It has been 14 days since my last hike and I already yearn to be in the woods. Some of my family and friends find it strange that I enjoy leaving the comfort of my home when it is raining, cold and snowing, or 95* and humid outside to walk for miles upon miles, but clearly, they do not see the benefits that I reap from enduring these harsh conditions. So, why do I do it? Why do I go out into nature for days with nothing but I what I carry on my back, regardless of weather?
There are Many Health Benefits
These days, my family is very health-conscience, so we enjoy being active. We run, practice martial arts, and workout on a regular basis. Of course hiking will give you the same heath benefits that walking will, but day-hiking or backpacking out in nature, away from the city, provide a greater benefit to the mind, body and soul than just the cardiovascular benefits of walking in your neighborhood.
Typical hiking trips take me away from home, work and other stresses of life. When I am able to leave these things behind for a short time, I can decompress. I turn off my email and social media notifications to truly enjoy what is around me. I live in the moment. When I am on multi-day backpacking trips, I can truly let go of the outside world. I am only responsible for walking each day’s miles, eating, and setting up my camp each night. There is a sublime simplicity in life on those trips.
There is proof that hiking makes you happier and healthier. I have certainly experienced this, but there is also research that suggests hiking makes you smarter. I would love to confirm this, but I haven’t exactly taken any standardized test while in the wilderness. I can certainly tell you that being in the wilderness will open your mind. Either way, the benefits are plentiful.
Hiking Strengthens Family Bonds and Friendships
When Jen and the girls are able to go with me on day hikes or overnighters, we have a lot of uninterrupted quality time together. We get to talk to each other without the distractions of TV, Youtube, or Netflix. Jen and I watch the kids enjoy themselves without electronics. We are able to teach them about nature, show them the beauty that lies beyond the trees, and explain the importance of preserving it.
Lately, Taylor has taken a much bigger interest in hiking. She and I have gone on a couple overnighters now and the time we have together, between a Father and Daughter, is priceless. I always look forward to the next trip that I am able to get them out on.
Friendships have been born and solidified while hiking. I have met several people through hiking that I am happy to call friends. The hiking community is full of generous and kind people. I have also taken friends from other aspects of life out on hiking trips to share the experience with and this has always enhanced our friendship greatly.
The Woods are my Church
I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual one. Day to day life can drain the soul if you let it, but the beauty and solitude of nature can repair and refill it. Stopping to witness the amazing creations in nature will cause you to ponder your existence and significance in this world. When I sit on the edge of a mountain cliff and take in the views below, I am alone with my thoughts. When I stare at the millions of stars above me as I lay in my hammock on a clear night, I am astonished by the power and greatness of our universe. When I hike thirteen miles in the rain, over rough terrain, and reach my destination for the night in the piney woods, listening to the sounds of owls and coyotes, I am alive.
For more information about hiking and backpacking, please visit the following sources…or just ask me!