Hikes and Stories

My Side of The Mountain

I have memories of running away from home at least two times as a child.

The first was somewhere around 2nd and 3rd grade. My memory involves a sunny day, a backpack, saltines crackers and making it as far as the golf course just outside my neighborhood.

The second was in 4th grade and I walked over to the woods in a park close to my house and found some brush to camp out in.  When I returned later that afternoon, no one knew I’d even been gone.

There was also that time I moved my entire bed and most of my bedroom into my walk-in closet (you can do that in those old houses). It didn’t last long before my dad vetoed it with authority saying that it was a “fire hazard”.  He was big on that, using it several times when he didn’t like the condition of my room.

My need for space (open or confined) may have been a reaction to things going on in my family’s life at the time or simply normal childhood behavior, I am not sure. As the adult child of an alcoholic, I don’t do so well in knowing what is normal or not.

On our trip to the Washington coast for Thanksgiving, we visited the Big Cedar Tree, close to Kalaloch Beach.

I was once again reminded about one of my favorite books as a child, My Side of The Mountain. It is the tale of a 15 year old boy who runs away from New York City to live in the Catskill Mountains. He lived in a hollowed out Hemlock during his adventure.

Standing in the hollow of that big tree, I remember when I was younger thinking about how wonderful that life would be.

In 4th grade, we had a project to build something.  I can’t recall the theme (maybe a book report?) but I made a bow and arrow out of branches from the willow tree in our backyard.

And I wonder if there has always part of me that has longed to live in the wilderness and be a part of the land. To runaway. Is there a longing in all of us?

Wanting to connect with the story again, I reread it recently. I even watched the movie, circa 1969.

The studying of the plants and animals, learning and problem solving, solitude and self reliance. Things I still enjoy to this day.

And of course, like in the book, the realization that although we may long for solitude we are also called to companionship.

I have not outgrown my childhood urges to run away, I must admit. Whether it is work, relationships or life in general, there are times when I just want to say –screw this- and walk away.  Hike away

But I always come back.  I am designed to be in communion with others.

Life is hard, but the joy of the presence of others outweighs the temporary peace of their absence.

Every time.

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2 thoughts on “My Side of The Mountain

  1. YES! One of my all time favorite books. I never did the classic childhood runaway thing, but when I was 17 I arranged a day off from work (and told my boss my plans), left home at the usual time, dropped my brother off as usual, then hightailed it out to Mowich Lake and hike in to Spray Park, in Mount Rainier National Park. Then I drove back, picked up my brother, and arrived home at the usual time, so my dad would not know what I’d done. My first ever solo hike and it was wonderful!

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