In a world where we are all so deeply connected, it is sometimes necessary to take a break from it all. From the constant social media sharing, texting, phone calls, jobs that require computer screens constantly in your face and customers complaining in your ear, life can be a bit overwhelming. It’s necessary to find an outlet that allows you to remove yourself completely to relax. Over the last year or so, my boyfriend, Aaron, and I have taken up camping and hiking as a way to get outside, get exercise and get away from it all. Let me tell you, it does the trick.
Hiking isn’t a new activity by any means, it's just new to me. It’s not that I hadn’t enjoyed the great outdoors before, it was more that I hadn’t been as motivated to explore it. It can be difficult to separate yourself from this intertwined world we live in. Hiking is an activity that sort of fell into my lap. For my 25th birthday, I was taken on a surprise adventure. Aaron took me to a nearby state park and we hiked through trails in a wooded area, talked, and relaxed. I immediately fell in love. Hiking is mostly just scenic walking. You get the benefits of exercise without really feeling like you’re doing that much hard work because you’re so busy enjoying the gorgeous views.
After that first trip, I had fallen in love with hiking, as did Aaron. So we made it a point to go as often as we could. We started small, with day trips to nearby parks and eventually worked our way up to backpacking and camping trips as we learned more about hiking and started purchasing the necessary gear. The day trips were soothing enough but the relaxation was taken to the next level when we started trekking deeper into the woods.
Many of the more popular blogs I’ve found about backpacking focus on the amazing trails out west. While those are on the long list of place we intend to travel someday, there are also plenty of beautiful trails in our home state of Michigan. Our first overnight trip was to the northern part of the lower Peninsula in the Huron National Forest.
We drove up after work on a Friday and I was beyond excited but also extremely nervous. I had never stayed overnight in a tent and my fear of the dark didn’t make things any easier. As we were setting up camp, dark clouds began to roll in. As we got settled into the tent it became darker and darker as the sun set and the storm crept in above us. This wasn’t a gentle storm by any means nor was it a quick one. The lighting and thunder kept us up for hours into the night and I will admit I was quite the baby about it. However, in hindsight I’d say it’s for the best that my first night camping was a disaster. From such an awful first experience, the only way to go is up.
The rest of the weekend went off without a hitch. We put in around 15 miles, all without cell service so I was able to fully immerse myself in the experience and enjoy every bit of it. Not constantly looking down at my phone truly gave me a new sense of freedom. Don't get me wrong, I love the convenience and connection my phone provides, but I also enjoy the feeling I get in the middle of the woods, away from everything and everyone, not constantly checking my phone. Instead I was able to truly enjoy nature and allow myself to feel a deeper sense of calm.
The day trips helped to ignite my love for hiking but the first weekend camping and hiking trip solidified that love. Though I feared it would be my biggest struggle, one of the best parts of the trip ended up being my lack of cell service. Sometimes the only way to disconnect is to be forced into it. As we drove deeper into the forest and I saw my signal dying, I began having a bit of a panic attack but by the time we left the forest on that Sunday, I was the most relaxed I had been in some time. Yes, I was tired from the miles we had put in under the sun, but being free from constantly checking my phone as notifications popped up left me feeling refreshed and a bit freer than I had felt before. Those beautiful views and that disconnected freedom are the reasons hiking will always hold a special place in my heart.