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Why I Hike

Mt Webster in Autumn - White Mountains

I really like hiking. There are lots of reasons why, but I think the most important is mental. My life is a bit stressful at the moment. I have a lot of responsibilities at work and home, and it's hard to find the time to do everything I need to do.

But hiking lets me put all of that on hold, and when I travel to a place like the White Mountains or anywhere along the Appalachian Trail, the immensity and majesty of the backcountry reminds me how insignificant my issues really are in comparison.

It's hard for me to describe what a relief this provides. It's a lot like the feeling of calm and serenity that I feel after meditating for an hour or more, but it lasts a lot longer.

How about you? Why do you hike?

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15 comments

  1. sometimes its to be on my own (caveman go ugg, ugg!), sometimes its to work out a thorny problem without interference, sometimes its just for the joie do vivre

    I was out yesterday and funnily enough the overriding feeling I had all day was one of enjoyment at being physically active in the great outdoors. Normally it is on a more emotional level than that but not yesterday.

  2. solitude is a big factor for me too, as is the release of physical exercise. I like the sleep that occurs after exhaustion. what other exercise can you do for 10-12 hours continuously!

  3. When I'm able to get the feeling that I'm part of nature, instead of just passing through it, I reach an inner calm. On some hikes it happens almost from the start, while on others it takes longer. Either way, it's a great way to spend time.

  4. Restoring balance for sure. And, it goes beyond exercise. I don't get the same feelings from my daily 3 – 4 morning walks than I do when I put on the serious boots and a pack. I think it is a feeling of self-reliance. There is nothing like checking the map one last time at the trailhead while your eyes take in the beauty that you are about to plunge yourself into. Whatever self-doubts and anxieties are you in life, once you are the on trail you rely on yourself, and it feels right to do so.

    – David

    P.S. – think about Outward Bound, it was originally a hiking wilderness group that taught kids self-reliance and give them confidence before it grew into multi-adventure group.

  5. @john – yes I know that feeling. For me the inner calm is when I stop thinking and start sensing all the little things around me, and my body.

    @david – well said. Everytime I stand at the foot of a mountain, I doubt whether I can climb it, and then I'm at the top. It never ceases to amaze me and affirms that no obstacle in life is too high to overcome given determination.

  6. To reconnect with my wild side; to return to a natural state and to get to some of the better trout streams that a strenuous hike affords.

  7. Ahh, fishmagic, you must live in CO? OR? Someday I would love to hike to high altitude streams and lakes. I am an avid fly fisher, trout & steelhead, but it's a 4+ drive or airplane ride for me to get on pristine water.

    – David

    Phil, not sure if this OK? – http://www.uppermidwestflyfishing.com

  8. you fish guys….I've been thinking about trying this myself. I hike by some pretty streams.

  9. Why do I like to hike long distances?

    It increases physical strength, agility, and balance; is mentally refreshing; allows time for self-focus; and brightens intuition.

  10. It is an opportunity to regain and work within fundamentals.

  11. I focus on very small things that make the world so beautiful; I cannot seem to do this within the standard daily schedule of normal life.

  12. The challenge of it all… I love that feeling I get when I have been hiking for hours. The trance you fall into where you begin to think about almost anything like the past, present, and future. It is an excellent time for self reflection and just keeping life simple along the trail is something I love to experience. The only things you really worry about are your destination, water, what to eat, and where to sleep. Love to mingle and get to know other hikers along the trail. Every time I return home from a hike I become that much more of an outdoorsman. When you get serious about long distance hiking it becomes a lifestyle. That’s why I love hiking. Was that cheesy enough?

  13. these are all great reasons and all very individual – it's good to hear them articulated so simply – thx!

  14. I love it for several reason.

    1- I like doing something challenging that's different from most folks' hobbies. This is also why I mountain bike, and used to rock climb (as a younger and thinner man).

    2- I like the adventure of it. The challenge of survival with all the planning, technique, fitness, and cool gear necessary to do it well.

    3- Most importantly, I find it a Spiritual act. There's something deeply reviving to the soul to get away from civilization and become emersed in nature. I don't mean to sound weird, but I feel the presence of God in those moments.

  15. There are many many reasons but it really boils down to one alot of the time: I love to hear the sound of my footsteps walking over dirt, rock, clay, wood, grass, mud, water, gravel, sand, etc. It's meditative.

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