Moving to New Heights

| By Darlene Danko Sowa |

It took only one trip to the Asheville area for my husband and me to discover the magic of the mountains. They drew us in like the whiff of a freshly baked pie draws you into a bakery. Their grandeur and majesty captivated us so much that we sold our home in Michigan, put most of our belongings in storage and with suitcases in tow, moved into a beautiful rental overlooking the mountains while we searched for our next permanent residence. We thought we would surely be settled into our new home within a few months. As fate would have it, we were in for a shocking surprise.

At Rattlesnake Lodge on the Mountain-to-Sea Trail

While one house-hunting disappointment after another dampened our spirits, it was hiking in the mountains that brought us solace. During one particular mountain hike, I noticed a cluster of huge rocks a short distance ahead on the trail, but I couldn’t see any path continuing beyond these ancient boulders. Once I arrived at the rocks, however, the continuation of the trail became obvious, leaving the rocky terrain and bending around the lush, tree-covered mountain. And so it is with life, I thought. We frequently see boulders in front of us with no clear way to get past them, but as we approach the apparent obstacles, the way beyond them often reveals itself. I had to admit that with each disappointment in our home search, I received valuable information on how to move forward. Gain the wisdom and trust the process is what hiking in the mountains was telling me with each perceived disappointment.

It was another hike on the Rattlesnake Lodge trail that gave me more insight into our house-hunting dilemma. While climbing the trail, I intuitively got guidance to forge my own path to the top of the mountain. Once I reached the peak and gazed out at the panoramic view, my spirit lifted to new heights. It was breathtaking and well worth the risk I took leaving the trail. My lesson that day was that oftentimes we need to forge our own path to achieve our dreams. Following the path made by others can only take us so far. My husband and I needed to forge our own paths and take a different approach to house hunting. Whatever that path may be, I knew that hiking the mountains would guide us to and through it.

Hiking for me is not so much a physical exercise as it is a spiritual quest. It propels me to leave behind the disappointment of losing a bid on our dream house and look at the larger picture. Perhaps there were reasons why all the previous deals fell through. All I know is that when I’m hiking in the mountains and connect to a deeper part of my being, my authentic self, my perspective changes. The rewards I get from this intimate connection with nature don’t depend on where I live. They depend on my willingness to listen to my heart and follow the yearnings of my soul.

When hiking the mountain-to-sea trails, gratitude often fills my heart as the exquisite beauty of God’s creation surrounds me. The towering trees, the colorful wildflowers, the clear, sparkling streams all combine to remind me that there is so much more to life than what often occupies my mind. My problems seem trivial among the grandeur of this paradise and my perceived burdens lighten. The life-giving energy of nature soaks into every cell of my body and I feel renewed. I appreciate my body for where it has taken me and am grateful for its support.

It took us five and a half months before we would settle into our new living quarters in Hendersonville, about five miles from the peak of a magnificent mountain with a spectacular view. I go there often and reflect on how hiking helped me through the arduous process of moving and how it continues to enrich my life. As a result of hiking I’ve become stronger, more confident, more resilient, and more unwavering in my commitment to follow my own path. It has been said that when the body moves, the spirit begins to dance. Sometimes, I think, it even begins to fly.

The reasons why I hike today are many. I hike to fully participate in the birthing of a new and evolving consciousness. I hike to reaffirm that I’m a sacred vessel, nourished by spirit and governed by my heart. I hike to stretch my mind and embrace an expansive vision of who I am. I hike as a testimony to the almost limitless capabilities of the human body when fueled by spirit. There is so much more to all of us than we have been led to believe. It is commonly thought that the body begins to fail us as we age. But perhaps it is us who fail the body. Perhaps through our neglect and inattention, through our inability to see the untapped potential of our physical form, our body simply becomes overwhelmed and unable to function effectively. So in this year, my 70th trip around the sun, I hike to prove that aging can be a glorious, activity-packed experience.

Finally, I hike as an expression of Love. Hiking helps me grow in and experience this Divine Love to such a degree that I feel my whole body transformed. Love becomes fully present in every atom of my body and I feel a greater connection to Source, both within and around me. Hiking in the mountains has taught me that life is an on-going, ever-challenging, ever-changing process. I still find myself struggling to release more of the third-dimensional emotions that I’m sure have punctuated my being for lifetimes. And when those ghosts, like impatience or self-doubt, make their appearance, when my focus becomes blurry and my commitment begins to wane, I know it’s time for me to take another hike in the mountains.

Darlene Danko Sowa is an energy practitioner, workshop facilitator and lifestyle visionary. Her book, Taking Flight Through Movement, reveals the gifts of exercise when led by the spirit and directed by the heart. She can be reached at or

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker