Monday, June 14, 2010

2010 Rachel Carson Challenge

On Saturday I will be doing the 2010 Rachel Carson Challenge. Or, at least, I’m planning on starting it. You see, the Rachel Carson Challenge is a one day hike. A one day 34 mile hike. A one day 34 mile hike over some of the most treacherous hiking trails that Western Pennsylvania has to offer. The challenge is not only to complete the hike, but to do so during the allotted time – the amount of daylight available on the longest Saturday of the year. And this year, 2010, that time is 15 hours and 4 minutes.

This is the fourteenth year for the Rachel Carson Challenge. In the first year, 90 people registered but only 5 finished. This year, the registration limit of 600 has been reached. How many will finish? Will I be one of them? What surprises will Western PA’s unpredictable weather bring? Only time will tell that part of the tale.

But there’s more to the Rachel Carson Trail than the physical and mental challenge of attempting an endurance event. And that’s the benefit of just being out on the trail. The trail goes fairly close to my Hampton Township residence. I’ve walked and mountain biked parts of it and some other nearby trails. But this was the first year that I’d experienced it over an extended time period. That extended exposure has given me a chance to experience an aspect of the trail that was perhaps what its founders intended. This facet is described on the back of the book “A Hiker’s Guide to the Rachel Carson Trail,” which says:

A secret world awaits you.
A world on the periphery of your world.
A world of quiet woods, cool valleys, ageless streams, and undulating hills.
A world that can change your perspective on things you see every day.
On what you take for granted every day.
The Rachel Carson Trail awaits you.

The Rachel Carson Trail really does represent a secret world that’s always there for us to experience. It’s just outside our back door, or just a short drive away. But we seldom take advantage of it, because it takes that investment of time in order to shift our perspective. For me, the perspective shift is from one where I approach life on my terms to one where I’m part of a greater whole, where I accept what nature offers to me that day.

On Saturday, I’ll see what the trail offers me, and find out how I will respond.


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