v2 | A walk in the woods

Meditations on the Appalachian Trail

Hello family. 🤗 This is version 2 of Move Fast, Think Slow a newsletter on cultural trends and meditations. In today’s issue, you can find a tl;dr summary below but hopefully, you stick around to read this post in its entirety. Better yet, please subscribe to get more notes in the future.

Version 2 | A walk in the woods

One of the intentions of starting out Move Fast, Think Slow was a motivation to highlight not only cultural trends but to also shine a light on how thinking slow can bring us clarity. In this newsletter, the goal is to provide perspectives that counterbalances the hyper-speeds of emerging trends in the world today. In version 2, we are going to go all-in on meditations and will be putting cultural trends on pause this week. Enjoy the thoughts on meditation, stoicism, and nature but stay for the photos below. :)

Meditations on the Appalachian trail

We were lucky we found camp when we did
Any longer might had proven to be dire for our party 
Hunkered down in the tents 
Rain thundering down on us
Encamped along the lake 
The only thing keeping me from drowning
Is a brand new sleeping bag 
and some Japanese whiskey 
All is right in the world 
Sinking down into new depths 
I pull the bag slipping
off into an awesome sleep
As the sky washes over

When it comes to thinking slow, one of the best apps I’ve found to help out is good old Mother Nature. During this past Memorial Day weekend, some friends decided to get out there onto the Appalachian trail for a walk in the woods. For two days we trekked out to immerse ourselves in the elements.

The great quality of getting out there is the wilderness offers plenty of ways to tap into your other self. The great outdoors offers meditative qualities and is an environment ripe for practicing the virtues of stoicism as well. The grand beauty comes with grand challenges of weather and terrain.

We had all the right gear and food to make it through two nights. We were to begin at the start of the New York trail in Harriman State Park. What was ahead of us was obvious, yet not so obvious.

The [New York Appalachian] trail mostly oscillates between 600 and 1,000 feet in elevation throughout the state, but don’t let these unassuming numbers fool you. New York is characterized by short, severe climbs and descents, as well as rock scrambles that many northbound thru-hikers view as preparation for New Hampshire. The southernmost part of the state packs a big punch with tough scrambles and endless boulders that, in true New England fashion, require an unreasonable amount of effort to overcome. - The Trek

From what we could research we knew the hike would be challenging. Yet what wasn’t so obvious was how it would end up that way. Nature is there to ground us while captivating us in its beauty. But the trail, the trail is there to humble us. Fundamentally, stoicism asks you to meet nature where it’s at and disregard anything you can’t control. Stoicism is about disregarding the thing you meet when you face it. And instead, you get on with the thing you can change and that’s yourself.

I’d like to think our group of old and new friends did a great job practicing the virtues of stoicism. Apart from the random “oh man” or cursing of the gods on a steep climb up a rock, our party held firm and stayed true to the task at hand, seeing the days through. All with smiles on our faces.

While the test of the trip revealed itself on the brutal trail that had rocky sections and sharp ascents up rocks. This was only part of the challenge for us. We were met with another test provided by no other than the weather gods. They graced us with a rainstorm that blew in the first night, lasting nearly 24 hours.

Yet regardless of that, our posse didn’t want to stop. What happens over time while out on the trail is a strange thing. You’re trudging through a wet and rugged terrain but are able to sit with and be with some wonderful things.

Like this:

or this:

I think Bill Bryson put it perfectly in his book Walk in the Woods:

“I had come to realize that I didn't have any feelings towards the AT that weren't thoroughly contradictory. I was weary of the trail, but captivated by it; found the endless slog increasingly exhausting but ever invigorating; grew tired of the boundless woods but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts. All of this together, all at once, every moment, on the trail or off.”

Nature offers us peace. The trail offers us challenges. The weather gods offer wicked curveballs. Yet the results of getting through it, a life forever altered. Memories forever etched. Minds forever shifted.

And check this out. There is some really interesting research emerging showing how the meditative qualities of nature are showing positive effects in human brains. Check out Professor David Strayer’s research in the last :90 seconds of his TED talk.

Don’t know about you but improved memory, better problem-solving, more creativity, and lower levels of stress all sound pretty dandy to me. There is now more scientific proof of the positive qualities of getting out there.

While we were out on this trail you meet and see all kinds of people. Some were like us on long distance journeys. Others were there for quick day trip to get some air. What’s great is all the people you meet share the same joys for getting out there. What struck me as odd at first is multiple times we would pass people of ALL ages who were doing some real camping. Young and old. One older woman told us she was determined to get to Maine. It’s inspiring and causes pause for analysis.

Perhaps she knows something most don’t. That in this life, there isn’t a lot of magic that holds up quite like the magic of the great outdoors. And while this ride is a short one, you do have opportunities to get rid of all of your shit, take what you need, and set out to see heights and landscapes of wonder. It’s all enough to make you think about which race is worth racing. The rat race or the race to Mount Katahdin.

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK (If read on email click on link to go to website).

TrailGang.