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Kristine:

The

Wilderness

as Medicine

A trek up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2006 ignited Vancouver-based Kristine's passion for hiking. She shares her thoughts on hike preparation, summoning bravery and why we should challenge ourselves.

WC: You recently backpacked your longest trail to date, the 180km Sunshine Coast Trail, what sort of preparation did that require? 

 

Kristine: Yes! It was such an incredible experience! Prior to that, my longest multi-day trek had been 73km over 5 days hiking in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. At the start of 2019 I decided I wanted to push my physical limits, challenge myself to do things I never thought possible before. This trail seemed so appealing with the huts for comfort and security, and the ease of not having to coordinate a zillion permits competing for availability etc (huts are free first come, first served). To prepare, I just made sure to hike and backpack as much as I could handle in the months leading up to it, carrying more and more weight in my backpack to simulate the daunting task of carrying 8 days worth of supplies with me. 

 

WC: Why was hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail important to you? 

 

Kristine: This trip was quite emotional for me, to be honest. When I planned it, the intention was to break free of a life that felt pretty stagnant. I had felt like I was doing the same thing over and over and not really getting to where I wanted to be, so I wanted to challenge myself, to see if I could do something more difficult than I thought I was capable of at the time I planned it. I knew I had a lot going on mentally and emotionally in my life, and a long trek out in the wilderness is always such great medicine to clear the mind and heal the soul. In the end, my trip had the most perfect timing as I ended up leaving a long term relationship just before so it was like a symbolic pilgrimage back to my independent self. It gave me the time to find the inner peace about the situation that I didn’t even realize I was seeking. It’s pretty amazing what your mind and heart can accomplish by trudging up 2000 metres in the pouring rain for 10 solid hours in almost near silence, overcoming the mental and physical challenges of arduous journeys like this one with the support of friends.

 

WC: How do you summon the bravery to hike trails that challenge you?

 

Kristine: I’ve been doing a lot of introspection this year, and one thing I realized early on is how afraid of so many things I had become. I was so daring and adventurous in my teens and twenties and all of a sudden, it was like I hit 30 and that just stopped. I have a pretty type A personality and I think inherently ‘scary’ things scare me because I don’t have control over what could possibly go wrong. But recognizing this, and understanding that I don’t like feeling that way made me realize that I could have the control I seek; just not over the situation, but rather how I feel about the situation. I knew that my biggest weakness was taking control of my feelings and I wanted to work on that. After researching how to overcome fears, I learned that it’s through repetition and mindfulness that we can gain control so I continue to challenge myself to attain this power. I’m still not quite there yet but I’m a lot closer than when I started. 

 

WC: One of your beliefs is that there is always a way to make time for the things you truly love. How do you make sure you fit hiking into your schedule?

 

Kristine: Absolutely! I guess I just always look at life like it’s meant to be lived, not to be a passive bystander. My only real goal in life is to be happy so every decision I make is based on that. Whether it’s short term actions or steps for long term plans. Happiness is an ever-shifting state of being that is impossible to be at every single moment (and how boring would that be anyway!), so some sacrifices have to be made of course doing the boring, routine, monotonous things life requires but really there are so many opportunities to incorporate movement if you really think about how you’re spending your time.

 

I try to find the balance to maximize my happiness now and in the long term, and that means recognizing, acknowledging and prioritizing the things that create that happiness. For me, I know that’s playing outside. Exploring this big, beautiful world we’re blessed to spend some years in. Trying to experience as much as possible in the time that we’re given. So I schedule it in. I could sleep an extra hour, or I could go for a run. I could visit with friends and families at their houses, or we could spend that time together hiking together. The life we all live is nothing but a series of choices we make for ourselves. Don’t like your life? Change it. That’s really all there is to it. 

 

WC: What do you take from conquering a summit into your everyday life?

 

For me, summits mean so many things. Getting to the top brings the same satisfaction like checking off an item on your to-do list. It’s an amazing sense of accomplishment. And they’re like all life’s challenges. Sometimes you complete them with success, sometimes you fail. Sometimes they’re easy, other times hard. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes clouded in. They give great perspective on being grateful. For the success or for the challenge, for the feeling of accomplishment or the opportunity to push yourself, for appreciating the beauty or appreciating the experience. We all always have something to be grateful for.

 

WC: Are there any specific moments hiking you recall that changed you?

 

Kristine: My first real hike up Machu Picchu in 2006 made me fall in love with the mountains. I had never realized how whole it could make me feel, so in touch with the world, understanding my place, and the role of us humans. I felt so small and so big at the same time. It was pretty transformational. 

 

WC: How can we make sure we continue to challenge ourselves at every stage of our life?

 

Kristine: Surrounding ourselves with motivational people is a great boost to push us in the direction of change and improvement. We are the average of the five closest people to us, so make sure those around you are people you want to be like. But I think that remembering we all have free will is the most important. Everything in life is a choice. The things we do, or how we feel about and handle the situations that are out of our control are choices we make. So just continue to choose to want to be better, be more, be happy. Because we don’t know what we don’t know. Trying new things opens up doors to places and experiences and feelings you could never know you want. 

Find Kristine: hikesnearvancouver.ca

All photo credit: hikesnearvancouver