I was hiking Thursday afternoon on the Rim Trail at Fires Creek when I was struck by a twinge of melancholy. Odd, because I was in my element: hiking in the Southern Appalachians on a crisp winterlike day, the sun just active enough to cast faint shadows across the forest floor. Perfect hiking conditions, in my book. So what was wrong?
What was wrong, I soon realized, was that this was one of the last hikes I’d been doing as research for a backpacking book on the state. (Actually, the last hike; a crazy winter storm that rolled in from nowhere caused me to scrap my last two trips and head home to Cary.) For the past 13 months, I’d been in backcountry heaven, exploring the state’s best wild areas, spending about 100 days on the trail. As an added plus, I’d gotten into pretty good shape as well. I’d still hike after this, of course. Just not as much.
So what next? What would I turn my energy to in 2010?
A lot of us are going through that mental exercise right now, trying to figure out what will drive us, emotionally as well as physically, in 2010. Will we be lucky enough to hit on something that will fuel our passion, make us look forward to rising early to train before work, or have the discipline to hit the gym after?
Personally, I look for signs. In the motel room last night I switched across a replay of the 2007 Xterra Championships. Xterra, hmm. Essentially, an off-road triathlon consisting of a 1,000-meter open water swim, a 30K mountain bike ride, a 10K run. Even the amatuer athletes doubled over in pain made it look like fun. I went to the Web site. Then, driving back today through Georgia and South Carolina, I crossed the Chatooga River. Shortly, I passed a sign for the Chatooga Whitewater Outfitters, the Perception kayak atop the sign reminding me of the little-used Dagger RPM hanging under my back deck. Whitewater kayaking, hmm.
Two strong signs in less than 24 hours. I’m a little less worried about how I’ll fill my time in 2010.
I hope you’re as lucky in your quest.