Reinsma takes a hike

For many people, serenity involves a hot bath, a massage or even a nap, but for Professor of English Luke Reinsma, peacefulness comes at the thought of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

“One of the reasons I love the mountains is perfectly obvious: They’re full of peace, they’re full of beauty, they’re full of serenity,” Reinsma said. “Just to do one thing, just to walk in such beauty; to live a whole life instead of shattered, fragments of life.”

This week’s Thursday Food for Thought centered on Reinsma’s experiences hiking the PCT, a 2,650-mile stretch between Mexico and Canada, and how it confirmed his belief that everyone should do something to take care of his or her soul.

“I’m fond of telling students three things when they’re freshmen,” Reinsma said. “That they should learn a foreign language (and) that they should travel. And I tell them thirdly that they should do something to take good care of their soul.”

When he says this, he means much more than the evangelical sense of the word soul.

“Your spirit. Your sense of inner peace — of inner being,” he said.

Reinsma said he tells freshmen that they should do choir or row or run or do martial arts; “Something, just because it takes care of parts of you that class doesn’t take care of.”

Hiking, Reinsma said, takes care of him in this way.

“It’s like replenishing an empty vessel that has been emptied by the hard, good work of an academic year,” he said.

Reinsma said he has been hiking all his life and enjoys the peace it gives him. However, he had never hiked the entire PCT until a few years ago.

“It’s been my lifelong dream to hike from Mexico to Canada, and about five years ago I realized, ‘I am not getting any younger, I’m 62,’” Reinsma said. “I’ve got maybe a decade of good walking left in me, God willing, so if I want to do this, it’s got to get done.”

Hiking the PCT “in one shot” takes about nine months with hikers averaging 20 to 30 miles a day, Reinsma said.

Reinsma, who said he does not have nine consecutive months to dedicate to the PCT, has been hiking the PCT in large chunks over the last three summers. This summer, Reinsma and his son, Nathaniel, hiked the stretch in California from Donner Pass to Castella, approximately 350 miles, he said.

“You just work hard, work in rhythm,” Reinsma said. “You take a breath, you take a couple steps. You’re surrounded by acres of flowers, the sky is blue, a bird twitters in the background. All of a sudden that anxious mind that keeps on chattering just settles down and you just become one person, you become whole in God’s universe.”

He said he did understand, however, that not everyone appreciates the purpose of hiking.

“I know there are others of you who are thinking, ‘What’s so great about hiking?’” Reinsma said. “With a 45-pound pack on a 93-degree day, with flies buzzing around your ears, climbing 4,000 feet in 6 miles — that is how I feel about golf.”

One of Reinsma’s goals in speaking on Thursday, he said, was to inspire “youngsters” to take a year off after graduation and hike the PCT.

With junior Nicole Soulia, an art history and global development studies major, Reinsma may have hit his target. Soulia said she backpacked with her father and sister this summer and fell in love with hiking. Though Soulia does not see where she could find nine months to set aside for the PCT, she said it is something she would like to do.

“Maybe this is a time in my life where I should just say, ‘Go with it,’ you know? I can always get a job later,” Soulia said.

Thomas Disher, a 2010 SPU alumnus, took Reinsma’s hiking class last year and said Reinsma was his favorite professor.

“I liked that he mentioned how hiking in the mountains makes you whole in God’s universe,” Disher said. “That’s very similar to what I’ve felt when I’ve gone hiking. Even though I am small compared to the scenery around me, I still matter. It’s sort of like how a pebble might not be much, but a lot of pebbles together can make up a mountain.”

Reinsma ended the telling of his heartfelt experience with four words that summed up his view on hiking: “Good for the soul.”

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Title: Reinsma takes a hike | Author: Jacky Neumiller | Section: News | Published Date: 2010-10-27 | Internal ID: 7263