Do you hate to exercise? What if you could find a way to work out for four hours solid every week and not mind a bit?
Miriam Nuney, a transplant from the flat plains of Illinois, has lived in Silicon Valley for decades. Once the hiking bug bit her, she dragged her husband out with her, convinced the exercise would do them both good. After shedding many pounds and getting into the best shape of their lives, they started inviting people to join them to discover the joys of getting above the stresses that technology can’t cure, but nature still can. Here’s what she has to say about hiking:
Ever go hiking with a group of friends? There’s nothing like chatting the hours away, huffing and puffing up the hills and skipping along the trails, breathing fresh air, and staying blessedly away from all those handy tech-gadgets and cell phones that seem to be running our lives instead of making them easier.
You’ve probably even seen hiking venues along your commute route and not even been aware hidden paths are calling for you to tread on them next weekend. I should know. You were me. And boy was I surprised to find dozens of parks and designated open space areas ribboned with public trails just waiting for me to explore. So I did.
After years of hiking in the hills above California’s famed Silicon Valley, where the burning desire to escape confining cubicles and intrusive technology reaches dire levels, I can assure you there is nothing better for your physical and mental health than escaping into tantalizing wilderness and letting your cares and worries drop away for a few hours.
I’ve hiked with people who’ve achieved significant weight loss (we’re talking forty+ pounds!), recovered from spinal and knee surgeries, reduced to the bare minimum medications for chronic asthma and diabetes, and recuperated from bike and running injuries.
All from simply putting one foot in front of the other–again and again.
Walking is a natural human activity, so . . . if you can walk, you can hike.
Hiking generally means getting out into a large park and walking on dirt trails, usually including climbing hills, and occasionally crossing streams and clambering over fallen tree limbs. Yes, nature has a way of reminding us it has an awesome power we can’t control, but hey–humility is good for the soul. Learning to let go of problems we can’t do anything about is one way to alleviate unnecessary stress.
And don’t make any excuses about being too old–or young. I’ve hiked with 10-year old kids who had more energy than me at the end of the hike, and a frail-looking 72-year old Chinese woman who carried water from her wells at home to keep fit.
In fact, she had the last laugh on us on one of our more challenging hikes at the Pinnacles National Monument in central California. This hike includes clambering over incredibly steep steps carved into a sheer volcanic mountainside, fortunately with sturdy handrails for those of us with a fear of heights. Afraid she might fall and break her hip, we dogged her every stride despite her protests she was “quite capable, thank you.”
We made it safely back to the parking area for a picnic lunch, and wouldn’t you know it–the youngest in our group slipped on a quarter-inch of low-lying water on the pavement and went down on her hands and knees!
A few minutes later we squished together on a picnic bench. I perched next to her on the very end and crossed my legs, only to find myself teetering off bench and onto the ground. Our Chinese friend couldn’t stop laughing at me. Trail hazards be damned! It was the modern conveniences that got the better of us.
Before you head off hiking, here are ten safety precautions you should follow:
- Check the park’s website for trail conditions, maps, and entrance fees.
- Bring one friend…or more! It’s unwise to hike alone.
- Estimate your time on trail–generally you hike at half the speed you walk.
- Bring 16 oz of water per hour on trail, and bring snacks such as nuts, granola bars and fruit.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, sturdy shoes and socks (jacket and gloves as needed).
- Pack a basic first aid kit with bandages, a pain reliever and any special meds you need.
- Hike in the daytime. Avoid hiking at dawn or dusk due to bugs and critters.
- Check weather forecasts and be prepared for even the slight possibility of bad weather.
- Pack a spare change of clothes and extra water, and leave in the car.
- Anticipate making your way out on your own. Most trails do not have cell phone coverage, so don’t assume help is a quick phone call away.
Don’t let the unknown outdoors stay unknown for long. Get out there and embrace it! There is nothing more real than getting out into the hills and meeting head-on the challenges of nature and, best yet, overcoming them.
If you live in Silicon Valley or you’re planning a trip in the area, be sure to check out Miriam’s eBook, 101 Great Hikes Above Silicon Valley, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords. To join their hiking group at no charge, send an email to JohnMiriamNuney@aol.com. For comments or suggestions about this blog post or her ebook, email Miriam directly at MNuney@aol.com.