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A Love of Hiking

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Editors Note: DC Service Corps member Nadia Barnett shares an interview with Amy Brandt about her love for hiking.

Earlier this week I spoke with my new housemate and fellow DC Service Corps member, Amy Brandt, about what matters to her and why. Over the course of our conversation, I learned more about the journey that led her to move across the country, to share this year of service with me in D.C. Now, I’d like to share with all of you.

Tell me what you’re passionate about?

“One of my passions is hiking. My first backpacking trip was when I was two years old; I am from Washington State and my family loves to go backpacking along the coast. As a two-year-old, they loaded up my little backpack and took me on a 3-mile boardwalk out to the beach where we camped for the weekend. We do this every year, sometimes a couple times a year. We usually end up going to the same exact place. It was ingrained in me at a young age that this is a hobby that can become a lifestyle. As I got older and I was able to drive on my own, I would go to new places. Whenever my friends and I needed something to do, we would go hiking.”

You say it was your family that got you into hiking as a child. What made you want to take on the activity and claim it as your own hobby?

“I love how connected I feel with my surroundings. When I’m hiking, I’m unplugged from the world. I’m able to leave aside anything that’s on my mind. There’s always some element of pain that goes into hiking. But there are always such grand rewards at the end. Whether it’s a mountain with a beautiful view at the end or a hike out to the ocean, there’s always beauty to be found that makes the suffering of the journey worth it. If I were to merely drive my car to a lookout, I’d see the same beautiful sight, but the process of hiking, which includes pain, allows for a greater appreciation of the view. It’s the action of walking for an extended amount of time; I find it really meditative and healing. Hiking allows me to delve into whatever thoughts come my way and to be curious about the world, which is really beautiful.”

Amy with the traditional trail marker along El Camino de Santiago.

You’ve talked about two different aspects of hiking: the physical action of hiking –the grit and pain felt –and the mentality of hiking. How have you taken that mentality and applied it to the other aspects of your life?

“Last summer, my sister, my friend and I hiked a portion of El Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage in Spain, where we hiked 160 miles in 10 days. We made a routine of it, we’d get up early, go out on the trail and hike for 8 hours. There was a lot of time to think. A lot of time to reflect. A lot of time to meet people, talk to them and hear about their different life experiences. Setting aside 10 days of pure experience and reflection, I learned a lot about patience and pain. When you’re walking that much, you will get blisters; I remember at one point I had 12 blisters at one time. Each step was so painful. But at the end -when we made it to Santiago–it hit me that my body carried me from one town all the way to a town 160 miles away. Are bodies are amazing! On that journey, I learned so many lessons about how I deal with pain and joy. I was able to share those moments and lessons with those who accompanied me along the journey. Even to this day, I’m still reflecting on gifts of that trip, as situations in my daily life will remind me of moments from El Camino.”

What do you love most about hiking?

“The simplicity. It’s just me and the trail and the people with me. That’s all I need. Even if you do the same trail every year, like I’ve done for the past 20 years, you start to collect really fond memories. I also love hiking because it allows me to engage all the senses. There’s a lot to intake; therefore, it makes the memories really vivid. Many of my best memories growing up are from hikes.”

What is the best hike you have been on?

“The most beautiful hike I’ve been on is the Chain Lake Loop. The trail is in Baker National Forest; it’s an 8-mile loop with beautiful views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. But my favorite hike is the Ozette Capa Lava Triangle (Olympic National Park) because that’s the one my family has taken me to every year since I was 2.”

Reflection Question: What parts of your lifestyle where inherited from your childhood?