I took a nice long hike yesterday. I had moments of many different emotions, including: this is amazing! look how blue the sky is! this is awful! is there a shortcut so I can finish sooner? OMG the truck in the parking lot…I’ve never been so happy to see the truck!
Ok, that sounds dramatic, but really – for something I love so much (and I really do love hiking), it sure is a mixed bag of emotions. All of these emotions got me thinking…how did I end up here? How did hiking become one of my favorite activities, and why?
I don’t have much of a hiking history, but I was probably slightly more active in the woods than your average twenty-something when we lived in Pittsburgh. That’s just a guess. Tim and I used to go hiking at a county park fairly often, especially when we had our dogs.
We never went too far out of our way to find hikes, and usually stuck to our normal routes through that one park. We’ve always enjoyed camping, and would go for small hikes whenever we went camping somewhere. Most of our camping was done in our college days, when we had more time for it. Once we both started working full-time, we spent 99% of our weekends at home.
I recall enjoying hiking, but never using it at a mechanism to challenge myself. Instead, I saved that for running – something I did a lot more of. Although I did do some trail running, I mostly ran on roads or in community parks. So, to sum up my history with hiking before we left for RV life: I did have a pair of good hiking boots, but they weren’t used more than a few times a year.
Falling in Love with Hiking
When we left for RV life, more time to hike wasn’t even really a thought. After all, we were headed to the beach! We spent the first 4 months of our RV adventure by the beach, mostly in the Carolinas and Florida. It wasn’t until we got to the Southwest states that hiking started to become a bigger part of my life.
I can pinpoint exactly where it happened – Alamogordo, New Mexico. We stayed at Oliver Lee State Park, and it was our first taste of mountains. Pennsylvania has a lot of elevation change, but it’s in the form of endless hills. The highest point in PA in Mount Davis at 3,213 feet. It’s hard to even find a flat YARD in PA because it is so hilly, but seeing true mountains was new to us. Alamogordo sits right by the Sacramento Mountains, which average almost 10,000 feet in elevation.
It was at Oliver Lee State Park where I put on my trail running shoes (I didn’t even bring my old hikers with me when we left in the RV, that shows you how much thought I gave to hiking back then) and took my first real mountain hike in the Lincoln National Forest.
I remember the challenge of it – constant uphill climbing, unsteady surfaces (lots of rocks) – every step had to be thought about. I remember the views getting better and better as I climbed up through the switchbacks. Most of all, I remember the deafening sound of silence. Absolutely no sounds at all – no background noise, no cars on a highway, no wind. It almost makes your ears hurt. If you’ve never experienced this, I’d highly recommend it. It’s one of the things I seek out on my hikes now. To take a little break in absolute silence is magical.
I also remember cursing my shoes and thinking that I really, really needed some decent hiking boots. You know, shoes that actually had ankle support. After that hike, I went and ordered some on Amazon. We had a snafu with them getting delivered (a common theme with our package deliveries while on the road) but eventually I did get them. Having proper footwear makes a huge difference. I covered my hiking gear “must-haves” in this post.
What I Love About Hiking
Since that fateful hike in the Sacramentos, I’ve hiked a lot. It’s become our primary activity while on the road. Tim and I hike together with Calla, and we also go on longer, more strenuous solo-hikes.
What’s so special about hiking? I think I can boil it down to a few points:
I can experience our location more fully
There’s nothing like a long walk in a hiking trail to really give you a sense of where you are. Is the soil rocky or sandy, red or brown? Are the trees scrubby or dense, are there cacti, sagebrush, or pines? Are there any streams around? It’s taken time to pick up on all of the subtle differences, but now I’m so much more observant of the differences in the ecosystems. It’s amazing how places can be so similar or so different.
I’ve always said that RVing can give you a depth of experience that staying in a hotel can’t. Instead of being surrounded by other hotels and stores, you are surrounded by nature. Then hiking takes it to yet another level of depth. You may be surrounded of nature when you camp, but how many people actually go in to the woods and explore? If you have the physical ability to do this, I’d highly recommend it. If we had waited until we were retired to RV, then we would have likely not been capable of these long, strenuous hikes, and those have provided some of our most memorable experiences while on the road. Did I mention the views are way better than you can get from any spot you can access with your car?
Quiet + Alone Time
As a mom of a toddler who lives in a small space, do I really have to explain this one? Being around your child 24/7 with no breaks from a babysitter is hard. Doing that in an extremely small space is even harder. It’s difficult to never be alone. I’ve always been someone that enjoyed solitude. To never have that anymore has been a challenge. Enter…hiking! If I go on a long hike, that usually means at least 3 hours to myself, and often in a quiet setting, surrounded by nature. The only downside to being alone on a hike is that there’s no one around to take your picture, which means I miss out on some of the “cool” pictures of myself in neat places. Selfies just don’t work quite as well because you can’t get much of the background in the picture. Small price to pay for some solitude.
A Physical and Mental Challenge
It’s not hard to understand why hiking is physically challenging. Hiking up a mountain is no easy task…and don’t even get me started on hiking while at altitude! *gasps for air just thinking about it*
I love the challenge of hiking. I love pushing myself. Maybe not in the moment, but when I’m done, it always feels so good. Taking your shoes off and putting the pack down never felt so good. Hiking is rewarding in ways I never expected. Sure, I can push myself at the gym, too…but you’re not rewarded with picturesque views! I can’t quite describe the feeling of exhausting yourself, thinking “there’s no way in heck I can make it one more step”, then pressing on and being rewarded with a beautiful sight. It makes all of the hard work seem worth it. It’s also quite an incentive to keep going, even when you don’t feel like it.
Hiking has become part of my life. If I haven’t hiked in awhile – I miss it. If it wasn’t for this RV journey, I may have never discovered it!
I can’t imagine NOT hiking. So as long as I’m physically able, I’ll be out there exploring nature on two feet.