I'd been listening to the She Explores podcast for some time when I finally came up with a plan. I heard story after story about women through-hiking the PCT, about women starting outdoor companies, about rock climbing, about inclusion and diversity in the outdoors, about kayaking the great lakes... all were inspiring to me. They made me want to get outdoors more and they made me reflect on my relationship with the outdoors over the years.
As a kid, I was outdoors a lot. I had to help mow the lawn, carry in wood for the wood stove, fend off mosquitoes while picking raspberries and weeding the garden, but I also spent hours outside playing with my friends, riding my bike, and playing softball. Outside was another place to be, but never really felt like a place to explore or to really get in touch with. I was never very curious about nature, but didn't dislike it either (besides those mosquitoes, of course).
At the time, if you'd have asked me what hiking was I'm not sure I would have been able to tell you. Honestly, as a young adult I often thought 'isn't hiking just walking through the woods?' Heck, we did that at the farm all the time searching for wood to cut, but we called that work.
When I was about 30, I started going on walks. I'd come home from work and walk along the river by my house. There was an urgency to it as if I was trying to walk away from something - to leave all the weight behind. I walked and walked, often dreading heading back home. And while I knew quite well what I was trying to shed in my life, I didn't realize the power of the outdoors to heal. I was no longer walking just to get away from something, but because nature and exercise felt like medicine. It gave me the strength to make the changes I needed and I am forever grateful for that.
A couple years later I found myself dating an outdoorsy guy whom I would eventually marry. I hadn't been looking for nature guy, but turns out he was a really good fit for me. Shortly after we started dating, we went hiking (my first time!) and to prepare for our hike and overnight camping trip, I purchased my very first pair of hiking boots and hiking backpack. I loaded that 30 lb pack on my pack and discovered what hiking was about.
It was hard, and yet, so satisfying.
My husband and I hiked and camped over the years, but things slowed down after having a kid. We'd go on 'adventures' around the neighborhood and at our local nature park, but the big trips were mostly put to the side. Our daughter is 8 now and life is immeasurably easier... and while the outdoors may not involve heavy packs on our backs, we continue to find ways to include it in our lives.
And yet, it wasn't until few weeks ago that my plan came to mind. I'd been listening to women on the podcast talk about how hiking was new to them, and how they didn't start until later in life, but it was listening to women over 50 talk about how their relationship with the outdoors has changed... or not changed over the years that set the real spark in me. As I walked home from dropping my kid off at school, I listened intently to episode 54: Fifty Plus, and formulated my own plan.
I was going to hike 50 hikes by my 50th birthday. I repeated it over and over in my head to make it real. I wanted to put my intention out there into the world so I posted on social media to help me keep some accountability. It didn't take much to pull my family on board so I knew they'd support me as well.
50 hikes by 50.
It sounded sort of daunting and I assured myself that it wasn't really about the number. The point was to get outside more, to explore new places, to renew my love of nature and hiking (which is a form of self care for me), spend more dedicated time with my family, and to set a good example for my daughter.
I sat down and tried to work out the logistics of this. At age 46, this means that I would need to do about 13 hikes a year. I tried to define what a hike would be and decided that I would be loose with the parameters. Initially, I set 2 miles at my minimum, but one hike was 1.75 miles so I threw that rule out. My husband suggested that it wasn't a hike until I wore a back pack, but I often wear a pack and found myself wearing one on a 2 mile round trip to my kid's school so we threw that rule out (and didn't count that walk as a hike). I've decided that there are going to be easy hikes at local parks on paved trails, and there are going to be hikes in the middle of the woods. I'll know when it feels justified to go on the list.
By the time I decided to complete this challenge (or rather, shift in my lifestyle), I had 4 hikes under my belt and since then I've done 4 more. Some felt like they just made it into the hike category and others most definitely felt like a hike. I'm making lists of must hike trails, purchased a 60 hikes within 60 miles book (to go with our other hiking books), splurged on some well needed new hiking shoes, and am just generally excited about this journey.
I hope you follow along... and maybe it encourages you to find your own relationship with nature.