On Tuesday, my Naturopath told me she thought I needed to go visit my happy place, preferably with lots of greenery. I didn’t need to be told twice. It had been a month since I’d been out hiking, which is way too long for me to go without. I blamed the scorching heat in July and illness in early August. But I knew she was right: I needed a healthy dose of the mountains. I drove with Ajax to Exit 47 and we enjoyed a lovely overcast 12-mile hike to Island, Rainbow, and Olallie Lakes. It matched my doctor’s orders perfectly.
How Solo Hiking Fills Doctor’s Orders
About a month ago, I wrote about nine joys and benefits of solo hiking. I discovered new ones on my most recent trip to the mountains.
Hiking Is a Form of Meditation
If you’re anything like me, you probably roll your eyes and scroll past this paragraph to see what the other benefits are. Seriously? Meditation? Trust me, I am not one to sit in cross-legged position or stare at a candle saying “Ommmm.” If walking can be meditative, then my closest form is hiking. I listen for birdsong, guess how close we are to running water, study the landscape for spots of color, or watch my dog for signs of squirrels, rabbits, picas, marmots, woodpeckers, or deer.
When the trail bends away from the highway and civilization drops away, I notice the change in sounds. And I can tell when we’re about to come up on other hikers. Hiking turns on my mindfulness and makes me pay attention like nothing else in the city does.
Hiking to Handle DRY: Dealing with Real Yuck
If I can’t make heads or tails out of what my life has become, or I’m afraid to move forward on something daunting or scary, hitting the trail with none other than my dog is one of the most therapeutic things I can do. In her book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown writes, “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” As I swatted at mosquitoes and struggled up the dusty trail, covered head to toe in light cloth in order to prevent bug bites, I was able to “center myself” again. I returned to the state of a human being, rather than doing.
Hiking is a Great Way to Create
Almost invariably as I make my way up the trail, I think about my WIPs (works in progress) or future blog posts. I let my mind wander while my body does what it has for over thirty-five years. By feeding myself new sensory input — different things to look at, smell, listen to, and feel — I allow the right side of my brain to make new connections, which helps me clear away the brain fog and clutter. By snapping photographs and asking myself targeted questions, I usually come home with a direction for my next blog post.
Hiking Becomes a Form of Gratitude
One of my practices on the way back to the car is to rattle off all the many things I am grateful for, from those people (and animals!) who make my life as rich as it is, to the wonderful things in my life from my health, strength, and home to the opportunities I have to hike in the middle of the week and play whenever I need to.
Doctor’s Orders: Make Time to Soak the Feet
I also had several new-to-me experiences on this hike. The first was bringing a book so I could take a reading break at Island Lake. I had Dusti Bowling’s 24 Hours in Nowhere with me, a novel set in the dry dusty desert of the southwest. At the three-hour mark, I waded into Island Lake, then sat and read a chapter of my book while Ajax watched for chipmunks and squirrels. Four female backpackers and a couple with a dog had just left their camp spots, so we had the lake all to ourselves. What’s more, the half hour I spent without boots on meant my feet felt 100% recovered the next day. Win!
Follow the Leader
The other new-to-me experience was following my dog’s lead twice. When we left Island Lake, I debated whether to continue right toward the car or left toward Rainbow Lake. Ajax turned left, and I decided not to call him back. Who was I to tell him no? We were both doing great and the bugs hadn’t been too bad at Island Lake.
Then at the Olallie Lake signpost 90 minutes from the car, he turned right instead of left. I figured he would have no trouble going another mile. So, we did. However, when he wanted to turn right toward Talapus Lake, I put my foot down. He had turned down all three offerings of food and I was starting to worry about him. We went back toward the car.
Return to Blogging
I originally intended to start blogging again in September once I return from Alaska. But I couldn’t wait that long. Blogging about change helps me make consistent changes in my own life. And with a daughter about to enter college, I know I am going to need the continuity to stay grounded.
My intent is to post on Thursdays going forward, but I will miss August 25 and September 1. Know that we have returned to semi-consistent posting. And if you have topics you would like me to address, please leave a comment below. I love to hear from my readers! Onward, upward, forward!