One of my greatest pleasures over the last several years has been the simple act of taking a walk.
I am fortunate enough to live in an area with several parks that include walking trails. These trails are mostly paved and tend to be about a mile or two in length. The hills are not too demanding and I do not find myself needing to forge any surprise bodies of water. I am just able to have a pleasant walk among the trees, prairies, streams, and mostly man made ponds or small lakes. These are a far cry from the trails available in our state or national park system, but I enjoy them.
These details are important, because I don’t want anyone to get the mistaken idea that I am a “hiker”. I labored under that misbelief for a while myself. I have been on hikes in both the Smoky and Rocky mountains-but, again, on short trails labeled “easy” to “moderate”. I would trudge along these trails (some of them NON-PAVED!!!), take in a beautiful vista or play in the river a while, even enjoy a lovely waterfall. I would then make it back to the trail head, drive back to the hotel where I could shower, take a nap, and watch television for a few hours until eating dinner in a local restaurant. Then when I got back home I would actually tell people I went “hiking”. With a straight face and everything.
This was my definition of hiking. I lived happily under this delusion for quite some time and then I met some real, honest-to-goodness hikers. I mean, I didn’t actually join them on a hike or anything (whew!) but we had discussed hiking in casual conversation. Then I saw their Facebook posts-and the pictures they posted for proof positive of their adventures. The hikes these people went on left me in awe of what they had achieved-it was truly admirable.
It was also nuts. They’d do like seven miles-or more. At one time. In a row. Up solid rocks, over rope bridges, through caves, forging rivers and through gorges they went. And sometimes-get this-they would actually camp out at the end of the hike, and go backwards the next day, doing it all over again. This is absolute craziness-lunatic behavior. But admirable nonetheless.
Now, I’m sure the views and experiences are worth the effort. And to be fair, these people are quite fit, whereas I am…not. Hmm. Perhaps I could use a little more “communing with nature”. Nah. I’m good with what I get, thanks.
So. Hiking I do not recommend. BUT-a gentle walk in the woods, or even a well maintained city park-can be quite pleasant. Wonderful, even. A simple stroll can help clear the mind, refresh the spirit, and help one feel a little bit closer to nature and the Almighty. I enjoy experiencing the change of seasons out in the woods-except for Winter, that I do from my easy chair. It’s nice to spot some small wildlife, or perhaps a deer across the field, and feel centered for a little while during a hectic week. It also gets me out and moving, which is good. In short, a walk makes me happy.
Therefore I encourage you to give it a go and see if it doesn’t start to lift your spirits a little bit once you start doing it regularly. You don’t necessarily have to go all in on the hiking thing, but find some small parks where you live and get moving. This can be a great way to bring a little more peace, contentedness and happiness in your day to day.
P.S.-Just so you don’t think I’m totally soft, while out in the woods in the Smokies, I did see a bear once. I got my phone out to take a quick video and was a little too close for comfort since the bear turned, look straight at me, snorted and pawed the ground as if to say, “Back off, Man!” So I did what any red blooded American man would do.
I charged the bear and wrestled it to the ground! We fought tooth and nail for an hour, and when I finally got it in a submission hold it sank its head low and whimpered, signifying that I was in fact its Master. After gaining its respect I pulled the flask from my back pocket, shared a drink of whiskey with my new comrade and sang it to sleep, stroking its muzzle and singing old Willie Nelson songs.
I put the phone away, put my hands up, backed away slowly and rejoined my family at the side of the road.
You can believe whichever version you’d like.