The Avid Hiker
It’s a classic story: Boy and girl meet. They fall in love. They marry. Then they see the true side of each other. When I married my husband I thought I knew him pretty well, I knew he was an Eagle Scout and was fairly active in sports. Little did I know what an avid hiker and backpacker he'd become.
About the time he turned 30, something clicked, and he starting taking on more and more complex hikes. He hikes the Grand Canyon several times a year, hiked locally for about 67 days in a row once to prepare. When it’s too hot to hike locally he cranks up the incline on the treadmill to about 12%. Seriously, ask to see his calf muscles; he will happily show them off.
While I do enjoy the great outdoors and a good hiking trail, I wasn’t exactly matching him stride for stride on the excitement level. Getting up before 5 am in order to hit the trail and beat the heat (we live in Phoenix) was not exactly my idea of fun. Nor was spending the week before a big hike packing and repacking to ensure everything was in its proper place. He was slightly perplexed I was not as enthused about his passion. So I made the decision for better or worse, I would need to lace up and hit the trails. Here is what I gained as a result of that decision.
Appreciation of Nature
I would like to think I was someone who would stop and smell the roses and see the beauty in nature, I never really appreciate it until I started to break a sweat in the great outdoors. I started to see the grand scale of things and realize how tiny a speck I occupied in my own world. A rouge tree in the middle of the desert suddenly had the same beauty as a sweeping landscape.
As an amateur photographer this opened up a whole new world of subjects I never saw before. My first trek down the South Kaibab trail in the Grand Canyon, I took about an hour to go a mile or so because I was overwhelmed by the beauty I was seeing through my lens. My husband finally reminded me it was time to get moving as it would continue to get warmer and warmer.
I now find myself seeking out other locations I would never have considered in the past because of the unique beauty others may not yet be able to see: Death Valley, for the unique sand patterns formed by such a harsh and contrasting environment; Machu Picchu, not just for the lush landscape, but also the ancient citadel; Mammoth Cave, and the vastness of the world’s largest cave system and the infrastructure needed to maintain such an underground behemoth.
Mother Nature really has an amazing palate and it’s hard to see until you step into her backyard.
Let's Spend Some Time Together
Prior to my new outdoor adventures I had a vastly different idea of romance. I am not one who demands roses and love notes (nor do I really want that), but my idea of romance did not normally include drinking wine out of, what appeared to be, a glorified Ziploc bag.
However, after sharing an afternoon of hiking beneath the majestic Half Dome in Yosemite, sitting on a large tree stump at camp, that evening turned out to be one of the most romantic experiencing of my life. All distractions were suddenly gone and we only had to focus on our attempts at long exposure night photography and each other.
There is a social psychological theory known as misattribution of arousal, in which individuals could mistakenly associate the feelings of fear and anxiety with that of arousal. A study done in 1974 concluded men were more likely to respond to women who attempted a more risky activity as opposed to women who attempted a safe activity. Think of any action movie where the heroes fall in love in a matter of hours after narrowly escaping death.
While this theory may not be the recipe for lasting love, regular exercise does increase endorphins and as Elle Woods explains in the movie Legally Blonde “endorphins make you happy; happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” This is increased even more so when sharing an endorphin producing experience as a avid hiker.
It's All About the Shoes
As a possessor of the double X chromosome, I apparently have an inherit gravitation towards shoes. Before you get all excited to get some flashy pair or start searching Amazon for the best deal, be warned: get the right pair of shoes. This is not an item on which you want to skimp or pick up casually in the same store you buy your toothpaste.
Make a point to go to a store that specifically carries trail shoes and get fitted by an expert. This will be the difference between a sprained ankle and weeks of recovery or a lifetime enjoyment of hiking.
I will tell you, they may not be that cute. They will probably be a little bulkier than you are used to and typically come in more natural tones like grays, tans, or browns with an occasional blue stripe (for added whimsy). However, the ankle support and thicker cushioned sole will make all the difference.
On the topic of footwear, while you are getting fitted for your new shoes, pick up a pair of hiking socks. I can hear you now, “What is the difference between the socks I have and hiking socks”? Well blisters, calluses and black toes nails to start. These socks are thicker in the toe, ankle and ball of foot. They also wick away sweat and moisture better than your basic cotton socks. You will thank me when you step in a mud puddle 15 minutes into your next trek.
Overall, I found the experience to be worthy, not just for the shoes or pictures, but to participate in something for which my husband had such a great passion. Not only do I now have a bargaining chip when I want him to partake in one of my favorite pastimes, I myself have become an avid hiker.