Updated: Apr 25
In Alone in Wonderland, I bemoan my slow pace. Sometimes for comic relief, but often because it is just a fact of my existence on the trail. I have been amazed and surprised and relieved to hear many readers reach out about this excerpt, because they too identify as plodders.
"Over the years, I have identified that there are two types of hikers-- gliders and plodders. It doesn't seem to be dependent on age or fitness, but on how you carry your weight. With each step, I allow the entire weight of my body to transfer into one foot before moving the other. My feet take turns supporting my whole being. I am a plodder-- I tromp, lumber, shuffle and trudge while others glide. As the woman glides out of sight ahead of us, and we plod along behind, I watch her feet touch lightly to the earth only to lift again instantly. Each footfall is followed immediately by a next step. There is grace and lightness in perpetual motion. The movement of a glider is efficient, which is why they arrive in camp with energy to spare, hours before the plodder drops their pack for the day with nothing left in the tank.
I wonder if it is possible for a plodder to become a glider. Maybe for a few moments at a time, maybe on a good day, maybe on a gentle downhill section of trail. But a true transformation? I can't imagine a day when I would start a new step before finishing that which came before. I would like to be the type of person who didn't feel the full weight of self in every step along the way; who could leave the pounding of head and heart out of the way of the toil of foot."
It feels like we are often being reminded these days to slow down, take a look around, rest from the fast pace of our society and our minds. To which I often wonder, does this apply to me? I am already so slow. Surely I do not need to slow down... right?
I loved bringing this question to the Rugged Outdoors Women Write group to get their ideas about what it means to be fast and slow in the world and on the trail.
Fast v. Slow
by Christine Reed
I want to go slow. As an act of defiance—an “I told you so” to every person who has ever told me to keep up, or hurry up, or get back up. I want to rest, to relax, to take in every morsel of every moment. I want to sit beside the rushing water and think to myself, “where does it think it’s going at that speed”. I want to see the flower from first bud, to last falling petal and ask the bees why they buzz around so diligently. I don’t want to miss a single thing.
I want to go fast. As an act of defiance—an “oh yes I can” to the doctors who’ve told me I shouldn’t or won’t because of my broken autonomic nervous system, or the metal in my spine, or the deformity of my ribcage which does not allow for the proper
expansion of my lungs. I want to push this body, feel my muscles burning and growing stronger, take in every morsel to feed my movement. I want to see the river and the glacier which feeds it, the trees and flowers who drink its water, and the mountainside cut deep from its force all in one day and think to myself, imagine where I could go at this speed. I don’t want to miss a single thing.
Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman
Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail.
Drops of Evergreen
by Marty Cowan
The bright red brake lights of the car in front of me woke me from my autopilot trance on Route 34. I quickly braked, wondering what the deal was with the stopped traffic coming into Estes Park on a cold Sunday morning in March. Ah, an elk herd. I should have known. It may be awhile.
I put my car in park and sat back in the driver’s seat, thankful I brought along coffee to sip during this unexpected traffic jam brought to us by nature. The elk, taking their time, some crossing slowly, and some standing in the middle of the road, seemed to be on their own schedule, and not concerned with us humans.
Big droplets of water were forming on my windshield during the elk show, that I didn’t even
notice at first. But the sound of the rain guided me closer, and I noticed every one of the
thousands of drops contained a refracted image of the large pine tree on the roadside, next to my car. Each its own little universe with a beautiful and tiny, upside-down pine tree.
Delays bring observation, and observation sometimes brings elks and pine trees.
Marty Cowan is the author of Table To Trail a collection of plant-based recipes for day hikers. You can find her on Instagram @tabletotrail
How Fast Can I Get There?
by Leslie Niedermeyer
How long does it take to get from point A to point B?
I’m not sure, but Google can tell me
I’ll take the fastest route
Hitting the gas to get there so I can plan my next move
Stubbing my toe daily on the furniture that hasn’t moved for a year
Just to cut off a few seconds as I move through the house
How long does it take to heal from trauma?
The trauma of being sexually assaulted at 15 by your own partner
I want it to be instant
Pretend it didn’t happen, shove it down, run away
Funny how the brain works, to have the memory repressed for over 15 years
Realizing that my entire person has been molded by that relationship
Is a galloping horse not the most beautiful thing to see?
I could argue that being on that horse is even more beautiful
Feeling the wind on my face
Hear the thunder of hooves beneath me
The rush of moving through time and space on a half ton animal
Connecting with a beast that has its own thoughts and feelings
How many miles can I hike in a day?
The answer is 20
What I can’t say is the color of the wild flowers
Just that I can do 20 if I have to
Put boots to the ground and haul ass
I can look at shit when I get to camp
How is it that time moves so quickly?
Days seem to fly and a year is gone
I try to get the most out of every moment of every day
Racing through tasks so that I can get to the next
I see time pass on the muzzle of my four legged companion
Willing time to slow down
How do I enjoy life like my dog?
Stopping to admire a view for a few extra moments
Meandering along the trail
Just content with the sunshine and fresh air
Then really giving it hell and blasting along when needed
Leslie lives in Denver, she owns a women's guided backpacking business; Strange Trails Women's Adventures. Find her on Instagram @strangetrailsco
by Anne Whiting
This piece is an original song with music, available to listen on Youtube
Slow, grow slow
Sow the seed and prune the vines
Slow, grow slow
Wash the scars from this bloodline
Leave the trauma in this place
See the proof of love displayed
Slow, flow slow
Heal the hearts along your path
Slow, flow slow
Hold the words that make you laugh
Cry the tears and write the books
Complete the dreams you undertook
Breathe in deep
Air in your lungs
Let it out
All said and gone
Start it new
Let it go
Believe it now
Slow, breathe slow
Open eyes to a new day
Slow, breathe slow
Stand tall with sun on your face
Begin again, baby steps
Test the waters, swim their depths
Take your time and all you’ve learned
Light the fire, steady burn
Anne Whiting has been creating adventure opportunities through trail guides since 2010. She publishes her guides on her blog and in book form. When not dreaming up new trails, she likes to play music with her band and dabble in digital art and website development. Follow Anne’s past and present adventures on Facebook, MeWe, Patreon, and Instagram @viewjunkieanne
| fɑːst |
by Bronwyn Preece
Bronwyn Preece is honoured and privileged to live on the unceded Traditional Territories of
the Lil’wat # and Squamish Peoples in Whistler, BC. This awareness brings with it many levels of responsibility, humbleness, transparency, and collaborative possibilities. She is a site-sensitive poetic-pirate and multi-disciplinary, community-engaged arts practitioner. She holds a PhD in Performance, along with an MA and BFA in Applied Theatre. She has taught, facilitated workshops and performed internationally. She is the author of Gulf Islands Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2012); and the forthcoming knee deep in high water: riding the Muskwa-Kechika, expedition poems (Caitlin Press, 2023) and Sea to Sky Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2023); along with multiple academic and artistic publications. She is an avid solo, backcountry-backpacker who writes on the trail, with the word gratitude tattooed on her arm. Find her on instagram @poetichiker and Facebook at Bronwyn Preece.
by Meaghan Martin
There are some things in life that happen quickly. The blaring of sirens as an ambulance
races to the hospital. The joyful sprint of a dog playing in the surf of the ocean. The suddenness of a violent car crash.
But other things happen slowly. Growing a garden. The slow-motion sensation of shock that washes over you when a loved one tells you they have cancer. The gradual coming and going of the tides and waxing and waning of the moon. One day waking up and realizing you’ve fallen in love with the person you’ve been slowly, cautiously sharing more and more of your life with. The very act of becoming.
I was two days into my first thru-hike, and on day three it would become the longest
backpacking trip I’d ever been on. I sat on a rock outside the shelter and glanced at the paper map resting in my lap. Less than thirty miles in, I’d barely made any noticeable progress on the first of eight maps that covered the 272-mile Vermont Long Trail.
My chest tightened as I felt a lump form in my throat. What if I can’t do this? After all
this hype, all this time dreaming. What if I don’t have what it takes?
The feeling in my body was a familiar one. I remembered years before when a then-
partner signed me up to run a road race with her. She was a runner with several half marathons under her belt. I was active, sure, but I wasn’t a runner, or even much of a hiker back then. One day in passing, I’d suggested we train for a 5k together, as something fun to do. A few weeks later she signed us up for a well known 10k instead.
Our first training run left me feeling defeated. I could barely sustain a jog, it was bitter
cold outside, and my chest hurt with every breath. We’d only gone a mile, and I was convinced that the five months we had to train would not be enough. Little by little I chipped away at it. As the weeks passed, my jogs became longer, my pace more steady. I was never fast, but fast wasn’t my goal. Completion was.
The week before the race I slowly ran seven miles in one go. It was longer than I needed
to run the following weekend, but also flatter. I hoped it meant that I was ready. The morning of the race we started off at the back of the pack with the other slowly paced runners. The
cheering crowds lining the streets injected electricity into our blood. I settled into a rhythm after the energized burst at the start, and we ran together.
I cried tears of exhaustion and joy as we crossed the finish line. I wasn’t a runner then
any more than I had been when we’d started training, but I’d learned what it meant to put my head down and challenge myself, and how to do something that felt impossible.
I carried that memory with me throughout the entirety of graduate school. When I
looked towards the semesters stretching out ahead of me before graduation, I was completely overwhelmed. How would I ever get from here to there? I remembered the slow training, the day of the race, and the importance of putting one foot in front of the other. And when I walked across the stage at graduation, I was filled with pride and the knowing that I’d just completed the hardest thing I had ever set out to do.
And now, with somewhere around 245 miles still stretching in front of me, all I could do
was keep trudging onward, being patient and trusting that there would indeed be a light at the end of the long tunnel. I knew I was capable of doing hard things.
Moving slowly is okay, I reassured myself. Any movement meant that I hadn’t stalled
out and I was continuing towards my goal. After that second night on trail, I stopped looking at my progress on the map, knowing I’d be discouraged by the snail’s pace I was setting as I traced the red line north.
“Every step you take brings you a step closer to Canada,” I whispered to myself, my
mantra every day.
Suddenly it was 28 days later. Slowly, and then all at once, it was over. I touched the
monument at the northern terminus and cried because I had once again done the thing that had felt so impossible.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the thrill of going fast. The sensation of the wind in my face
as I fly down a ski slope, leaning hard into the turns, pushing faster and seeing how close I can get to the edge of my limits, while still maintaining control. That’s how I live my whole life, really.
I’m someone who struggles to slow down; I’m chronically busy and quiet can feel
painful. Mindfulness practices amp me up, watching movies requires too much focus, and
peaceful moments remind me of all the things I should be getting done.
Despite my struggle to slow down and wait, what I’ve learned is that the good things
take time. The best things can take months, or even years to come together. There are rare
times when I can savor the slowness. The tenderness of a caress, the trust and patience required for the unfolding of a hopeful plan, the realization of how I have both fallen apart and knit myself back together again in years of growing and becoming.
Being still feels unbearable for me. It makes me itchy and irritated to sit in one place for
too long. But when I look back, I have gratitude for the times that I felt stuck or still or slow,
because those are the moments that have taught me the most about who I am.
Meaghan is a backpacker and writer living in Maine with loved ones and pets. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok at @meaghan_adventures
Burn it Down
by Tatiana Corbitt
Fast, fast, lightning quick
Fire to a match,
Flame burning bright
Burning through neurons
All through the night
My brain, electric signals
Instead of sigils
Push harder - there's no time
I'll feel better when it's done,
Can't relax until it's done...
Then it's done and I still
On to the next
Burn it down,
Six feet into the ground -
My molten candlestick
Tatiana is a writer and artist living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She graduated with her M.S. in Applied Biological Sciences in 2019 and is currently working on her debut novel. Her writing is frequently published on narcolepsy.sleep-disorders.net
Because I Was Slow
by Sierra Eberly
Running through the forest at a pace that suited me just fine, I was alone, but their voice still rang loud in my head.
“You can take pictures at the top - the view will be better,” they said, as I pulled out my phone to snap a photo, more due to my burning legs than the view.
“You need to go faster, the trail isn’t that hard,” they said, as I was losing my footing on switchbacks down a scree slope.
“You can’t run this trail. It’s hard and you’re too slow” they said, as I tried to join in on a
conversation about an upcoming trip being planned with someone else.
But on this day, they weren’t with me. I was on a trail by myself, with no agenda, no timeline, and no one to answer to. I moved steadily, reflecting on the past years and how far I’d come as a trail runner. I was so much stronger now, but I was still slow.
Because I was slow, I felt the sunlight dripping through the aspen leaves onto my shoulders.
If I were faster I wouldn’t have noticed.
The warmth flowed down my spine and spoke to my heels with every step on the trail beneath me. If I were faster I wouldn’t have felt the connection.
My broken heart and insecurities were the fuel that propelled me along the single track that was cushioned with decades of duff on the forest floor.
I pondered how strange it is that pain from the past can bring strength to the present, much like how sore muscles after a demanding traverse means you’ll be stronger on your next attempt. I’d been sore every day for many years.
The moldy scent of the pacific northwest wilderness was an elixir that soothed my ever-buzzing mind. The smell of decaying vegetation and moss thickened as I approached a stream flowing through a grove of cedar trees.
I paused here and closed my eyes, breathing in what felt like my own soul. My face tilted towards the verdurous canopy above me, and I laughed as tears rolled down my cheeks. I had never enjoyed a trail so much.
Because I was slow, I had come to a place of peace. Because I was slow, I learned who I was and who I never would be. Because I was slow, I appreciated the little things. Because I was slow, I found the strong, capable, independent woman that I am today.
Had I been faster, I might never have noticed her.
Sierra is a trail runner and backpacker who lives full-time in her campervan with her dog, Snow. She started her own copywriting business, Boondock Consulting, and when not working, she explores trails less traveled every chance she gets. You can find her on Instagram at @sierrastraverse and read her personal blog at www.sierrastraverse.com
Your Patience Moves Mountains
by Lauren Jones
I have been a patient of some kind with someone in some kind of fertility treatment arena for almost nine years now.
Me and other people like me are all patients of these someone’s
Those someone’s have all sorts of other patients like me
What I didn’t realize until now is the level of patience I have acquired over these nine years
Patience that teaches me that slow is okay, slow is better, slow is preferred, slow is part of the, often furiously frustrating, fertility journey
40 days thru-hiking the Colorado Trail was not the fastest nor slowest on record, it felt just right
The right amount of slow speed perseverance to pace myself with enjoyment and make the aspiring deadline of taking the last 40 days of my 40th year to hike from Denver to Durango.
Patience Moves Mountains
Those mountains of the Colorado Trail moved me.
Moved my heart, moved my soul, moved my spirit from dull vibration to exuberant wonderment
Mountains of healing, learning, accepting
A now, thriving patient
Fearlessly Fertile, no longer furiously frustrated
Hurry up and wait syndrome
The waiting game
Trying, attempting, keep trying, attempt again
Crammed calendars causes collective chasms & crumbles the calm
It hasn’t happened yet so when will it?
C’mon hurry up and make it happen
Gah, why is this taking so long!
I can’t wait any longer
Fueled by lack
Feelings of scarcity
The sentiments of the rushed, those who prefer fast or are used to ‘the fast’
I used to fill my space
I used to not want empty time slots or unfilled hours
I used to stay distracted to avoid being empty
I also used to maintain literal emptiness in my body by avoiding food and purging nourishment just to
stay unfilled and trick my mind to stay fast by fasting.
I used to prefer busy, quick, full
Over full, overdoing it, over scheduled, over committed, pushed too far, extended thin
Now, not at all, not even a little bit
One small thing at a time
One item on the calendar each day (well, sort of)
Lots of empty space
Heavenly empty space
Feeling empty yet simultaneous radiantly full
Full of life, full of joy, full of fertility - fearless fertility
Gone: the senses of lack, scarcity and urgency.
The trail taught me that.
Patients, the trail provides.
Trail lessons are slow lessons
Slow, deliberate steps makes for a happy hiker
Mountains make for a patient, patient
Patience moves mountains
For all those fertility treatment arena someone’s out there: always remember your patients are patiently moving mountains, sometimes slow
Dear every one of those someone’s like me, don’t you ever forget, your patience moves mountains
The journey in your heart to be a mom is there because it was meant for you
Trust the slow
Your trail provides.
Your patience moves mountains
Lauren ‘Yardsale’ Jones works professionally as a Colorado state employee and School Counselor. For a living, she hikes, strolls and saunters with her pup Journey on the daily; meanders with her three chickens and nurtures her mini-urban farm with a newly acquired 1956 Canned Ham named Xanadu parked in the backyard. Her husband joined her for many parts of the Colorado Trail serving as the BEST trail angel on the planet and they now have adopted 5 miles of the CT in Segment 9 and are still aspiring parents-to-be. Yardsale’s chosen footware includes crocs, Altra Lonepeaks and ExtraTuf boots. She is also an aspiring author writing casually with the Rugged Outdoors Women Group aspiring to eventually finish her infertility, thru-hike memoir-like sort of self-help/inspiration mini-book. You can follow her ventures on Insta @stillaspiringjourney and @sol_y_luna_soilpluslove
Don't miss out on future writing collections from the Rugged Outdoors Women Write group.
Sign up here for newsletters from Christine!
Read previous collections here.