lewis and Clark may argue otherwise, had such amenities been available in 1804.
And thus, worrying about that mythical experience of others proves fruitless.
And so, I focus on my own understanding of the art of Walking. Or skiing. Or riding a bicycle. And with those means I achieve ends deep in the wilderness, even if sometimes I find myself not so far removed from a highway, or urban valley, or the decibel rich blare of engines.