I was a small boy when I went for my first hike on the Bruce Trail with my father. I thought it would be a real drag. What I really wanted to do was hang out with my friends and play soccer in the courtyard by my house. I thought hiking would be hard. I thought hiking would be boring. It wasn't going to be much fun. But I was wrong.
As an adult, when I encourage my friends to go for a hike, I hear the same sort of comments I had as a boy - too boring, too hard, no fun. Until they give it a try.
There is no one way when it comes to hiking. There are no set rules. Flexibility abounds. Here are five reasons why I think you'll love hiking when you get started for the first time.
It Can be as Easy as You Want
If my father had taken me on a three-day, 90-kilometer hike for my first outing, I probably wouldn't be hiking today. Sure, a three-day hike may be something you aspire to, but hiking can be as easy as donning a pair of walking shoes and heading down to the park. If you want to build up to more challenging hikes, that's your prerogative. And if not, no worries. Nobody is keeping score.
There are Health Benefits
At the risk of frightening you, I should tell you that hiking is a form of exercise. And like any exercise, you can expect to see some health benefits from it. After a couple of hours of hiking in the Edmonton river valley with one of my urbanite friends, she told me that she felt the stress of her working life dissolving. Hiking is a big-time stress buster. Add in the potential benefits of reduced risk of heart disease, improved sleeping, weight loss, and lower blood pressure, you have lots of positive health reasons to love hiking.
Hiking Can be as Inexpensive as You Want
If the cost of a gym membership makes your eyes water, you should know that the cost of hiking can be as inexpensive as you want. You don't need to spend money on high-end gear to get started. Most of the things you need for a short hike are probably already somewhere in your home. And your destination could be a hop, skip, and jump away. Of course, if you have money....
Hiking Can be as Social as You Want
Although many people hike alone to enjoy the meditative benefits of hiking, if you are an extrovert who gets your energy from people, you can head to the trails with your friends. And if none of your friends are interested in hiking, it's time to add to your list of friends. There are lots of people who share an interest in hiking. Check out one of your local hiking clubs, or try Meetup.com for a hiking group in your area.
You Will See Something in a New Way
You'll really enjoy the scenery when you go hiking. Certainly, there's a lot to see when you're driving, but when you slow down to a walking pace, the blur disappears. The world looks a little clearer. You'll notice the trees, the texture of the bark, and the colour of the leaves. Hiking quiets the mind; things will seem refreshingly beautiful. It's a whole new experience, ripe for the taking.
I hope when you go hiking for the first time, it will be as enjoyable as it was for me when I went for the first time as a boy. Take it easy the first time out and you'll be pleased with what hiking can do for your health and peace of mind.
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