National Parks and Why you NEED an Annual Pass

Initially our trip was just going to be us spending a week at Yellowstone. I don’t really know what happened, maybe I mentioned that I had always wanted to go to Utah, or others kept making suggestions. Regardless, our trip began to grow. More states, more parks, more days. It morphed into a two week Grand Adventure (#1).

Somewhere, sometime, I had heard about a National Parks Pass. It is ONLY $80 (this is dope because a state pass, just for parks in Indiana is $50). Just to get into a national park, can cost you $20, if not more. And this pass is good for an entire year (hence why we are in the works for planning a Grand Adventure with my sister-in-law Mary with a larger loop and 10 more national parks). I cannot describe my level of giddiness when our pass came. I pretty much was ready for us to sign it and put it in the window right away!!!

Nature is my spot. Growing up, we lived in the country. My parents, notably my father, were big on being outdoors. As I grew, the more I came to appreciate my times outdoors. After college, when I simplified my life (got rid of a bunch of stuff, moved into a shed, set out on adventures, the usual), I set to living my life. My instant gravitation led me to the woods. Anytime I had a day off I took off to a state or local park or camping. I ached to be on a trail. On a whim I took off to Yosemite by myself. I yearned to be outside. The woods, to me, cuts out and filters the bullshit of everyday life. It is easy to get lost in the busy of everyday life. To get sucked into worries or stressed. We are constantly connected and contantly bombarbed with a stream of other people telling us how to live. Going to the woods, helps me reconnect with myself. With life. I get back to what is important. To my values. To god. That is my time for clarity. For maximum gratitude. For mindfulness and awareness. It is like hitting a reset button, back to my best self. I NEED outdoor time.

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Hit a Trail

“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

  • 1625603_10100900799447953_3973042893055115963_nHappier! 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.

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Why Walk?

11695771_10101015304159593_1006781885763692706_nIn Wildness is the preservation of the world.” Henry David Thoreau

I love walking. I walk everywhere. I feel like Where’s Waldo. Who can spot the purple-haired girl first? There she is!!!

I live in a community where commuting is, I feel, in it’s infancy. I am a novelty. What are you doing? Can I give you a ride? Is something wrong with your car? Are you sure I can’t give you a lift? Then when I explain that I have chosen to walk, you can imagine the looks. Gasp. Googly eyes. In those moments, I feel like an alien. Really? Why? Once upon walking with my pack in the country I stumbled across an older gentleman offering to give me a lift. When I explained I was practicing walking, he brushed it aside: You’ll grow out of that. Does this seem like a problem to anyone else?

For a walking, Nature lover like myself, you can imagine my excitement when I run across support for my lifestyle choices. I stood at the grocery store and Organic Life magazine stared me down in the aisle. On the side in beautiful white letters, it said: WAYS THAT WALKING CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE. It was in my hands before I actually had time to register what I was doing. My body, my intuition craved what that article had to say.

For years I have found solace in walking. Over time the relationship between my gait and I has blossomed into a full-blown love affair. Growing up, my father pushed an outdoor lifestyle, but as I have found, discovering (re-discovering) things on your own is the most fulfilling sensation. One summer in high school, I began walking the mining hills behind our home in western Indiana. There was something about it. I ached for more. More time in the woods. More connection. More trees. More air. More hills. More climbing. More views from the top. More of that feeling. That feeling of life. That stitch in my side. The increased heart rate. Feeling my lungs work harder, as I climbed and climbed. My legs burning. Sweat dripping. I had to keep going. For I never want this feeling to go. I live for this invigoration. Then I Continue reading “Why Walk?”