This past week, the Dream Team of Him B trekked north and east through the Shiva Puri and Langtang national parks in the Helambu region of northern Nepal. Each morning as we heaved on our packs and placed one sore foot in front of another, the breathtaking views we woke up to disappeared behind clouds of suffocating fog and mist. Such clouds would persist throughout the day, making it literally feel like our world was limited to our group and the fifty feet ahead and behind of us.
Our footprints through the trails and villages of Helambu seemed to disappear in the constant sheet of white as we continued on. In reality, the impact of trekkers like ourselves never leaves the places we travel through. By simply existing in this space, we are impacting it. We consume food and water in remote villages that people worked very hard to acquire, transport, and prepare so we could enjoy it for a brief time. Unfortunately, oftentimes my clouds set in and I fail to recognize the unseen work that people did to prepare such items for me. All I see is the fuel and replenishment for my tired body.
After hours and then days of trekking in this climate, it seemed more and more like all our trek composed of was limited to what we could see. Often when I hike, I find myself gazing far off into the distance, whether it be where we’re going, where we’ve been, or where we can only dream of exploring. With this sort of daydreaming, I’m oftentimes distracted from the physical pains of trekking and instead stuck wondering about the places around me. In a way, the clouds grounded me in the present moment, but at the same time they encaged my curiosity and understanding of the lands we traveled.
For reference, the trail we traveled is a well-known pilgrimage trail which countless mountain villages depend on. These villages are linked together with this trail, providing a passageway for people, culture, and resources. The scope and importance of this trail cannot be understated, especially following the 2015 Nepal earthquake that fractured these isolated communities. In our eyes, however, the trail was the fifty feet ahead and behind of arduous uphill and downhill terrain (this oscillating terrain is what the Nepalese call ‘flat,’ but my legs beg to differ). When my clouds set in, this trail was limited to an activity, a physical challenge, when in reality this trail is an integral part of society to the people and lands we’ve crossed that will persist long after we’ve unpacked our bags and let our bodies heal.
During a trek, it is easy to let our clouds force us to think all we are is trekkers, and all we’re doing is trekking. Jelly legs and enhanced appetites further reinforce this belief. In reality, we have impacts on the lands and people that will exist long after our treks, many seen and many more unseen. Furthermore, we must appreciate the beauty and significance of the lands and people we encounter for all we can and cannot see. Trekking is not a challenge for the mind; it is one for the body.
The clouds are coming.