“The day we stop exploring is the day we commit ourselves to live in a stagnant world, devoid of curiosity, empty of dreams.” ~Neil deGrasse Tyson
To fully appreciate this piece you may check out my post from Monday about my torrid love affair with walking (I’ve walked to work everyday this week). I would like to progress further on the piece. Because walking and movement is great, but one of my greatest passions in life (besides connections, cooking, and writing) is HIKING. I crave it. I get restless. My body aches to be outside. I NEED, I HAVE to hike. Period. Ask anyone who knows me. For the happiest Brittany. For the creative Brittany. For the eternal optimist Brittany. For the inspired Brittany. For the clear-headed, serene Brittany. I MUST HIKE. It saves me, over and over again. The moment I step into the woods I feel peace. I feel calm. Gone are my worries, and left is the potential and possibilities I feel in Nature. As if the trees can somehow filter out the bullshit of everyday life.
Tomorrow morning I have my alarm set early so I can beat the sun and be on a trail to chase its rise. Why? Why should we hike? Why should you hike (besides being moved to awe by my words and photos and banter)? Here are some of the given reasons for hiking, but as I find in life I think it’s important to always find your own reasons. How do you feel when you hike? What are you passionate about? What drives you? What do you yearn for?
Reasons to Hit a Trail
- Happier! A mood boost. Being outside boosts serotonin, those feel-good neurotransmitters. Plus you have the Japanese derived concept of forest bathing. Get in trees, let them swallow you up. Stand in awe of a mountain. Watch wildlife. Take off your shoes, get in there. Lay down, feel the good energy and vibes. Listen. Listen to the music of Nature. Breathe. Smell. Take in the smell of the trees. When someone told me I smelled like the outdoors, I resounded with an affirmative: thanks. This is also good then for depression. When I was going through one of the toughest times of my life, I was at least grateful and able to remain positive because I was in the mountains, for those mountains saved me.
- Sensory stimulation. Watch wildlife. Take off your shoes, get in there. Lay down, feel the good energy and vibes. Listen. Listen to the music of Nature. Breathe. Smell. Take in the smell of the trees. When someone told me I smelled like the outdoors, I resounded with an affirmative: thanks. Touch. Touch that tree. Dip your toe in a stream. Get all those senses involved. Let them participate.
- Concentration. Man I can’t tell you the level of focus I get on a hike. How acute my senses are. How connected I am. How crisp my thoughts are. The awareness of my body in time and space.
- Creativity. Hiking fuels my creativity. I write blogs in my head as I walk. I envision photo shoots. I conceptualize recipes. Ideas flow one after another after another.
- They say it can trigger our primal regions of the brain and psyche, which if you think about it, seems about right. We used to walk/run everywhere, of course that is going to connect us to where we came from.
- Sleep. I am a total research dork, I do it for fun. I can not tell you how much I have read about sleep and light patterns. Basically we want to pick up on circadian rhythms. Rise and fall with the patterns of the suns/light and our neurotransmitters. The sun is rising, serotonin kicks in to wake us up. It’s dark, melotonin kicks in and we get sleepy. So if we spend time in the natural sunlight and less around artificial light, would that then not promote a circadian rhythm? To me this logic makes since. And here I will write a post: Hit a Pillow, about all the beautiful benefits of sleep.
- An Experience. Whether you are taking a few days to camp and explore the backcountry, or a day to climb a small mountains, or you go out for an afternoon park visit with friends, there is always an experience to be had.
- Change. I am a restless soul. Stagnancy and routine kind of scares the shit out of me. Life is changing. Our bodies our changing. In a decade, none of the cells in our body will exist. Nature is a constant state of change. I remember a view years ago I read that success was our ability to deal with uncertainty. Because as much ‘control’ as we think we have, we are never truly in control. And so I like hiking because it is always different, Even if I tread the same trail everyday. Just check out my pics from my favorite local park in different seasons. The gym is the same everyday. Get outside, embrace change.
- Solo time. Social time. I know this is a paradox, but that is life. I need alone time. Sometimes I hike with a crew, but sometimes I just need to be alone. Just me. Me and my thoughts, away from the influence of others. Although sometimes I want someone there. Someone to bounce ides off of. Someone to dig deep and vulnerable with. To share ideas on life, on connections, on dreams, on it ALL. I want them both.
So how can we start hiking more? I know for me, it starts with prioritizing to make time for it. Also I read that a hike club is a good way to hit trails more. How cool! Like-minded people, accountability, fun, inspiration, goal-getting together. Don’t have one? Create one. It is in my brain flow to start one. Invite friends. Schedule time. Make goals. Plan discussions. GO! Start small, support your local parks system. Like their pages. Share photos and events. Take a friend. Expand, go to state parks or parks in your regions. Here is a list from Midwest Living of some of the best parks in the Midwest:
- Porcupine Mountains State Park, Michigan
- Brown County, IN
- Falls of Ohio State Park, Indiana
- Turkey Run State Park, Indiana
- Indiana Dunes
- Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
- Interstate State Park, Wiscousin
- Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
- Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota
- Maquoketa Caves State Park, Iowa
- Katy Trail State Park, Missouri
Head to the mountains. Get lost and get found. But start. Start by hitting a trail.