The other day I was hiking God’s Thumb, a trail located near Lincoln City, Oregon. The view at the end is absolutely breathtaking and well worth the journey to get there.
As I ventured into the forest, a feeling of peace flooded through my veins as my ears drowned out the sound of the outside world. The familiar feeling of freedom that comes with being in nature rushed through me. I could hear the whisper of the forest, the sound of birds chirping, the ocean waves crashing in the distance. Away from the outside world, it felt like all was right.
A new sound broke through the abyss. The sound of Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber’s song “I Don’t Care” had suddenly taken over the forest. I turned around to see two middle aged women flaunting up the trail, literally singing to this music that they were blasting on a handheld bluetooth stereo.
Both anger and amusement coursed through my veins. On one hand, the fact that they were blasting trashy pop music in the middle of such a scenic trail made me want to laugh out loud. On the other hand, I was a little ticked off that I could hear their music. I didn’t go hiking to listen to their favorite jams. Do they not appreciate nature or respect others on the trail?
I took a deep breath and let them pass, hoping to get some distance between them so I wouldn’t have to listen to their music. I wanted to get back to enjoying the trail.
I reached the end a short distance later and climbed to the scenic viewpoint.
However, what caught me off guard was the same two hikers blasting Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” at the top of the hill. I could tell a few other hikers at the end were a little upset about this also. Not that I don’t love Taylor Swift, but this music isn’t fit for the scene. Why not just sit and enjoy the silence? Why not just be?
The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that these women were old enough to know better. This is the kind of behavior I’d expect from oblivious teenagers. I wanted to say something to them, but didn’t want to make it a big deal. They have every right to listen to their music, but this is a shared space, and they were ruining it for everyone. If they wanted to listen to music, they could have worn headphones.
Not wanting their actions to dictate my feelings, I moved on, heading back down the hill. I enjoyed the rest of my hike as the two hikers stayed on the top of the hill for a while longer, listening to their music and enjoying the view. They seemed to be sincerely interested in staring at the ocean. But the contrast between that and their apparent disrespect made me wonder what about this hike they had actually enjoyed? Was it spending time together? Was it the view? Were they truly appreciating nature?
I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’d like to think that they just didn’t know any better and maybe someone should have told them so they could understand. But, how could people not know that nature is to be respected and by blasting music, not only is nature being disrespected, but so are the others trying to enjoy the trail, too.
If it’s true, that they really didn’t know…I find that really, really sad. Is this the world we live in? A world in which the value of nature is undermined by technology and social media? It seems like the hike, to them, was an Instagram destination, not a place of solace. Nature is meant to be experienced fully, not seen through the lens of a screen, and not heard behind the noise of music.
That’s not to say pictures can’t be taken and music can’t be enjoyed. But social media isn’t the end all be all and there is a time and a place for some music. I took plenty of pictures on the hike, because I want to remember. But I didn’t spend the entire hike taking pictures because that would ruin the experience. Sometimes I listen to music while hiking, too. It gives me energy if I’m feeling drained, and lifts my spirits. But if I do decide to listen to music, I use headphones because I understand that many people come to this trail to enjoy nature, and by playing my music out loud for them to hear, I’m disrupting this time of solitude for them.
I want to be fully present and live in the moment. By not fully living in the moment, a piece of that moment is lost forever. For an instant, the beauty of life is forgotten. Nature is life and it is a central part of who we are as human beings. Why is it so easy to forget that?
I feel sorry that these hikers couldn’t fully appreciate the beauty of the trail. That they couldn’t hear the trees whistling in the wind, the crashing of the ocean waves, and the sound of footsteps on forest terrain. These are simple sounds of being alive, and are more beautiful than even the most beautifully written lyric or riff.
I think the real world is a lot more beautiful than what we can fabricate into reality.
Sometimes I think it’s hard to see the world for how it is. Filters change the perspective. Social media creates an expectation that may or may not be met. And music drowns out the noise of life.
These things can enhance life, but they can also make it more difficult to understand life for how it is, and not for how it is made to seem.
But I think, if we took the time to look and listen to what nature has to offer, we might find that there are more perspectives, fulfilling expectations, and a greater song just waiting to be heard.
Hi! My name is Rachel. I love to write. Write about life, love, and reflect on how the past builds the future. Mostly, I love to tell stories because I believe there is something about stories that brings the world closer together. You can check out some of my writing reflections here at Rachel Writes.