What happens when you take a very cliché saying, and change the interpretation slightly? What happens when it becomes a zero-sum game? Is there a balance that once shifted is irreversible and only feeds into one side? When you do more miles are there less smiles? When you have more smiles are there less miles? Or even better yet, does it have to be zero-sum or can we even unpack it further and have both sides build off each other?
DANGER, DANGER, DANGER! TREAD LIGHTLY!
Every hiker knows the term, " miles and smiles" or "miles of smiles." It is very cliché but it is cliché for a reason. When you spend so much time hiking, miles become synonymous with smiles. You smile because you are hiking, you smile because there is new and exciting sights to be seen in the next mile, you smile because you are sharing an incredible gift with like-minded individuals that you call your trail family. You smile because you are free from responsibility and obligation... or so you thought.
What if you are driven by miles? There are some hikers out there that are purely driven by this obligation and responsibility to do more miles. How can you go further? How can you go faster? More, more, more, more!!! Unless you are one of the cursed few, such as ourselves, that get enjoyment out of this type of hiking, you may look in and only see exhaustion. You may look inside this type of hiking and see less smiles, and even wonder how there are any smiles to be had at all.
Personally we can attest that it is not a zero-sum game. There in fact can be multiple smiles, infinite smiles found within this "responsibility and obligation" of chasing harder miles. To go harder and go faster does not automatically discredit and discard smiles. There is an enjoyment in each type of hiking.
When moving through the trail at a leisurely pace, you smile at the external stimulation. The curves of a leaf, the bending of a branch, the whimsical twists and turns of the trail. You find smiles in the hour long chats you have with others at a shelter. You find smiles in the hour long chats you have with the chipmunks of the forest. You smile in the activity of camping while there is still light out. You smile in sitting next to a spring or creek and watching the water continue its perpetual flow. You smile knowing anywhere you wish to rest your weary burdens you can plop yourself upon a rock and contemplate existential philosophies. There are a million ways and more to smile with the miles inside of leisure.
Outside looking in, this hiker could be going slow, medium, fast...
We just don't know looking at this picture.
We also can't see their face, but we do know what is probably on it, a smile!
So, on the flip side of this coin, does that not mean all the smiles fade when you are pushing hard miles? Can you no longer hear the chipmunks chatter, can you no longer watch the stream continue its infinite bending, can you not smile in the freedom? Absolutely not, you not only receive the external stimulation that brings about smiles, but you find an internal stimulation that bends the mouth ever upwards. Personally, we feel that when combined and balanced properly, more miles directly relate to more smiles, among more frowns to be certain, but more smiles nonetheless.
When you are stepping off harder miles you may not have the time throughout the day that a more leisurely pace would provide, yet you find smiles just as frequently if not more. You find a smile in the consistent forward momentum. You find a smile in watching as the terrain bends and breaks between the miles that you are stepping off. You find a smile in your internal exhaustion pushing the mind to limits that bring you joy. You find a smile with the less frequent but more heavily weighted minutes you spend chatting with another. You find a smile within the pain of your body protesting the extreme. You find a smile in the dehydration of your body. You find a smile in the depletion of your nutrients. You begin to find smiles where smiles normally are not found. This is beyond a special gift.
To be able to smile outside of the classical and smile within the hard puts a smile on my face even now. It shifts the mindset to find joy in the uncomfortable and rigorous and with that ability you now have the ability to find a smile wherever you may be. In the torrential rain freezing your limbs, you will be in pain, you will be grimacing, but also sickly you may be smiling. When you feel the muscles tearing apart and contracting themselves you may bend to the intensity but you will smile to the feeling. When you find yourself walking countless miles into traffic, the only stimulation being your own brain and some stray songs or a podcast, you find a smile in the annoyance of cars. Finding smiles anywhere becomes your strength.
Anywhere a smile can be found within a mile. Even if technically that one mile there is "no reason" to smile, more likely than not you will smile. To hike a mile now becomes to create a smile. They are not contradictory no matter how different they become. There is no VS situation at hand, only growth into each other.
No Caption Necessary.
As we see smiles and miles will never have to face off against each other. Instead the cliché saying will remain, because anyway you go about stepping off the miles, they become filled with smiles. If you step off the miles purposely seeking smiles. If you step off the miles purposely seeking pain, exhaustion and deprivation. If you step off the miles purposely avoiding any purpose. The result will be a smile. Always a different reason to smile inside. Time to find our smiles within some miles!
Happy New Year!