I learned an entirely new level of gratitude as I hiked the Colorado trail alone this summer.
This funky twilight zone that we entered on election night last November feels like a horror movie that just won’t end. I desperately needed a new perspective. I hadn’t stepped away from organizing in five years. Every day I have the privilege to be able to fight important battles, but I also have to ‘step into’ the world's problems. It was wearing on me.
That’s one reason I decided to take part in a journey of more than 450 miles on foot through majestic mountains and red and orange valleys, crossing waterfalls and rivers. I wanted to be outdoors with grueling, yet inspiring, mountains to climb and breathtaking views.
At one point during my four-week sojourn, I filled my water bladder in a crystal clear, free flowing creek at 12,000 feet. I smiled as the sun shone making the creek’s flow down the mountain even more mystical. I gazed up and noticed I could see the source of the water right above me--a massive snow field.
Each day I found myself thinking about how I was able to hike through breathtaking mountains and drink crystalline water because people with different views, backgrounds and upbringings came together to protect what they hold dear.
I also learned that volunteers built the trail, which wound through wilderness areas and national parks.
The trek unexpectedly reminded me of all the good in the world, and all the people that came before me that made having this incredible experience possible.
Along the way, I encountered many “trail angels” -- everyday people who want to make the world a little kinder by offering something for nothing in return: a warm shower, a ride into town, encouragement, or a comfortable bed for the night.
I passed through a number of small towns -- places that were the antithesis of Denver city life. Strangers shared an extra sandwich, or snack (and as a hiker you are always hungry). A young couple on their sixth date drove me into town when I needed to buy supplies. I was invited to drink a cup of tea with a camp neighbor and talk about the world. Complete strangers told me that they were proud of me and offered congratulations as I headed down the final hills into Durango. I stayed in the guest bedroom of a local couple for a night when housing fell through in a small town. I was ever so grateful for a warm shower, a place to do laundry and a comfortable bed.
I was brought back to my roots -- remembering that so many of us are looking to do good in the world. Whether by taking that first step to help a stranger, or organizing as a community to protect our food, our water, and climate so many of us are ready to take action for one another.
As I ease back into city life, I feel a renewed sense of calm, and trust that our movement will continue to grow more compassionate, more powerful and more effective--as long as we remember, during this trying time that there is still good in the world.
I will have a new perspective when the going gets tough.
I look forward to continuing to fight alongside many of you for a more positive and loving future for us all.