Note from Mary: Enjoy this guest post from my husband, Dave, a great writer, a great guy, and, as you'll soon find out, a great hiker:
Over the past four years, hiking mountains has become a very serious hobby for me. Ever since moving to upstate New York, I’ve had the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains within a 2 hour drive from my house. I’ve taken ample opportunity to explore them and enjoy them to the fullest.
This hiking hobby has brought on a lot of interesting conversations. Many are with people who haven’t hiked much; those who, when I talk about the 13 mile day-hike I did last Saturday, stare at me like I’m from another planet. (And I don’t blame them -- sometimes I wonder myself why I choose to spend my free time driving 2 hours each way to do strenuous activity all day, when I could be relaxing at home!) What I find most interesting is that despite their reactions, they don’t often ask me why I like to hike. I think the reason is that most people can appreciate the good things about hiking, even if they never would do it (to that extent) themselves.
For those of you who might be thinking “Dave, I really have no idea why you would choose to do such a laborious activity as your fun pastime,” here are the things I tell myself when I’m exhausted on the trail and wondering the same thing.
It’s very good for your health: Hiking is a very steady endurance exercise that works a lot of muscles over a long period of time. A typical day hike for me is 7-10 hours, and save for a few breaks I am constantly moving (sometimes on flat ground but mostly climbing or descending). That’s a lot of cardio, muscle work, and calorie burning. Though I might be tired that night and sore the next couple days, I know I’m doing my body a favor. Well…most of the time anyway. There have been a few times where I’ve pushed the envelope and come back hurting or dehydrated or both. Note to self: don’t do that. That’s not good for your health; that’s a humility check.
I can accomplish something: I find I enjoy doing things more when there is a goal in sight. Hiking provides this in the simplest way possible: #1 - reach the summit. #2 - make it back to the car alive. Check and check! Sometimes this is what I need to pull me through on a long day, and it is fulfilling in a way to look back and see what I’ve been able to accomplish (I’ve done 28 of the 46 highest peaks in New York).
It helps me think: I’ve found there’s no better way to clear your mind than to go on a long hike. All the cares of the world pass away, and all your mind has to think about is moving your feet forward. What’s left of your brain power can think about anything at all with surprising clarity, particularly when there are no crowds and all you hear are your feet and the trees rustling in the soft breeze. And that’s a really valuable thing in the busy world we live in.
It helps me appreciate life more: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a hike (particularly near the end) and felt a longing and a thankfulness for my wife, for my friends and family, for my warm (dry) house [picture a very soaking wet Dave], for the delicious food I have to eat [picture a voraciously hungry Dave]. When I’m away from those things in solitude out in the wilderness, I can’t help but see the blessings God has given me in a new light.
I can savor God’s beautiful creation: What better way to see the handiwork of the Creator than be among it, amidst the streams and waterfalls, the forests and bushes, the swamps and valleys, and the peaks and cliffs? As the creation points to the Creator, all of it helps me get a better taste of the beauty of our God.
I consider hiking a privilege, given the place where I am and the time I’ve been given to do it. I’m not a marathoner out to set a fitness record, or a go-getter out to check boxes of my own accomplishments. I’m just humbled by the enormity of our world, and I found this to be cool way to experience and appreciate a small part of it. That’s why I hike mountains.