How hiking helps me escape.
Hiking is more than just putting one foot in front of the other. In January 2017, Bioscience Journal published their findings stating that "Experiences of nature provide many mental-health benefits, particularly for people living in urban areas." I mean, I could have told you this.
There is something obvious about this but let us go deeper. There is a ton that one discovers when on a long walk. It's not all about making miles or the serene beauty of your surroundings. You can lose yourself in the process of walking. I am not talking physically, but mentally. You can leave behind the stress and anxiety of day to day life. Sure there are moments of extreme danger and you must be focused for that span of time. I believe we are all out there to hike the trial but I also believe there is something deeper we are all looking for. In 2014 when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail I asked people why they were hiking the trial. One of my first questions! The response surprised me. Unsolicited they revealed they were on a Spiritual Journey.
If it wasn't for the rhythmic groove of walking, I don't believe we would reach the depths of what is happening in our spirit. If it wasn't for this connection in my spirit I am not sure I would be out there suffering. I don't like walking through the dessert at 100degrees in the Mojave or climbing over passes at high elevation. But it is the rhythmic steps over and over that reach into my soul and calms everything. I am encouraged, inspired, challenged, relaxed. I've exercised, my mind has been creative, I've been observant and paid attention to details. I have been alone with my thoughts and am in tune with what is happening.
As a thru-hiker we see so much. Wildlife grazing in silent meadows. Lightning strikes in torrential downpours. Flowers slowing greeting the sun every morning. So many natural experiences that we get to observe and be apart of at the slow pace of 3 mph. So much to see and explore.
And this is where the sickness comes into play. I begin to enjoy these moments of solitude and I want to do more miles. Just a little further, just a little farther.
So when I hear statistics that say, “Going outside improves your life!” I chuckle to myself and nod in agreement.