Mother Nature is finally starting to love us in southeast Michigan. The weather has been mild to warm temps, the sun shining and the breeze blowing just right. The birds are chirping, ducks and geese are having babies all around me, and even the deer are making appearances (considering I live in the suburbs, it’s so fun to see all these animals on an almost daily basis!).
This time of year is one of my favorites because it means I can get outside to hike and bike. The titanium rod in my femur prevents me from having too much fun during the winter when we have snowy, slick conditions so I’m usually pacing the living room waiting for the weather to break (by January!). I love to be outside, whether hiking on the trails, biking, walking, relaxing in the backyard, hanging with friends and family on the deck, chilling at the local park, or wherever – I love the fresh air, gentle warm breezes and animals talking. I’ve always enjoyed nature, but it became a necessity after spending multiple stretches of 6-16 days in the hospital during 13 months of cancer treatment. Upon discharge, my parents would take me home and I’d sit outside with our Sheltie, letting the stress emotions seep out of me.
Hiking has been my preferred form of outdoor exercise the past few weeks. I love walking into the woods, feeling like you can escape the world for even for a short bit. I enjoy the wonderful nature center and trails near my house – perfect distance to stop by after dinner or early on a weekend morning to wander in the woods when I don’t have a lot of time to go to the larger parks. An added bonus is I also feel safe hiking there alone. The trails aren’t super long but if you lap a few times, it’s a great workout for the body and mind.
If you haven’t tried hiking or been on the trails for a while, here are some reasons to take a walk in the woods:
Anyone can do it. The beauty of hiking is that it doesn’t matter your gender, age, race, economic status, or education – anyone can enjoy the outdoors! You don’t need fancy, expensive shoes or clothing. Shoes with good treads and simple workout clothes will suffice to get you started.
You might learn something. Many of the local and state parks have trail signs throughout the route to share some knowledge about the land, animals living nearby or history. Take a moment to stop to read these signs. There’s some interesting things to learn!
Clear your head. Lately, I’ve been heading to the trails on my own more than with others. There’s a lot going on in my head and sometimes I need to slip away without my phone or people to think about things. There’s something about stepping onto the trails, hearing the rustle of the leaves and chirping of birds above you, and the absence of cars. Moments like that are what feed my soul.
Get exercise and burn some calories. Hiking is great exercise without the tedium of the indoor gym or machines. A few summers ago, I hiked some of the local trails 1-2 times a week with a group of friends. After a few weeks of doing this (and having a LOT of fun), I happened to glance in a mirror that I walked by in my bedroom after a shower. I paused, backed up and thought, “Wow.” My legs had become very toned from the variation of the trails, distance and regularity of hiking. I was especially excited because it’s been tough to tone my left leg after surgery cut and moved so many muscles in my thigh. I was working out without really paying attention because I was enjoying it so much!
Quality time with friends and family. Some of my best conversations have been hiking on the trail. As I mentioned earlier, for the most part, differences tend to be irrelevant when hiking (and camping) so it’s a great opportunity to share some of yourself and your likes/dislikes (I have discussed pizza, politics, craft beer, cancer, horses, work, fertility, sports, life goals, bucket list destinations, favorite colors, books and so much more!).
You gain a better appreciation of nature. It’s so important to protect our environment as it provides much benefit to us, not just for enjoyment. The more I’m in the woods, the more I notice variations of trees, plants and flowers. I watch animals build homes, care for their young and forage for food. I try to take my nieces and nephew on the trails as often as we can so they too develop an appreciation and understanding for the environment. It’s a commitment all of us adults need to pass down to younger generations.
You never know who you may meet in the woods. When I meet other people who also enjoy hiking, I know I’ve met some like-minded people. I’ve joined several hiking groups over the years to meet people with the same interest, and I’m fortunate that many of these people are still friends. The other day I hiked with seven deer, three wild turkeys, a dozen or squirrels, two rabbits and….three people!