Leaving Virginia: What The Trails Have Taught Me

some of my VA hiking maps
some of my VA hiking maps

It is bittersweet to say that I am now an alumni of Virginia Tech.  It is going to be quite the transition from college life to whatever lies ahead.  Whatever it is, I feel I am prepared for it. Part of what has prepared me for future obstacles is my time on the trails of Virginia.  I have learned many lessons that I am greatly attached to.  Therefore, it is going to be very hard for me to leave the Commonwealth of Virginia.  It has been a true pleasure and honor to live in southwest Virginia over the past four years.

Lessons from Virginia:

Patience, Appreciation, and Love

I must admit, growing up, I was not the avid recreationist I am today.  Throughout childhood, I spent far more time indoors and in front of a computer screen than I did outside.  I’d stay up late instant messaging, or spend all day inside on the weekends watching football, even if it was beautiful out.  While I loved going hiking and camping with my dad, brother, and cousins in the Catskills of NY, I enjoyed it on the ‘summer trip’ kind of basis.  It was not built into my lifestyle like it is today.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy lazy football days to an extent, but too much time inside makes me restless.  It was not until college and my time in Virginia that I tried to seize any opportunity to be outdoors that I could.  Since doing so, I have noticed a change in myself.  I am more patient and less grumpy.  Spending too much time indoors would make me lazy and ornery, but getting outside has made me more relaxed, taught me to love people and and appreciate experiences more fully.  Spending time on the trails has made me more reflective and calm.  It has also helped in making me realize that I definitely want to work outside the rest of my life, not behind a computer at a desk.

Exploration of Place

It is my firm belief that trails take you to unique and profoundly special places.  Sometimes, finding a trailhead can take you to the strangest of places.  By spending a lot of time on the trails, I have been able to explore much of the state of Virginia.  Hiking, and driving from trailhead to trailhead, has allowed me to experience this state’s beauty, flora and fauna, history, people, cuisine and beverage, and political climate.  I like to think that by now I know the state pretty well, even though I still have more of it to meet.

Mt. Rogers, Virginia's highest point
Mt. Rogers, Virginia’s highest point

Hiking has taken me from Blacksburg, VA to the West Virginia Border, the state’s highest peak close to the North Carolina border, Shenandoah National Park, the Piedmont, and the state’s lowest point along Eastern Shore.  I am grateful for the experiences these places have given me.  I believe hiking is a great way to interact with a place, because you end up learning about things outside the path of the trail.  It is through hiking, that I will continue to experiences places in the future.

overnight with friends at False Cape State Park, Eastern Shore
overnight with friends at False Cape State Park, Eastern Shore

Skills

While I had hiked and had some gear before coming to Virginia, I would say that I truly honed my skills as a hiker/backpacker while in Virginia.  I am still always learning, but Virginia has truly been a tremendous place to learn the ins and outs of hiking/backpacking, planning, and trip leading.  I was able to learn these skills in a place of tremendous beauty, but of enough forgiveness for safety even amongst mistakes.

Having this knowledge was not always easy for me however.  After a while, it seemed like I became the expert amongst my peers, in which case they were always seeking advice, help, and guidance from me.  Unfortunately, I became jaded with this routine, and felt like everyone expected me to be their personal guide.  However, upon reflection of the first lesson I documented above, I appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm.  I thank people for appreciating my level of skill and entrusting me with advice.  I am glad that my love for hiking has inspired others around me, who might not otherwise have, to get involved in hiking and the outdoors.  I no longer see it as a burden, but as a compliment, and will continue to do so.  So thank you.

Conclusion

These are just a few things that have been running through my mind since graduation.  It is going to be really hard for me to leave Virginia.  It is a place of unrivaled beauty and plenty of gems, if you just go out and find them.  Virginia, its people, and its places have truly shaped who I am today, and who I think I will be for the foreseeable future.

I encourage you, no matter where you are, to give yourself fully to a place.  Step outside of your comfort zone and get lost in that place.  You will find things that you never expected, and learn things about yourself you never would have either.  I great way to do this is by hiking the trails of a place.  At some point for you, I hope this place can be Virginia.

I don’t think this blog is my most well written blog, or even begins to scratch the surface of how important Virginia is to me.  It was kind of stream-of-consciousness, but it was emotional.  The state’s motto is “Virginia is for lovers”…it’s safe to say that I am in love with Virginia, and will miss it deeply.

Thanks for a great four years.

virginia%20is%20for%20lovers

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