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Fast v. Slow

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

Sniffing wildflowers

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

Slow Down

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 down

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

Slow down

Breathe in deep

Air in your lungs

Let it out

All said and gone

Start it new

Let it go

Don’t forget

Believe it now

Slow down

Slow, breathe slow

Open eyes to a new day

Slow, breathe slow