Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hiking Around

One of our favorite pasttimes is hiking. Over the years, we have enjoyed some really nice hikes. Now, I'm not talking about backpacking the Appalachian Trail or anything like that. I'm just talking about spending the day on a trail to see what is around the next bend. Most of our hikes range in length from 5 to 10 miles, though occassionally we do a bit less or a bit more. I don't want to spend the night in a shelter, hut, or on the ground; I much prefer coming back to my comfortable trailer at the end of each day, taking a hot shower, having a nice meal, and partaking of a few adult beverages as a reward for working off a few calories wandering around the wilderness.

Many of our friends and family don't share our love of hiking. In fact, many of them think we're nuts. Well, we probably are, but there is much to recommend hiking as a pasttime.

First, it's great exercise. Lots of folks walk for exercise, usually following the same route day after day. But too many don't walk far enough to get much benefit. As I understand, it takes about 30 minutes of strenous walking to just get up to the level where good things begin to happen, and that seems to be when most people stop. So, just consider the positive effects of a 10 mile hike through the woods that may take 5 or 6 hours.

Second, there are so many beautiful places in our country that are accessible only by foot. We have enjoyed the most beautiful views from the trail; or perhaps it's that wonderful sculpturing done by a stream over limestone, and we get to inspect it up close at our leisure.

Third, I enjoy the personal challenge of a longer hike. Depending on the conditions (steep trail; rocky surface; extreme heat; tricky river crossing; etc.), each trail can present unique challenges. Expecially at our age, I want to continue to test myself, to push my body a bit farther when it begins to ache. I want to know that when I am challenged, I can step up and complete a hike.

But the things I most cherish about hiking, I think, are the simple pleasures I experience on the trail, and this sort of echoes the theme I touched upon in a recent post about how your possessions own you rather than you owning your possessions. Over the years, I've learned to appreciate those little pleasures that occur. It may be that beautiful view from atop a ridge in Lost Maples State Natural Area (see picture below). It may be that after walking through a humid and stuffy pine forest, you happen into a hilltop clearing where a cool breeze strikes your sweaty brow and freshens you. It may be sighting a doe and her fawn grazing undisturbed in a clearing, unaware of the nearby presence of man. It may be the refreshing drink from your water bottle on a 100+ degree day while hiking the Lake Somerville Trailway. Or it may be cooling your tired feet in the Paluxy River at the end of a long day of hiking.

View from ridge in Lost Maples State Natural Area
It is these simple pleasures that I think about when I recall our many hikes. If you are looking for some hobby, and one that can be rewarding as well as pleasurable, I would recommend hiking to you.

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