For those of us longing to break away from the daily grind and reconnect with nature, hiking and camping can be a way to revisit youth, revisit the earth, and remember how to get along without the little luxuries of city life.
Here are three facets of hiking that can sharpen your senses while on the trail and when you’re back at work.
1. Keeping a map and compass
It may sound old-fashioned, but some remote areas have no cell signal, no 4G, not even a smidge of wireless. That means that everything depends on either your innate ability to find a route, or the tools you have on hand.
Many people who first begin to hike, camp, or get back into nature find that their sense of direction is better than they thought. GPS trackers are found to actually decrease our ability to understand our surroundings. Some of us are better at navigating than others, but if you take a GPS device and use it as a last resort, rather than a first reference, it may improve mental mapping ability.
2. Bringing meaning to sustenance
It’s easy to remember to stay hydrated, but nothing reaffirms the importance of water so effectively as planning out and carrying water supply for 3-7 days.
Pre-made dry meals at REI can be a good start to preparing camping food, but definitely pack dried fruit, dry oatmeal, and other foods than can be prepared easily with the addition of water. While hiking lately I realized how important water is to our bodies, and also, I realized how much water food contains! Some foods are far better than others at boosting blood sugar and hydration levels. Hiking forced me to consider and appreciate these foods more closely.
3. Preparing for a different world
Sunscreen and bugspray may seem so happenstance, but on the trail, they become essentials. Even if you’ve never had a sunburn, hiking in high mountain regions can expose your skin to the kinds of radiation that are usually filtered by the atmosphere in lower terrain. And if you plan on going anywhere like a lake in Wyoming, be prepared for mosquitoes that are as big as june bugs and as numerous as gnats.
Hiking is a liberating experience, even if it takes work and planning. It’s freeing and empowering to be out in a world of independence, and it’s also liberating to return home and find a renewed appreciation for amenities such as, say, electricity and running water. With any luck, we can all be lucky enough to take a hike from time to time!