Why Bother Taking A Hike?

Why Bother Taking A Hike?

The loosely knit group of women that I met with last winter in a coffee shop to talk about hiking has actually formed into a group of hikers. On Saturday, we tied up our hiking boots, zipped up our rain jackets and slung our day packs onto our backs hitting the trail for our maiden voyage to a mountain lake. 

        Out in the Wilds

The purpose of this day hike was to begin training our bodies to walk on uneven ground while carrying a little bit of weight on our backs, find our comfortable pace and at the same time, become acquainted with each other as hikers. The mileage to and from the lake would be only about a four mile round trip. Not very long, but long enough for all of us to get our trail legs under us. 

Patches of snow and rivulets of water covered parts of the pathway, but it was easy to stay on course. As we tramped, we talked, each of us sharing about our trail experiences. The leader, whose idea it was to form this group, is the most well-grounded of all of us with the backpacking experience. Her goal is to complete the Idaho Centennial Trail and every summer she maps out a particular chunk to hike. The 900 mile trail winds its way from southern Idaho to the border of Canada and is not always well marked. She has become adept at reading the maps she downloads onto her phone. Even for this short day hike, she showed me the route as it appeared on her phone screen. The likelihood of getting lost with her is minimal to none.

Another gal in our group grew up under the tutelage of her Marine father. Stationed in various parts of the world, he began taking her out for hikes before she enrolled in elementary school and taught her to shoot and carry a gun by the time she was in high school. Now, as much as possible and as often as possible, she introduces troubled teen girls to the beauty and wonder of hiking in the wilds of nature. One such girl accompanied us on our hike to the mountain lake. She didn’t have much to say about the endless green forest of trees, or spring flowers that surrounded us, but her face broke into a big smile the first time she successfully forded one of the creeks without getting too wet. 

At times, I walked at a pretty quick pace and instead of hearing the chattering women, I let bird songs and the sound of rushing water from the nearby creek fill my ears. Along the path I spotted spring flowers and marveled at the moss laden trees. I breathed in the scent of damp chilly air and felt the comfort that comes from the simple act of walking a path that leads through the woods. When I looked up and gazed out at a green meadow, I noticed an animal rooting around. Its wide backside and brown fur alerted me. It was a bear. I turned around and walked back to the group of women telling them that I’d just sighted a bear. Then I fell behind the lady who carries a pistol and knows how to shoot it. We all watched the bear as it hightailed it up the hillside.  

We arrived at the lake around lunch time and took shelter from the rain under a stand of trees. We munched down our power bars, nuts and apples while staring out at the vista: the lake, fog lifting from the hills and tree covered mountains around us. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction standing in the midst of nothing but the wild beauty of nature.

Why bother taking a hike? It is worth venturing out to stand among the trees, filling your ears with birdsong and your lungs with chilly damp air. The only expectation nature has of us is to simply enjoy what it has to give us: its simple and satisfying beauty.