Lessons Learned From My First Six Hikes in the 52 Hike Challenge

17 February 2016

This year I took on the 52 Hike Challenge as a way for me to take care of physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. I've enjoyed hiking most of my adult life, and have always enjoyed spending time outdoors. Living in the heart of the city for over a year has increased my need for nature time, and thus I took on this challenge as a way to hold myself accountable and make self-care a priority.

It's called a challenge for a reason, and I'm going to share with you the lessons I've learned so far from my first six hikes.

Lesson 1: Take a friend if you need someone to hold you accountable. Starting a challenge is always the hardest part, so I made plans with my friend Katie on a sunny Sunday morning to tackle my first trail for the challenge. We were both successful, so we rewarded ourselves with coffee and fancy toast.

Lesson 2: Trekking poles are your friend. I felt like a goober for bringing them on this relatively easy urban hike, but on our way down from the top, I was so glad I had. There were ice and mud patches along the descent from the top, and those poles came in handy for both of us. Who cares if we looked like dweebs- at least we didn't biff it like a few other folks.

Lesson 3: I love this. I love hiking. I can't help but smile all along the trail, even for the hard parts.

Hike #2: Pittock Sanctuary at the Audubon Society

Lesson 4: Sometimes you have to force yourself to get out, even if it is for just a short trail. For some reason, I was feeling terribly anxious this particular day, but I knew I needed to get a hike in. I took a short hike close to town after an eye appointment. I was anxious about being alone in the woods, but grateful for the quiet time.

Lesson 5: Surprises are waiting when you least expect them. I met a peregrine falcon at the Audubon Society before beginning my jaunt, and it was a cool experience. I didn't know much about the birds before, but now I have a soft spot for them.

Lesson 6: Hiking in the rain can be a lot of fun.

Lesson 7: Hiking in the rain is messy.

Lesson 8: Hiking will not always affect your attitude, but your attitude will always affect your hiking. In this case, it was for the best. I was loving the smells, the sounds, and the mist in the forest. I was in awe, and I was ready to complete this hike. My mind was open, and therefore, I was able to handle the miserableness of the rain and thoroughly enjoy myself.

Hike 4: Same as Hike 3 (but not in the rain)

Lesson 9: Hiking with dogs can be fun.

Lesson 10: Hiking with dogs can be (very) messy.

Lesson 11: Sometimes, 45 minutes is just enough time for a hike, and totally worth it.

Lesson 12: Sometimes a hundred other people will have the same plan to hike the same trail at the same time.

Lesson 13: Trails change. This one saddened me a bit, to be honest. I hadn't hiked this trail in a few years, but when I used to hike it, I hiked it often as it was a short walk from my apartment. It used to be a quiet retreat with a really cool stone house tucked away in the woods. The trailhead now has lingering homeless folks late in the morning, and the cool stone house is now caved due to a tree that fell and graffiti'd by people who don't care about preserving beauty. I'm not happy about these changes, and will likely only return to the trail as a last resort hike.

Lesson 14: I'm out of shape. I may do barre and pyrolates and the occasional yoga, but my aerobic fitness is shot. 3 years ago, this hike was easy for me. This time, I was huffing and puffing on the ascent.

Lesson 15: Always take time to stop and enjoy the sun peeking through the trees.

Lesson 16: Waterfalls are pure magic. Few thing make me feel more like a kid than the approach to a waterfall. It's that first sound of rushing water, then the increasing vibration of the trail beneath my feet, followed by a first glimpse of white in the distance, to finally standing before a rushing cascade. I will always love that feeling.

Lesson 17: Beware the bite valve of your water reservoir. Mine hit me just below the eye and left a lovely bruise. Before we even started the hike. Go me. 

Lesson 18: It pays to be early. We arrived at the trailhead at 9am on a rainy Sunday, and there were few cars in the parking lot. We only passed one couple on the trail proper during our entire 1.5 hour hike. It was divine.

As you can see, I've learned a lot so far, and I know I will continue to learn with every hike. I'm proud of myself for making it this far in the challenge, and I look forward to growing as I make it through all 52. 

Tell me, what have you learned on the trail? Have you ever taken on a challenge? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
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