6 reasons to hike daily

A small waterfall in Sand Run MetroPark, Summit County, Ohio

Lots of little surprises await you along the trail.

Who doesn’t love a good hike? Fresh air, singing birds, sunshine. What’s not to love? But are you a fair weather hiker? What about the dreary overcast days? What about drizzle and snow and cold? Mud? What fun is that?

There are lots of good reasons to hike in Nature every single day. If you take on the habit of hiking, whether the weather is sun or rain, here’s what you might stand to gain:

 

 

  1. Deepening connection to Nature
  2. People are part of Nature.   We don’t always remember that, but it is undeniably true. Putting your feet on a trail and immersing yourself in your local wilderness will automatically put you into a place of innate comfort.   The more often you visit natural settings, the more you will feel the connection to Nature. Daily hiking will give you a much more holistic view of the world and yourself.  Try it.  Feel it.   You’ll love it. You’ll love you more than you already do.

  3. Friends you’ve never met
  4. When you casually hike, it is most likely to be on a nice day when the benefits are obvious. The people around are more likely to be causal hikers as well. There may be many hikers crowding a popular trail like the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They are probably mostly very nice people you would love to meet and talk with. However, when you hike regardless of weather, rain, snow, cold, warm, you are more likely to meet other people who are devoted to Nature. Beyond this sort of “natural selection,” the trails are less crowded and more relaxed on less attractive days. That provides an easier opportunity for conversation with friends you haven’t met yet.

  5. Better Physical Health
  6. We always hear statistics about how cardiovascular health is improved though exercises such as walking or hiking. It just makes too much sense to ignore this fact. Get outside and get healthy. You’ll lose weight and have more energy.  Your heart will thank you.  Your loved ones will thank you.

  7. More Brainpower
  8. It is impossible to be surrounded by nature for any length of time and not learn something about your environment or yourself. Usually you learn about both on a hike. You might see a wildflower you’ve never seen before. Maybe you will be curious about what trees are around and you will develop an interest in tree identification. Maybe you will see an insect like a walking stick or leaf litter beetle and you will observe it and learn why it happens to be in that particular spot. Maybe you will reflect on Nature and realize why you are in the particular spot you are in life. Over time these reflections will add up and will influence your thinking in other areas of life. A walk in the woods is a serious education.

  9. A regular chance to Recharge and Unwind
  10. Life is always moving at a faster pace in human society. Smart phones, PDA’s, the internet, and other technology keeps us “always on.” There seems to be a prevailing attitude that we must do things better, faster, and in more volume to get ahead in the world. Let me tell you, nothing that is not in accordance with Nature can last long. The Tao Te Ching points out that high winds do not last all day, yet it seems like our society requires us to run faster and faster with fewer and fewer breaks not just all day, but day in and day out. Take a close look at Nature. It keeps going at its own pace regardless of our disdain for all things slow.

    The pace of ants climbing on tree trunks has not increased. The number of wingbeats per minute for a ruby throated hummingbird has not increased. They go on living as Nature or God intended.

    Water flows no faster in a natural stream than it did a century ago. A leaf falling from the top of an oak does not reach the ground any faster in these hectic times. Why would people be any different?

    We aren’t. An unnatural pace cannot be sustained. Whatever is contrary to Nature will not endure. That is a universal law that we cannot ignore. Use some of your finite time each day to observe the infinite Nature while hiking and maybe, just maybe, it will allow you to unwind, relax, and attune your body and mind to the natural pace of life once more.

  11. Unpredictable Fun!
  12. If you go to a gym or walk on a track, or swim in a pool, you will get plenty of exercise. Walk on a treadmill, ride your stationary bike. Good exercise, certainly. Nothing wrong with that. Except there is no real excitement to it. Get outside and Hike! You never know what is around each bend in the trail. You might have to straddle a mud hole, dodge a falling branch or evade a snake on the trail. On the more pleasant side, you might see a vibrant bird, hear the haunting tune of the woodthrush in the woods, be entertained by the chattering chipmunks, stumble upon a sleeping fawn, or be dazzled with the intricate flower of an orchid along the trail. Every trail is different every day. There is always something new to see. Animal tracks, scat, newly pecked holes of a yellow-bellied sapsucker in a straight line across a tree trunk.

There is no better way to know yourself and Nature than by hiking every day through all the seasons. I know of no better way to improve your life and your health. Make the time and your life will shine. Now Get Outside and Enjoy! Here are some ideas for great hikes in Ohio.

 

Why should Thoreau get all the Marrow?

Are you the water, the trees or the sky? Or, are you the reflections upon the water?

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau (Walden).

To me, living deliberately means to live life with your mind wide open. Understand life, Nature, and where you fit in. Too many times people live on autopilot. They awaken to the sound of an alarm clock because they must be at their workplace at an arbitrarily set standard time. They drink coffee (or my favorite, Mountain Dew) to give them the strength to meet their day. They eat lunch at noon because that is when everyone else does it. They work 40 or 60 hours per week because it is expected and because they need the money to live. They arrive home overwhelmed and exhausted. They watch TV until going to sleep when they start their cycle over again.

In a deliberate life, one in tune with reality, we would awaken to the sound of birds singing after just the right amount of sleep. We would be ready to do our thing without caffeine or the electronic coaxing of an alarm. We would rise early in the summer and sleep later in winter. Humans are to some extent keyed in to light cycles and the seasons. We would eat when we were hungry. If we think it out, we would be much better off to acknowledge that fact and then live that way.


Think about the way we eat. I can get berries at just about any time of the year. In the spring, the strawberries are the best. They are locally grown, fresh and in season. I can get them the rest of the year. But, they have been picked too early in order to keep them “fresh” through a long shipment. They don’t taste quite the same. Something is not quite right. A life lived by default is the same way.

You may be able to show up at work the same time day in and day out. You may be able to go thorough the motions. Wouldn’t you rather do things in their proper season and savor them all the more because of that? A Winter strawberries just aren’t that good.

Understanding how we fit into Nature, how our natural inclinations interact with and fit into the cycle of things, allows us to live more deliberately. Don’t accept someone else’s version of reality just because it is there. Do some hard work of your own. Explore a ravine. Hike a trail. Sit in a cold stream. Feel how these experiences change you. Think about why. What do you learn? A Where do you fit into it all? A We each have our own path through Nature. We either know it and live it, or we are lost.

What is your path?

Once you know. Live from that place of knowledge. Live a life consistent with your internal compass. Don’t listen to what others say you should do. Do what you know to be right. That is the way of Nature, and humans are an integral part of Nature. By virtue of being you, you have the right to reach your full potential.

Now get outside and get to know yourself and your own Nature. Then, live it deliberately.
 

Go outside and heal thyself

The New York Times recently ran an article summarizing some scientific studies that seem to indicate exposure to parks and plants can boost immunity. One of the studies indicated that white blood cell counts were elevated by 50% in men who took two 2-hour walks in the woods for two days. Other benefits cited in the studies included decreased blood pressure, lower pulse rate, and decreased levels of cortisol.

We all know Nature is good for us. Science is backing up this claim in more and more studies. Take a look at the New York Times article and think about making a permanent change to your lifestyle…Get Outside and take a hike on a trail in a park!

 

Do you think of yourself as a visitor in Nature, or a part of it?

In our fast-paced society, we seldom make time for Nature. When we do, it is a quick visit to a park or a short trek along a favorite trail. These brief intervals surrounded by the natural world refresh and relax us.

Then, we return to our “real” lives. Deadlines, commitments, paperwork, phone calls. What a strange way to view the world. People are, and always have been an integral part of Nature. The more removed from Nature we are, the more removed we are from our true selves.

Too often, environmentalists implicitly underwrite and perpetuate the false assumption that humans are trespassers or interlopers. Granted, we as a species have wrought horrific terrors upon the earth, and taken many concepts to extremes which threaten the health of the earth. The answer to that, however, is not a strict preservationist’s “hands off” attitude. The answer to that problem is moderation and a realization that what we do to the earth, we ultimately do to ourselves.

Living in balance, there are many uses we can make of our natural endowment that can enhance our lives and still leave the system healthy. This ultimately brings us closer to Nature, and to our own ultimate reality. Check out “Thumping Hickories,” a new essay from naturalist William Hudson, and then get outside, learn something, and refresh your soul.

 

7 Reasons to visit a park during Winter


Don’t be a fair weather outdoorsman. Instead of being a wintertime couch potato, get outside and enjoy these extraordinary benefits:

Feel good
Getting outdoors and exploring nature provides an opportunity to exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel better. What better cure for the wintertime blues?

Enjoy solitude
Witness the peaceful majesty of the winter landscape. By being one of the brave few that opt for a hike on snow covered trails, you will experience a unique solitude that is rarely possible at other times of the year.

Escape to another world
A snow covered landscape can impart an otherworldly feeling that may take you back to childhood or it might instill thoughts of places like Alaska or Antarctica. Icicle encrusted cliffs are particularly great places to visit during the winter for the feel of a real magic kingdom.

See more
During the dormant season, deciduous trees are bare and most ground cover has died back. This allows hikers to get longer views of the landscape, and sometimes reveals hidden gems, like glimpses of far off waterfalls, or cloistered little ravines that escape notice during greener times of the year. Go to a familiar landscape during winter and look upon it with new eyes. You just might like what you see.

Winter Tracking
What better way to learn or practice your tracking skills? Follow a deer through its daily routine. Creep along the path of a raccoon. It is much easier to track animals further with a nice blanket of snow.

Winter Tree Identification
Want a real challenge? Impress you friends by taking them on a winter hike and identify trees by their bark or twigs. It isn’t that hard when you know what to look for. And you can exercise your brain and body at the same time.

Sledding!
So much for the solitude listed above! Sometimes Nature appears to be chaotic. No where can that aspect of Nature be more apparent than on a busy sledding hill. With or without kids, there is no excuse to get out the old toboggan or sled and head to the nearest snow covered hill. That exhilarating rush that comes from gliding down a hill nearly out of control can’t be beat.

 

More evidence that Nature is good for you and not just an extra.

I found this article on the Beacon Journal’s web site and thought I’d share it: Ohio.com – Plants can boost health and spirits in '10: “reduced negative emotions, increased positive feelings, increased sociability and reduced need for health care.”

The article mainly discusses plants and gardens, but there is also a bit about proximity to green space. Take a look and then think about this. We complain about raising health care premiums while there is a way (exposure to nature) to reduce recovery times by large percentages. We worry about the supposed obesity epidemic when one part of a cure is nearly free (Get outside and hike!).

Some of the benefits of green space are felt simply by looking out the window. Think how much more valuable Nature is to people who actually go outdoors and immerse themselves in reality for an hour a day.

While the beginning of the new year is not any different than any other day, maybe we can all use it as an excuse to commit to getting outside in a natural setting every day.

Think about how much better off you would be. If you have kids, start this habit for them right now. Your lives will be enriched beyond measure.

Get outside and enjoy the snow!