Back into the Woods!
Updated: Jan 7
I recently got back in to hiking. I had been away from it for about 2 decades. During this time away I’ve enjoyed short, low-impact walks in the woods with the family over the years. For a while my dog was my excuse to get outdoors. In more recent years my kids fill that role now that they’re older. Still though, there’s a big difference between spending several hours on a challenging trail and taking a leisurely stroll through a local park. As a teenager and young adult I used to love getting out in the woods with friends. I loved the challenge of completing a long, strenuous hike. The sense of accomplishment was always worth the effort that went into conquering any of New England’s big peaks. There was nothing better than finishing a long day of hiking with a swim in a river followed by some time around a campfire with friends.
Last year I found myself with some extra time on my hands and looking for a productive way to spend it. Thinking back to how at home I had always felt in the woods and wanting to incorporate my new interest in natural photography, hiking seemed like a great fit! A lot had changed in 20 years though. To begin with, at 45 the trails all seemed a bit longer and steeper than I had remembered. On the first ‘real’ hike I took last year I remember being acutely aware of feeling winded after just a relatively short distance. That went away though as I hit my stride and the resulting feeling of energy and relaxation is what stayed. Over the course of several more long hikes I got used to not having 20 year old legs and lungs and recognizing that I can still do it just fine, it just takes a bit more to get warmed up and maybe a lot more to recuperate afterward sometime. The hikes that finish with a river swim are still the best though!
Another big change is with technology. In my early 20s I set out with a map, a compass and an understanding that I needed to stay on the trail! Today I’m planning routes on the AllTrails app. Not only can I now 'see' the trails, but there are always updates on conditions from hikers posting reviews of the trails online. Between better planning and having a stand-alone GPS I don’t worry about where I am or where I’m going half as much as I had to years ago. For the record, I still carry a compass too. Speaking of technology, I recently purchased a set of collapsible trekking poles. Never would I have even considered a metal walking stick as a kid! I do enjoy taking my old walking stick with me on some shorter hikes. It's one I’ve had since I was 11 and still serves me well. The trekking poles are growing on me though and on the tougher downhills especially I’m beginning to appreciate them more!
I’ve already got some big plans for 2020. I've some goals for distance and some for elevation. Last year was a great reintroduction into the sport. I’m anxious to see what I can accomplish in the woods this year. I’ll keep you posted.