I went on my first official hike when I was in high school. I wasn’t impressed. Years later when I was a divorced mom in a new city, hiking drew my attention again. In 2009, I met up with some church friends and hit the trails with my dog and my 8-year-old daughter. While we caught some beautiful views, both my daughter and the dog got ticks. It was years before I hiked again. Now, I just can’t get enough of the scenic beauty, exercise and peace that hiking offers. If you haven’t been on a trail lately, give it a try. (Just make sure to choose a trail without ticks.)
Here are my 5 favorite things about hiking:
1) It’s a natural high. – The combination of sunshine, plant oxygen, green colors, exercise and the natural sounds of wildlife, water and footsteps all combine for an endorphin- and serotonin-boosting cocktail. Hiking gives me a high that lasts all week.
2) It’s a great way to find friends. – When you spend hours walking on the trail with people, you can’t help but talk. The conversations are better because you are in an environment that encourages peace and allows you to disconnect from everyday routine. I’ve built real friendships on the trails.
3) It’s a fun way to exercise. – I love a good time, and while working out at the gym can be fun with some music, hiking brings its own party. You might spot a family of deer, busy chipmunks, a turtle, historic ruins, cascading waterfalls or just cute dogs hiking with their caregivers. There’s always something interesting to see on the trails.
4) It feels deeply spiritual. – Many indigenous cultures base their spiritual beliefs in the patterns of nature. I can see why. When I’m on a trail, I feel a deep connection to the world around me and to myself.
5) It’s visually stunning. – If you take time to pause, you will find yourself surrounded in beauty. Look up at sunlight slipping between the tree leaves against a blue sky. Watch as river water cascades into lush waterfalls. Notice flowering plants and rogue mushrooms.
Wherever you live, you can look for local hiking trails to enjoy. If you have a hard time finding trails near you, try walking at your local park, gardens or beach. Research trail difficulty, terrain and any fees in advance, and, unless you are in a very well-trafficked and familiar location, don’t hike alone. (I like to have a minimum of three people on the trails.) Meetup.com is a great place to find hiking groups. Hiking is an excellent way to put a smile on your face and nurture yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. And, when you get out there, don’t rush – remember to pause and notice the beauty all around you. Take it all in. You deserve this.
I wish you passion, purpose and the realization of your fullest potential!