On the Trails: Exploring the benefits of hiking

At home, I live on a small, and relatively inconsequential mountain. In fact, it’s more like a big hill, but it certainly feels mountainous, with the steep one-way streets and wildlife that prowl our driveways. Brunswick, Maryland is surrounded by valleys, rivers, creeks, woodlands and mountaintops that encircle our small city. I first moved there when I was 15 and had previously only ever lived in a metropolitan suburb of Washington, D.C., so I was completely hooked on all the nature that was now right in my backyard.

Which is how my love affair with hiking started. I’ve never been much of an outdoorsman, but I love setting a goal, making a plan, and then working to achieve it. My goal is always seeing the view at the top, and making the plan typically involves inviting friends to come with me. Again, I am by no means “good” at hiking – I’m slow and easily intimidated – but it brings me immense joy.

There’s something about hiking that reminds me of how the world was supposed to be. While technology and all of its modern conveniences are great, when I’m hiking I feel like I’m experiencing the earth in its raw form, the way God intended things to be. The temperature is never quite where I’d like it to be, but that’s because for a rare moment, my environment does not revolve around my comfort.

Probably one of my favorite things about hiking is the time I get to share with friends while we’re hiking. There’s plenty of quiet airspace for real conversations, without concern of other people hearing you, and it’s impressive what kind of things people will open up about when they’re focused on where their feet are headed. I think there’s something magical about the shared solitude of walking in the woods together that just makes people want to open up. That, coupled with all the things the woods themselves will present you with to talk about leads to some pretty great conversations.

Hiking isn’t a seasonal sport, either. While it may be unpleasant to hike in the dead of January, or July, as long as you’re dressed for the weather, you can hike anytime of the year. I have found relief from the heat in waterfalls with friends in the summer, and seen the delicate whispers of frost in the winter while hiking.

My personal favorite time to hike is at night, because no one ever really plans on hiking at night. Every time I have found myself hiking in the dark, it’s because I misjudged how much time it would take to get to the top, or I overestimated the amount of time I had before dusk.It’s kind of scary, because in the dark, you can’t tell where you’re going and nobody is really supposed to be on any trail after sunset, but the few times I have found myself on a mountainside after dark have been some of my favorite memories. It’s a rare mix of adrenaline and peace that I’ve never felt in any other situation.

As winter begins to fade into spring, we are entering peak hiking season (in my opinion). I love to go hiking when it’s just cold enough to bite at your cheeks and fingers, without being absolutely freezing. If you’re like me, throw on your jacket and head to one of our local trails!

Saunder Woods Preserve is about 15 minutes away, and is a very easy hike. With a paved parking lot, little elevation, and benches throughout, it’s a great place to go for a casual nature walk. Sharp’s Woods Preserve is also about 15 minutes away, and is a very beautiful area to explore and enjoy some time outside. Finally, McKiag hiking center is about 5 minutes away from campus, and is described as a “moderate” trail by alltrails.com.

Whatever your skill level or motivation, hiking can be incredibly fun and peaceful. Next time you have a free weekend, grab a jacket and a couple friends and go for a hike!

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