October 18 2016
Happiness/Health & Wellbeing

Why You Really Should Take a Hike

hike acadiaFrederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect behind Brooklyn’s beloved Prospect Park (and that other park across the East River) once wrote, “It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character … is favorable to the health and vigor of men and especially to the health and vigor of their intellect.”  This has never been truer than in today’s world of disrupting disruptions.

I’ve always loved taking walks out in nature.  I’m a city girl, but like many of my kind, I crave the outdoors.  As a city dweller, I have to work hard for my access to nature, so I appreciate it all the more.  But I have never been properly “hiking” in a place where I could behold scenes of a truly “impressive character,” as Olmsted so grandly put it.

Until last week.  My husband and I plucked our children out of school and unceremoniously deposited them at their grandparents’ house in Rhode Island so that we could enjoy a week exploring Acadia National Park in Maine.

As any parent will tell you, getting away from your children for a bit bestows its own particular benefits.  But I quickly realized that we were getting so much more than a romantic break from our daily parental duties.

hiking acadia
Re-calibrating…

Escaping to the woods

As we spent three days wandering through Acadia’s magnificent woods, disconnected from email, my mind quickly lapsed into that clear-eyed state where you start pondering things like the colors that you see and the smells that you smell and the sounds that you hear. The leaves were So. Red.  I had never before experienced such an overwhelming scent of real spruce while not shopping for a Christmas tree.  There were 500 different kinds of moss – I have 500 different pictures of moss to prove this – each so magical that I was certain fairies were living in the little openings in the tree trunks that it crept into.

I don’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I remember all of those things.  This is only possible because I was actually really seeing and experiencing them.  *Truly Paying Attention* is one of the most basic, simple building blocks of human pleasure.

acadia hiking
Walking to the peak of Cadillac Mountain
Revelations and ideas just kept popping up, in no particular order.

My first revelation was that hiking has a lot in common with skiing, which I love to do.  For me, skiing is more about being out in the snow and the woods than about the actual act of sliding down the hill.  It’s what I imagine golf has got to be for some people – an excuse to be on a beautiful rolling green field.

As we packed our backpacks in the morning and put on our hiking pants and hiking shoes, we mused about how it reminded us of getting ready to go skiing.  And that is where the comparison abruptly ended.  Because here’s the amazing thing about hiking: it is the perfect human leisure activity.  All upside.  No downsides.

Starting with the cost.  Aside from the nominal cost of a week long park pass, which we were happy to pay, hiking is free.  It is your birthright.  No $70 lift tickets.  No $100 ski lesson, or $150 rentals.  We borrowed all our friends’ sweet gear, so our only real expense was hiking shoes.  And after hours and hours walking comfortably in them, I hereby deem the cost to have been worthy. We marveled at how little we spent the entire week.  We weren’t even trying to be frugal!

hiking, acadia, Jordan Pond
The lovely Jordan Pond

Peace, quiet

The other thing about hiking is that you get luxuriously long bouts of quiet and solitude, where you can hear the near-addictive sound of leaves and rocks crunching under your shoes.  The people we did pass by? I didn’t mind seeing them at all.  Everyone was so polite and friendly.   I felt a odd affection for every person I passed.  Some would offer a bit of encouragement for what was ahead.  Or a simple “good morning.”  Or just knowing smiles that said, “yes, this is wonderful, isn’t it?”  We were all having the same experience, the same sense of appreciation.

Something about being in a great cathedral of nature affects the way people act.  We did not see one piece of trash strewn about.  A small thing like this revives your faith in basic human decency.

Getting lost in the beauty of nature profoundly speaks to the soul.

It is no wonder that study after study shows that walking in nature has a transformative effect on our brain.  Or that just about every fantastical tale is set in the natural world.

acadia autumn
The red leaves, the green moss…

At one point, I was sure I was walking in Little Red Riding Hood’s woods.  Any minute, I was going to see a Ginger Bread House.  My husband and I joked that we walked through nearly every Middle Earth landscape – the Shire, Rivendell, Weathertop – even Mount Doom, minus the lava.  Which was awesome, by the way.  I saw where Ophelia drowned herself. And a Heart Tree of Winterfell.  I saw the lake beside which Wordsworth wrote The World is too Much With Us.  I saw the Thousand Acre Woods.

These visions are so inextricably linked to our ideals and our childhood perceptions of the world.  They speak to our innocence, to our desire for the world to be a simpler place, a good place.  They are proof of our very deep and important need for beauty.

As an East Coaster who has never been out West before (one day!), or to a national park, I didn’t know that the romantic woods of our childhood fairy tales could really exist. The world feels completely different to me. I left Brooklyn a frazzled mess.  I came home refreshed and inspired.  Could the solution to all my angst be as simple as taking a hike?

hiking

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  • If you like hiking and trees and moss — Oregon is the place for you! And those trees and forest go all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It is beyond beautiful! Put it on your bucket list!

    • Oh, I would love to! This trip was a great gift for us because it is honestly something that we couldn’t have done with our kids. We were very thankful to my husband’s parents. But when the kids are a little older I really look forward to us all being able to see the beauty out West together. -Linda

  • Agreed 100%. Every year we take a long weekend and go up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It is pretty much always the most peaceful time of the year for me. There’s just something about being in the mountains and surrounded by nature that centers you and helps you escape the pressures and stresses of everyday life.

    • It’s so true – even when we were in this rocky landscape that wasn’t as pretty, in a romantic sense, the way the woods were, I found it to be so cool because my brain kept searching for something in my experience to compare it to, but couldn’t. That feeling alone was worth the price of admission. Then getting to the top and feeling so small – it’s hard to explain why that is such a good feeling. But it is. -Linda

    • They did. We were so thankful to have had the time alone and the grandparents were so happy to have the kids to themselves. The kids, meanwhile, were very happy to miss a week of school. : )

  • YES! I’m so glad you had a relaxing, enjoyable time in nature. Acadia is a beautiful park. I would love to see it in the fall sometimes.

    I love hiking. My husband and I have always hiked and my kids too, but as the kids have gotten older, they don’t want to do it nearly as much. Which means I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I like either. I find my peace in nature and miss it when I don’t experience it regularly.

    I hope you get out west, Linda! We go west nearly each year – Colorado and California top our list, but there are so many other beautiful places to see.

  • Acadia is on our bucket list! The cliff sides and fall foliage are to die for. It’s amazing how rejuvenating it can be to just disconnect and surround yourself in nature. Best prescription for all that ails you 🙂

  • Hubby and I have gotten out of the habit of regular hikes in recent years. We did it a lot when my mom was alive in living in the NC mountains, and I really miss it (and her!) We walk through the neighborhood, but it’s really not the same at all as going out for the day. Thanks for the pics, it reminds me that we really should make more of an effort to get away into nature, not just get outside (and especially, park the kid with the grandparents!)

    • Yes, we are very thankful my husband’s parents are able to do it, at least for a little longer hopefully. My parents definitely could not do it. But yes, you are right – I walk through the park near my apartment all the time. But it is not at all the same…

  • Awesome post Linda! We are headed to a state park today with the kids to go hiking and are so excited. There is something transformative about spending that time in nature!

    If I can recommend one place, absolutely get out west to Glacier national park. We have been to a number of parks in our travels but for us, Glacier takes the cake. Absolutely gorgeous. Also the Kootenai Falls swinging bridge is a whole lot of fun in western Montana.

    • Thanks Chris – I’m jealous. Tried to head out to a bird watching walk today with my little one but we ended up having to abort because of bad rain. I don’t think I can take my kids on a real hike yet, but our trip has really opened the floodgates for us in terms of ideas for smaller things we can do close by. There is SO MUCH. But one day, we will get out West. Something to look forward to… -Linda

  • Great Post! I completely agree with you as I enjoy the outdoors and what better place than Acadia National Park in Maine. I have spent time there on a couple different occasions and I can’t wait to get back (next summer in fact). However, closer to home going North to the Boundary waters is always a blast and this reminds me I need to schedule a trip sometime soon.

    1. Eric 01:45pm 31 October - 2016 - Reply

      Great Post! I completely agree with you as I enjoy the outdoors and what better place than Acadia National Park in Maine. I have spent time there on a couple different occasions and I can’t wait to get back (next summer in fact). However, closer to home going North to the Boundary waters is always a blast and this reminds me I need to schedule a trip sometime soon.

      • Brooklyn Bread 09:22pm 01 November - 2016 - Reply

        Thank you Eric. I dream of getting back there. So many things about it changed my entire perspective… -Linda

    2. Carly 04:15pm 29 October - 2016 - Reply

      Shared on pinterest! Thanks for linking up at Share the Wealth Sunday 🙂

    3. Christine Tatum 04:14pm 22 October - 2016 - Reply

      I love Cadillac Mountain! Such a beautiful place.

    4. Chris @ KeepThrifty 12:30pm 22 October - 2016 - Reply

      Awesome post Linda! We are headed to a state park today with the kids to go hiking and are so excited. There is something transformative about spending that time in nature!

      If I can recommend one place, absolutely get out west to Glacier national park. We have been to a number of parks in our travels but for us, Glacier takes the cake. Absolutely gorgeous. Also the Kootenai Falls swinging bridge is a whole lot of fun in western Montana.

      • Brooklyn Bread 02:54pm 22 October - 2016 - Reply

        Thanks Chris – I’m jealous. Tried to head out to a bird watching walk today with my little one but we ended up having to abort because of bad rain. I don’t think I can take my kids on a real hike yet, but our trip has really opened the floodgates for us in terms of ideas for smaller things we can do close by. There is SO MUCH. But one day, we will get out West. Something to look forward to… -Linda

    5. Brian @ Debt Discipline 12:47pm 20 October - 2016 - Reply

      We camped at Acadia National Park when I was a kid. I have some great memories. Lobster trucks on the side of the road were my favorites. There are some great parks and camping upstate NY too.

      • Brooklyn Bread 08:05pm 20 October - 2016 - Reply

        My husband ate lobster every day we were there – ha!

    6. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe 11:28am 20 October - 2016 - Reply

      Hubby and I have gotten out of the habit of regular hikes in recent years. We did it a lot when my mom was alive in living in the NC mountains, and I really miss it (and her!) We walk through the neighborhood, but it’s really not the same at all as going out for the day. Thanks for the pics, it reminds me that we really should make more of an effort to get away into nature, not just get outside (and especially, park the kid with the grandparents!)

      • Brooklyn Bread 08:07pm 20 October - 2016 - Reply

        Yes, we are very thankful my husband’s parents are able to do it, at least for a little longer hopefully. My parents definitely could not do it. But yes, you are right – I walk through the park near my apartment all the time. But it is not at all the same…

    7. Ms. Rustic Walks 05:11pm 19 October - 2016 - Reply

      Acadia is on our bucket list! The cliff sides and fall foliage are to die for. It’s amazing how rejuvenating it can be to just disconnect and surround yourself in nature. Best prescription for all that ails you 🙂

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:44pm 19 October - 2016 - Reply

        It really is magical. Though I don’t really have anything to compare it to! I hope that I can make it back there someday. -Linda

    8. Amanda @ centsiblyrich 11:27am 19 October - 2016 - Reply

      YES! I’m so glad you had a relaxing, enjoyable time in nature. Acadia is a beautiful park. I would love to see it in the fall sometimes.

      I love hiking. My husband and I have always hiked and my kids too, but as the kids have gotten older, they don’t want to do it nearly as much. Which means I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I like either. I find my peace in nature and miss it when I don’t experience it regularly.

      I hope you get out west, Linda! We go west nearly each year – Colorado and California top our list, but there are so many other beautiful places to see.

      • Brooklyn Bread 04:57pm 19 October - 2016 - Reply

        Oh no don’t say that! I was hoping my children will want to hike more as they get bigger! I so look forward to the day that we are all able to go out west and experience that together.

    9. Mystery Money Man 07:26pm 18 October - 2016 - Reply

      Great pics, very inspiring! Isn’t it nice to have a break, I’m sure your kids loved the time with their grandparents as well, that’s always a special time.

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:39pm 18 October - 2016 - Reply

        They did. We were so thankful to have had the time alone and the grandparents were so happy to have the kids to themselves. The kids, meanwhile, were very happy to miss a week of school. : )

    10. Matt @ Optimize Your Life 05:06pm 18 October - 2016 - Reply

      Agreed 100%. Every year we take a long weekend and go up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It is pretty much always the most peaceful time of the year for me. There’s just something about being in the mountains and surrounded by nature that centers you and helps you escape the pressures and stresses of everyday life.

      • Brooklyn Bread 06:28pm 18 October - 2016 - Reply

        It’s so true – even when we were in this rocky landscape that wasn’t as pretty, in a romantic sense, the way the woods were, I found it to be so cool because my brain kept searching for something in my experience to compare it to, but couldn’t. That feeling alone was worth the price of admission. Then getting to the top and feeling so small – it’s hard to explain why that is such a good feeling. But it is. -Linda

    11. Sandra 02:21pm 18 October - 2016 - Reply

      If you like hiking and trees and moss — Oregon is the place for you! And those trees and forest go all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It is beyond beautiful! Put it on your bucket list!

      • Brooklyn Bread 06:25pm 18 October - 2016 - Reply

        Oh, I would love to! This trip was a great gift for us because it is honestly something that we couldn’t have done with our kids. We were very thankful to my husband’s parents. But when the kids are a little older I really look forward to us all being able to see the beauty out West together. -Linda

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