As an avid recreational and commuting bicyclist, I have often preferred exercise by two wheels over two feet. That does not mean I didn’t hike, but it was not purposeful on a fitness or health level. Instead, hiking was principally used as a means to see certain scenic wonders that might not otherwise be seen – a.k.a. the Highline Trail and the Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park.
Recently, due to lingering back problems that began in 2009, I was bluntly told by both my doctor and a sports medicine specialist that I should stop running/jogging or otherwise risk permanent damage from the constant pounding the body takes from running/jogging. On that inspiring tidbit of guidance, I dropped plans to compete in a 5K and decided to reexamine hiking as a viable exercise (and recreational) option to pursue more vigorously. Boy, am I glad I did!
Kathy and I have spent much time over the past two months hiking across glorious landscapes in Ireland, Colorado, and Michigan. I have found these treks to be tremendous sources of emotional and spiritual inspiration, jolly good fun, and great fitness training. The sights along the way have been simply amazing, whether the rugged coast of Ireland outside of Dublin, the majestic Flatiron Mountains near Boulder, or the colorful, rolling, and varied ecosystems along the North Country National Scenic Trail in Michigan.
While amazing sights have abounded, my love for the great outdoors and hiking has grown exponentially. The cool and refreshing autumn air alone has made these treks extra special. Even setbacks, such as nearly losing a sandal in 12-18 inches of muck and then hiking four miles in one very wet and soggy sandal/sock have become challenges to overcome rather than annoyances. Thank you Cheryl Strayed for demonstrating so eloquently, how it can be done in your exceptional book, Wild.
Will I/we ever take on the task of attempting a monumental through-hike along an epic trail like the Appalachian Trail, the North Country Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail? I do not know…baby steps before big steps. I can definitely see us hiking the length of the C & O Canal towpath or a similar feature. Only time will tell, but I know for sure that we will continue making strides along many a trail for the sheer love of the great outdoors and enjoyment of it. In the end, that is what hiking is really all about?
Let’s go take a hike
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go take a hike, our hearts are soaring
Up in thin atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go take a hike!
(Adapted from Let’s Go Fly a Kite.)