OVER THE BACK FENCE
Why would anyone want to hike 2,200 miles (3,500km) through snow, rain, and cold, while dealing with various insects, venomous snakes, black bears and diarrhea if they don’t have to?
When asked this question about the Appalachian Trial, Bill Bryson, in the movie A Walk in the Woods replied, “John Muir once said ‘Sometimes a man needs to grab a loaf of bread, throw it in a sack, and jump over the back fence.’”
It seems like a nebulous reply doesn’t it? But I think there is something to Bryson’s response. I think there is this innate need to want to do something meaningful when you reach a certain age. But more than that. As Bryson said in the movie, “I’m tired of life being all about ailments and funerals. I want to push myself!” There, that’s it. I feel it too. I don’t want people to think that because I’m 62 I have nothing to offer. I have lots to offer, and you’d be wise to pay attention to me. You might learn something. But first I have to prove it to myself.
I suspect that the need comes from a desire to remind ourselves that we can still do these things. Or maybe we need proof that we’re still young. Or perhaps it’s in response to living longer, healthier lives that makes it possible to undertake such a trek. Inside we don’t feel any different. We still want to accomplish things with this life we’ve made. I remember canoeing for 5 hours one day at age 60 and it felt wonderful to still have the strength and the will to do it with my girlfriends. Along with the paddling, we trekked through the woods and swam in the rapids. What an adventure.
But if we search a little deeper, I think that human beings have this need to push against boundaries, to explore new worlds, new endeavours, to challenge ourselves. That is how we have evolved. We want to do it because we can. Like Bryson said, “Sometimes a man wants to grab a loaf of bread, throw it in a sack and jump over the back fence,” and to the adventure beyond.
What adventure will you find over the back fence?