Recently I finished another section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve been doing this since 2012 and I now have hiked more miles on the PCT than Cheryl Strayed! (I’m at not quite half). Once again. I was suprised and slightly dismayed at the proliferation of earbuds. Back in 2012, I didn’t see any. Now, it’s almost an essential part of the gear.

Don’t get me wrong. If you hike 2,660 miles, I can understand why after awhile your thoughts might make you crazy. I wouldn’t be above popping in a podcast or a book on tape. But where I was this time was less than 150 miles from the Mexico border. Do people really need to be distracted this early? Or have we become a group of people that needs constant noise and distraction from what we are doing?

I don’t hike or run with music, podcasts, books, whatever. I think it’s a rare time to really immerse yourself in what you are doing. You can hear the wind in the trees, the crunch of your feet on the trail, the anticipated gurgle of water when you are looking for it. You also can think, which again, I believe we don’t spend enough time doing. Instead, we want to be entertained. Or, like an ex boyfriend of mine, we are frightened to be alone with ourselves.

I do all sorts of things while walking a 20 mile day. I make up names for children, A through Z. I make up nail polish colors. I write chapters of my book (“What if…no, that’s awful. But what if this happens?” I think about the past, because people who don’t look back are people I don’t quite trust. I check in with myself. What hurts? What doesn’t hurt? I make up trail names for the people I pass: Pop-up, because he popped up out of nowhere. Black Bart, because he was dressed all in black. Tarpman, because I passed him lying completely covered by a Walmart type tarp. I wonder about life and different paths I could have taken. There is so much to think about, it would take hundreds of miles before I would get bored.

There are times that I’m glad I’m older, very few times, but this is one of them. I grew up without earbuds. Instead, we played. We made up stories. Music was for later, at home, not out in the woods. We didn’t need to distract ourselves from the woods. The woods were endlessly fascinating. They still are.