It's not the destination, it's the journey.
I like to hike. But I usually do so alone. That is my preference. I do like to see or hear other people along the trail, but that's more because of my unnatural fear of bears, even when there are no bears anywhere nearby. The occasional noisy person on the trail will scare off any pesky bears. At least that's my reasoning.
I like to hike alone for a number of reasons. Part of it is that I'm an amateur photographer and I like to take my time and take pictures of all manner of weird things that I see. I'm sure that would annoy a serious hiking companion to no end. And I like the quiet and solitude of a solo hike wherein the only sounds I hear are birds chirping and my own labored breathing on the steep sections.
But most of all, I enjoy taking my time and just taking in the experience. A hike that would take a serious hiker an hour or two may take me twice that long. I take the time to really look at the bark on a tree, a mangled stump, a single flower, a bit of moss or fungus. I look for the birds I hear above me. I look at the trail ahead, the trail behind, the ground at my feet and the sky above me, taking particular delight in the dappled glow of filtered sunlight as it makes everything greener and more vibrant. I'm always struck by how many shades of green abide in nature. And how those shades change depending upon how the sunlight touches them.
And I am often rewarded on my journey for my patience. As I was hiking around Cascade Lake on Orcas Island in Washington this past week, I encountered a number of people. Families and friends hiking together chattering away and barely acknowledging their surroundings, an older woman on a power walk and a younger woman jogging the trail, each of whom were fairly oblivious to the wonders around them. As I rounded one corner on the trail, I came to an opening in the forest and a breathtaking view of the lake. As I stood there transfixed taking in all of the colors and textures, a bald eagle soared overhead across the lake and into the trees.
It was just a few seconds, but the image is fixed in my mind and will be tucked away with memories of other such encounters over the years - mountain goats in Montana, wild toucans in Brazil, a mongoose on St. Vincent's, a waved albatross mating dance in the Galapagos, a magnificent elk in the Canadian Rockies.
And what does this have to do with baseball you might ask? Nothing and everything. The destination for the minor league players I follow is to make it to the show. The destination for me in following them is to see a strong farm system that can keep supplying the Astros with good players for years to come, players that will make them a competitive team from year to year.
But even when the Astros are competitive again and the farm system ranks in the top five perennially, I will continue to follow "my boys." Because I have enjoyed the journey so much as I have slowly gotten to know so many of these young men. The metaphorical colors and textures of these players is as varied as those I find in nature. I am endlessly fascinated by their talent, their stories, their personalities. And if I'm very, very patient, I know I will see some of them soar.