The Path to Gratitude
Pause. Breathe. Remember what trails mean.
Wild places have many powers, but one of them is to turn the mundane — a box of mac and cheese, an old fleece jacket, hot coffee, hot running water, carbonation, your own bed — into something extraordinary. You might have the same feeling, something halfway between nostalgia and gratitude, if you’ve been away from our state or trails for a while. The scent of pine, cedar or sun-warmed earth lands on you, and bam! You’re transported, elevated.
You have to miss something a little bit before you remember how freaking amazing it is. Which is why there’s a common thread in some of the notes and comments returned to us with donations, volunteer surveys or in social media threads:
“We are so lucky to have Washington Trails Association as a resource for our area. They make it so, so easy to research and find new places to hike no matter your ability, whether you have kids, etc. Many other parts of the country don’t have anything like this!”
“Nothing quite reminds you how lucky we are to have WTA like looking for hikes in other states.”
Besides bringing joy to WTA employees, notes like these always express gratitude for more than just the natural wonder and beauty of our state. They celebrate this hiking community we continue to create together here in Washington. “Oh yeah,” these notes seem to say. “I forgot! We’ve got it so good here.”
Mac and cheese tastes so good in the backcountry because you’re so far from your own kitchen. (And you’re hungry.) It only takes a night or two in a tent to make you appreciate your own bed. A long winter turns that first sunny spring hike into something special.
Lack stokes gratitude.
But do we need to go without to remember why hiking and protecting trails matter? Or can we just occasionally take a moment — maybe when thumbing through trip reports or standing on a nice bit of trail somewhere in the state — to remember? Trails are central to our lives and well-being. Public lands are irreplaceable. Their existence isn’t a given. And neither is the existence of Washington Trails Association and our community.
This place and our community are exceptional. Not perfect, but still something special. And it will take all of us to keep it that way. So thank you for hiking, and for taking whatever wild places mean to you — mental health, family memories, artistic inspiration — and giving that gratitude back to the community. Thank you for your trip reports. For volunteering. For raising your voice and spreading the word. Thank you for your contributions — and the notes you send with them.