BE HAPPY: Hiking edition

The Eastern Cabin Loop, which I hiked and wrote about earlier this week, has one real gut check moment. Around mile 13, after you have already descended and climbed three reasonably large canyons and countless smaller draws, you find yourself with one large climb left. Realistically, this really isn’t that hard of a climb; but, somehow knowing it is the last hill makes it the hardest hill. Every time I get there, I am tired.

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Though it might not have come across in my write up on the hike, that is where I found myself on Tuesday: tired and grumpy with an upset stomach. The combination of crazy hours in the lab writing and rewriting all my research and a baby at home hadn’t left me with a ton of energy to charge up one more hill. I chose to go hiking that day because I needed a day outside, not because going on a long, exhausting hike sounded like a ton of fun. There is a difference between those two things, I promise.

Needless to say, I wasn’t excited about charging up that last hill. Like Krakauer say’s in his excellent first book, Eiger Dreams, one of the primary experiences of being outdoors is questioning why the hell you are putting yourself through all this. As I took my first step up the hill I was right there, wondering just what in the world I was doing alone, sweating, running back and forth to Survivor Man all my pictures in the middle of nowhere. Then I looked down and saw this:

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A little piece of a cone, that I swear was smiling right at me. And this made me smile too.

Look, I could write a 50,000 word think piece about how happiness is a choice, but I’m not going to put you through that. Instead two quick points:

1.) Just choose happiness.

2.) Despite the infinite number ways that the squirrel could of eaten this cone, it did it in just the right way to look like a smile; then, despite the infinite number of places that little piece could have gone, it was somehow moved by wind and rain and animals to be in the exact right place, at the exact right time, for a person who happened to look down at the exact instant he walked over it. If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, it should be pretty clear by now that I am not a sentimental person, but the world is an amazing place. If that isn’t worth protecting, I don’t know what is.


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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.

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