A Wild Adventure

Noah & I hikingIt is easy to become creatures of habit. Some parts of our daily routine are mundane while others we look forward to. Noah and I used to have a steady routine of taking evening walks and hiking adventures on the weekend. We would drive down into the canyon behind our home and walk along the trails by the American River. Our evening hikes would range between two to four miles. Some trails ran parallel to the river, while others ascended up the canyon giving us a bird’s-eye view of the beauty that surrounded us. This was a delightful way to spend our evening together, holding hands, talking about our day and how we love where we live. This was my favorite part of my day that I greatly miss.

“I looked north, in its direction–the very thought of that bridge a beacon to me. I looked south, to where I’d been, to the wild land that had schooled and scorched me, and considered my options. There was only one, I knew. There was always only one. To keep walking.” – Cheryl Strayed, from her novel “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.”

Nature 3When looking back on the past two years, it is unsettling to think that the favorite part of my day was taken away from me due to my disk herniation. The thought of those days returning is a beacon of light to me. So I continue to walk forward with that very hope. There are many components of nature that I enjoy. The solitude. The quietness. The freedom. The challenge. The beauty. The smells. The connection.

“There is no Wi-Fi in the forest but I promise you will find a better connection.”

Wild bookSince my mind, heart and senses continue to yearn for the old adventures, I thought I would set off on a hike, but on a different route. I figuratively walked with Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail in her novel, “Wild.” Due to health issues or age, we may not be able to do what we once could. This may become a fact of life that we must accept. During these time periods, I believe it is important to find ways to still get “there,” even if it is through our imagination.

This was the first time I tried this method on my path of healing. Of course I wish I could physically be out adventuring on the hiking trails, but our minds can do wonders. It was fun to have this novel take me back to those trails where I could feel like I was standing there and reveling in the beauty of the sierras. To imagine that wonderful feeling of exhaustion after a long day of hiking. The excitement when you hear rustling of leaves and see wildlife. To disconnect with the fast-paced world and reconnect with yourself.

“Find a beautiful place and get lost.”

Reading “Wild” got me lost in a place that I love. Noah occasionally hikes the trails that we once enjoyed together, but at present are too challenging for my healing back. Last weekend, I asked him how his hike was. He responded, “It is not the same without you. The trails miss you.” It brought tears to my eyes hearing that and still does today, thinking about it.

Nature 2

Valen hiking






Life is a wild adventure. It is going to throw us curve balls. We may endure things we never expected. We may not have the answers or the solutions. We may need to accept change and adjust accordingly. I continue to hold onto hope and determination to get back to adventuring, in some capacity. In the meantime, I will find avenues to ignite those wonderful memories and to fuel my desire to keep fighting. For it is important to have something to fight for and something to look forward to.

Adventure sign

“To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life–like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.” – Cheryl Strayed, from her novel “Wild.”


  1. Rosemarie bartus

    Those were such inspiring thoughts. I admire your resilience and your outlook on life. So positive in spite of all the pitfalls. My husband and boys have PKD and Your writings give me hope for their future. Thank you for sharing with us,Valen.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Rosemarie,

      Thank you very much! I hope your husband and sons are doing well and have a bright and healthy future. Thank you for reading my blog and for your thoughtful sentiments. I wish your family all the best!

  2. Cathy

    I connected with your feelings after reading your blog. I read “Wild” last summer and felt I was part of her hiking journey. I know I’ll never hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but it brought back wonderful memories of hiking & backpacking before PKD slowed me down. Reading is a wonderful way to escape to places we would like to be & doing things in our imagination that we may not be able to do in real life. I love diving into a good story! It’s the next best thing to being there!
    I’ve been following your story through your blog. I worry through your tough times and marvel at your ability to find beauty in the ordinary of everyday life. I know you cherish each day , even though you may not be doing what you would really like to be doing. The story you tell of your life is a tremendous inspiration for all of us who read it. Thank you for being my favorite author….I hope to be reading your story for a very long time

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Cathy,

      Wow, we sure sound like kindred spirits. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the book “Wild,” reading and life. I appreciate you following my journey through my blog and also for your sweet words of support. They mean a whole bunch! I smiled when I read this sentence, “Thank you for being my favorite author…” That is the first time someone has said that to me. Thank you for touching my heart and brightening my day. I hope you are well and having a beautiful day. Hugs!

  3. mary cihen

    Thank you for another beautiful post. Your courage is unequaled. Blessings and hope for you to feel strong enough soon to go on a hike.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you very much for your support and encouragement. I look forward to that beautiful hike. Hope you are doing well. Hugs!

  4. dominique

    it definetly takes your mind to other places ..you are a natural wonder maybe walking along a shoreline or somewhere more on even ground could help keep your walks going and easier on your back?? may you continue to heal so you can go back to those trails maybe have a picnic there ..love to you dear friend.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Dominique,

      Thank you very much for your friendship and encouragement. Those are great ideas and stepping stones that will hopefully lead me back to the trails we once hiked. I hope you are having a great day!

  5. Susan Adcock

    I feel a close connection with your journey especially this post. My desire for the mountains I love and the ability to walk those trails again are ever present in my mind. Every year I look to the hills in my mind and every year another set-back or surgery. In February I begin a new year and will celebrate my birthday in the hospital. It’s been a long journey and right now I’m weary, but I still hope that I will stay well long enough to get stronger through PT. I read “Wild” too and took that journey in my mind. It was bittersweet I admit, but I enjoyed the book very much. Thank you for sharing your positive and inspiring message. There is so much I can learn from you. Thank you Valen.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Susan,

      I am so happy you are able to connect with my journey. It is important to know that we are not alone. It pulled on my heart-strings when I read, “right now I’m weary.” I know how it feels in that place and I wish you strength and determination to stay well and be able to have physical therapy help you get even stronger. I agree that reading “Wild” was bittersweet. I am learning that even if I can’t hike high up into the mountains like I once did, I can hike along the bottom and still marvel at their beauty. I hope this next upcoming hospital visit will be a short one and you will be well soon. Sending you strength, positivity and love.

  6. Sara Keefer

    Your words are always so inspiring! I love reading your blog…..it kind of feels like we are just right down the street (I can actually hear your voice while reading them). You are a true inspiration to all. Thank you for sharing your life stories. Your wprds speak loud and make me realize what is important in my life and what is not. Thank you Valen.

    Love from your sister/friend from the east coast

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Sara,

      Thank you for sharing this. It touched me greatly. Warms my heart knowing that when you read my posts, it feels like I am close and you can hear my voice. Thank you for your continued support and love cross-country. I’m thankful to have you as my sister and friend. I hope we can see all of you soon. Love you all!

  7. Ginny Wood

    OMG, you are a gift to the world!!! Make it happen for you, Valen. You make me cry and yearn. Good luck sweet girl.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Ginny,

      You are so sweet. Thank you very much for your support and for being so kind. Hugs!


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