Let's be honest, Punxsutawney Phil blew his Groundhog Day duties this year. Don't just take my word for it, as the ice and snow persisted, droves of people got legitimately peeved that spring - their light at the end of the tunnel - seemed as elusive as ever. That just ain't right - call it like it is, Phil! (Or, perhaps the error is that we're still looking to a furry little marmot for cutting-edge meteorological recommendations, but what the hey...where's the fun in that??) Regardless of where it is you hail from, you're likely finally getting a taste of finer weather and I've got just the suggestion for you to make up for lost time and enjoy the thawing landscape. Ready for this? Here it is: Hiking.
That's right, this revolutionary notion - while possibly not the most shocking suggestion - is something that folks talk an awful lot about, but do less frequently than you might imagine. In fact, only in the last couple of years has national participation in hiking picked-up after a multi-year drought in the late 2000's according to the Outdoor Foundation.
What's so special about hiking? Well, not only is it a much richer experience than staring at a screen or out the window, but it provides ample opportunity for families, siblings and friends to spend time together away from the distractions of the everyday world - rekindling the underpinnings of their friendships and values. Now, don't get me wrong, bringing a smartphone or mobile device with you for emergencies is a necessity, but you don't have to be constantly looking at it, catching up on the latest news, responding to the latest emails or even snapping photographs. Hiking provides a beautiful discipline of simply being in nature, present and aware of how and where we fit into the world around us and how amazing it all is in its grand scope. This doesn't have to be a Sherpa-equipped, multi-day backpacking trek. (If that's your bag, more power to you, though.) We're talking baby steps...simply day hikes.
Ok, now before I come across as overly Emersonian, let me qualify this post: For me, living in a city like New York, amidst the diversity of people, cultures, beliefs and viewpoints is a blessing. However, it's a city that never stops (that's in fact typically what so enamors us with it). Yet, occasionally in order to have context of what else is naturally beautiful and peaceful in this world, we have to get away from it all. These periodic cleanses can be along a mountain ridge, a rural pasture, a desert sunset or wherever you find yourself. It matters not where you are as much as who you are with and how you spend it. Sites and apps like trails.com and Went Hiking have plentiful resources to find the nearest trails based on ability, maps and even the option to log your hikes.
So, embrace spring now that it's fiiiiinally here and make one of these upcoming Saturdays or Sundays a designated hiking day. Grab some water, granola bars, family or a friend and a pair of shoes with solid ankle support and trail blaze away!
Image courtesy of Atif Gulzar