As I mentioned in my last post, I learned about the 52 Hike Challenge from my colleague Holly. With her permission, I am sharing her astute, sharp-witted, endearing writing about hiking, getting out in the great outdoors, and insights from her treks thus far. I'm definitely inspired and making plans to accompany her in the future.
I have always loved going for a long walk in the woods and with 2020 being what it was, getting outside and going for a hike was one of the few things I could do to maintain some sense of normalcy. Honestly, there were days when a long hike to a beautiful view was the only thing that allowed me to breathe deeply and feel like everything would be okay. When I started looking ahead to 2021, I knew that finding a way to hold myself accountable for regular hikes would be great for my mental and physical health, but I also knew I didn’t want to participate in any challenge that was focused on specific mileage, speed, or weight loss etc. The #52HikeChallenge is great because it’s about each individual pushing themselves out of their comfort zone - whatever that looks like for them - and just enjoying every mile and seeing where the journey takes them!
Sometimes my hikes are short, and sometimes they are long. Sometimes they are easy, and sometimes they make every muscle in my body scream “why are you doing this!?” But at the end of each one, the sense of accomplishment I feel is incredible. Whether it’s just that I got to enjoy some fresh air, or that I got to see some wildlife (on #Hike2 I saw 11 deer running together through the woods!) or that I pushed myself to continue hiking up a never-ending hill - it’s ALWAYS worth it. One of the things I love best about going for a hike is that it isn't about being the fastest or best athlete, it's just about putting one foot in front of the other. Anyone can be a hiker! I definitely used to think that in order to be a "real" hiker you needed to live somewhere with extreme terrain and mountains, and have all sorts of fancy gear, and be really athletic, and that your hikes had to be really high mileage to even count. Wrong! There's a lot of gatekeeping that happens in the world of outdoor recreation, and it can make a lot of people feel unwelcome. The truth is, being "outdoorsy" can be as simple as throwing on a pair of sneakers and going for a walk in your local park, and we should all be working hard to make everyone feel welcome in outdoor spaces!
Although my official #52HikeChallenge started in 2021, my hikes in 2020 pushed me way outside of my comfort zone and are a huge part of why I knew this challenge would be the perfect one to keep me motivated and help me continue seeking out ways to push myself outside of my comfort zone. In 2020, I did multiple overnights on the Appalachian Trail by myself, had my first bear and rattlesnake sightings, completed multiple hikes over 10 miles, enjoyed many mountaintop views, and learned the value of merino wool socks (good for your feet, AND the planet!) and how trekking poles will literally save your knees and possibly your life if it’s raining and there are large slippery boulders! Despite always having enjoyed hiking, if you had told me in 2019 that any of those things were going to be a very regular part of my life, I would have laughed in your face! And while I’ve only completed 6 hikes so far in 2021, each one has included beauty (snow covered trees! A flock of bluebirds!) as well as its own set of challenges: Icy hills? Check. Rude mountain bikers trying to run me off the trail? Check. 3 inch thick mud? Check. But every time I conquer another challenge - no matter how small and silly OR overwhelming it may seem - I’m reminded that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined for myself and it is always best to just jump right in when something seems difficult.
This #52HikeChallenge will have me doing more hiking than ever and I hope that by sharing my adventures more of my friends will start to see the benefits of getting outside and enjoying a walk in the woods!
I know I am excited to see what each and every mile brings to my life this year.
Picture 2: Yes, that is the trail. Yes, those boulders are wet. Yes, this is what I mean when I say trekking poles will save your knees AND your life!
Picture 3: When it’s so foggy in the morning that it seems like it’s raining and you remember why everyone says to ALWAYS carry a rain coat even when there’s no rain in the forecast!
Picture 4: Wintery wonderland! I always prefer snow over mud!
Picture 5: The views always make the sore feet worth it.
Special thanks to my friend Holly for sharing your wit and wisdom and love of hiking and the great outdoors. All pictures are hers!