Since that first trip I have relived the physically demanding experience several times over. The Smokies, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Allegheny Mountains, the sandstone ridges of Kentucky have all rewarded me as a reminder that no matter how physically fit you are and how many hikes you have completed, a steep elevation gain still kicks your butt.
So why do I do it? Why do I keep returning for more punishment? Because if I were reading this and had never hiked before I would avoid it at all costs. This is an easy question to answer.
Simply put… the payoff makes it all worth it. The memories, the wild nature, the overwhelmingly noticeable effects of disconnecting from technology. So, let me break these down and a few more reasons why I like to hike:
1. The Challenge
I have already presented this in a not so flattering way, but someone who loves to be physically active the challenge of hiking provides this. Setting out to hike 1 mile or 50 miles can be challenging. Once you arrive at the finish the feeling of accomplishment does so much for your psyche. Putting one foot in front of the other and climbing a mountain, crossing a river, or walking through a field of wildflowers provides so much for the mind, body, and soul. All of these aspects can be challenging while on a hike and it is in my opinion that they should be.
2. The Escape
The opening quote properly describes the majority of people today: tired, nerve-shaken, over civilized. There is a necessity to escape from it. Not run away and climb into a hole until all of the chaos is over, but rather disconnect from the things that have become commonplace that are not necessarily the best for us. Technology and social media are the biggest distractors in our modern time. The average time spent on social media in 2020 is 2 hours and 24 minutes per day. This accounts for nearly 50 percent of time spent on mobile devices everyday. Total average time spent in front of a screen is nearly 8 hours a day. The constant dopamine hits are creating zombie-like people that are choosing to “escape” through screens. The sad fact is that it is only creating more problems such as obesity, poor posture, vision problems, etc. Escaping into nature is not to retreat from life, but rather to break away from one of the biggest threats to our physical, mental, and emotional health.
3. The Community
The hiking community is one of the most loving, understanding, and open minded group of people I have ever met. It doens’t matter if you have been hiking for 20 years or are just getting your feet wet, the hiking community will at the drop of a hat help another hiker if needed. The camaraderie shared between people on the trail is evident by the smiles and waves as you pass as well as the willingness to share supplies and advice. There is no better group of people that I would choose to spend my time and life with.
4. The Love of Nature
Nature is a giver and has so much to offer to us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. When I say the love of nature I am referring to the love that you can receive from it. Now I know that might sound super hippy-ish, but the feelings that nature stir up are love-like. Warmth, awe, joy, desire, fullness can all be synonymous with love and these are all the feels I get when I am outside.
These are just four of the reasons why I hike and in the name of a “shorter” post I will limit it to these four. Connectedness to nature, “surviving” the wild, pushing yourself further than you have ever gone before; I can keep going. These are my “why’s”. What are yours? Or if you haven’t hiked, what is holding you back.
Hope From the Trail
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