Thinking like a Mountain

(2020-05-21 Trail Watch)

Do you remember the reason for your first hike? For a better view? To challenge yourself? For health and fitness? What was your mentality to communicate and connect with nature?

Ms. Hsu Ming Chien, the deputy chief executive officer of the Taiwan Thousand Miles Trail Association (TMI Trail), has long been concerned about Taiwan’s eco-craft trail and mountain environmental protection. From going to the Appalachian Mountain Trail in the United States for lessons and practice, Hsu keeps studying different methods to repair eco-craft trail in different countries to bring back that knowledge and experience to Taiwan.

I am on the Appalachian Trail - A Journey to the Mountains, 2015, Hsu Ming Chien

This book was published in 2008 and republished in The Most Beautiful Question Marks on the Map: The Journey of Finding Dream Trails.. It records Hsu's experience from preparing for her trip to the Appalachian Trails, to her participation in its maintenance. The total length of the Appalachian Trail is 2,100 miles, and is known as one of the greatest eco-craft trail projects completed and maintained by volunteers without commercial involvement.

Unlike Hsu, you may not have the opportunity (or ability) to participate in the maintenance of this dream trail, but you can trace her trip, and feel like you are there,  exploring the relationship between human and nature. After understanding human’s impact on the mountain, you can imagine using native materials and instruments to maintain the trails and learn to think like a mountain.

Handmade Trails: Trail Builders Take You to Centennial Trails, Aboriginal Hunting Trails, Suburban Mountain Greenways, and Experience Two-way Healing of Man and Nature, 2016 Taiwan Thousand Miles Trail Association (TMI Trail)

This book illustrates more than 20 hand-made construction methods, selects 13 eco-craft trails in different regions of Taiwan, including at different altitude environments, by unique characters, by characteristics of construction method and development models of North, Central, South, and East Taiwan. 

Rather than concretizing damaged mountain trails one by one, the Association and the "Trail Builders" tried to adapt to local conditions, use local materials, and consider the surrounding natural landscape as the first priority. To integrate the technique and to reduce impact to the path, the environment and ecology, the team keeps developing new and improved possibilities for every eco-craft trail.

In addition to enjoying the hiking trails regularly maintained by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, hikers in Hong Kong are now able to participate in volunteer training on sustainable hiking trails, and to build sustainable mountain trails together. For those interested, perhaps this will provide different ways of thinking about the balance between nature (animals and plants), stakeholders (government agencies, residents and hikers), culture and history, as well as different conditions between Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. At least you can learn to think like a mountain. Next time you walk on various trails in Hong Kong, you will have a deeper connection  to the impact of each human step on nature.

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