Friday, July 13, 2018

Why do we hike?

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
– John Muir

Why do we hike?
Such a big question. Many answers.

For's complicated. But also really very simple. For starters, it makes me feel the most alive, walking in nature. It's what we evolved to do, physically. We're a species of bipedal walkers.

I began hiking as a kid here in the Pacific Northwest, before this region was "discovered" and our trails, even the most popular today, were relatively quieteven on summer weekends.

It was glorious. It still is, but hiking some of my old favorites with a steady stream of other hikers, music emanating from some hip belts, is a different experience. 

 I partly hike for the solitude in nature. To that end, I've started going farther afield from metro Seattle/Portland. I go earlier, I go in the rain, I go midweek if I can. And I've started being more private about where I go.

About 10 years ago, I thought hiking/backcountry travel might be dying out because I didn't see many teens or twentysomethings out there. Or a just a few would start up the trail late, as we were coming back down.

Not today. (Thank you Instagram and social media.)

I'm happy the next generation is getting outside and appreciating the natural beauty all around. I know some admirable Millennials who are giving back, doing trail maintenance, fighting for environmental causes, and working to save special places. 

Because that's partly what hiking is all about, too. Reveling in, protecting, and fighting for special places.

At a basic level, I hike for my mental and physical health. I also say that about swimming, bicycling, kayaking, skiing...but it's true. Being active outdoors is simply good for our bodies and minds.  

The Japanese go "forest bathing"; they even have a name for itshinrin-yoku. In the past several decades there have been many scientific studies that demonstrate the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. 

But then, we really didn't need scientific studies to confirm that. At least I didn't.

And then there's the camaraderie. Some of my closest bonds and best friendships were forged while stuck in tents during downpours while backpacking. Or simply walking, talking, laughing, and being quiet together in beautiful, natural places.

So there you have it. For me it's about health, friendship, discovery, solitude, appreciation, the spiritual value of the "church of nature," exercise, and just plain fun. And a greater feeling of connection to this amazing planet when I'm outdoors. As I'm moving on in years, this also:

We don’t stop hiking because we grow old –
We grow old because we stop hiking.
Finis Mitchel

How about you? Why do you hike? I'd love to hear in a comment below.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

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When You Go
Well, although I didn't caption the photos, you probably recognize some of these places and trails. They're all in Oregon and Washington, mostly in the Cascades, but not every shot. How many places/trails do you recognize?