Hiking is pretty new to me. I’ve always spent time on the trails but typically it was on the back of a horse or a four-wheeler with Charlie tagging behind. On horseback, I could get two animals exercised at once, and the four-wheeler was always a quick option to give him a good run. It wasn’t until I traded in my trail horse for a show horse and Sean swapped the four-wheeler for a tractor did I really discover hiking and what I had been missing.
Living in the Rawdon Hills, we have the luxury of stepping out our back door and into the woods where we can find endless trails. I’ve used those trails well over the years, but going by foot has given me a whole new appreciation for nature and its gifts. If you are considering hiking, here’s just a few ideas to get the most out of your time on the trails.
Make it count. If you find trails with some good size hills, even the fittest of you will feel the burn. I was on runners’ high for over 20 years before I discovered hiking. I can work up a good sweat trekking through our hilly Nova Scotia terrain without the wear and tear to my body. In fact, I have officially traded in my sneakers for hiking boots.
Enjoy the seasons. There is no bad time to be in the woods, with the exception of six weeks during deer hunting season. If you are a hiking newbie, Fall is the perfect time to get started. Temperatures are ideal and the colours are breathtaking. When the colder weather approaches, keep on trekking. As the snow flies, you will see an incredible change in the landscape. Once the trees and ground are covered in a white blanket, it’s time to break out the snow shoes or find some nicely groomed cross country ski trails. At a time of year when we are deprived of vitamin D, it’s a great way to soak in some rays.
Be Safe. Always tell someone where you are hiking and bring a cell phone. You would be surprised where you can get good cell coverage. Pack a napsack with water, a first aid kit and if it makes you feel better, a can of bear mace. I have seen more wildlife in my back yard than I have out on the trails. They can hear and smell you long before you see them and will generally make themselves scarce.
Try going it alone. I always get an instant sense of peace and gratitude being in the woods by myself. When I look up and see the beauty of big green pines against a blue sky, I think there is no way our world was created by chance. That there is some orchestration happening out there and everything is where it should be including me. It brings what I may perceive as problems into perspective. For an instant spirit-lifter, even a short hike will do the trick.
Bring a pen and note pad. Going into the woods immediately clears the clutter in my mind. I’ve had some good light-bulb moments out on the trails, but I also have a short memory, so when I get those moments of inspiration, I like to write them down.
I’ve often said that I should be leaving $25 on my clients’ kitchen counters instead of taking it because I get so many mind/body benefits from our Muddy Paws hikes. The sense of gratitude, accomplishment, fresh-air and work-out are all ingredients for a well-balanced day filled with peace of mind. No wonder our four-legged family members like to get out in the woods for a good sniff, run and roll. Let’s take a cue from them and hit the trails.
For more trail stories, check out the Fall issue of Paws For Balance. paws for balance Fall 2013