“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this
trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”- John Muir
For the fourth consecutive year, New Hampshire State Parks hosted “First Day Hike” events on January 1st.
Part of a National effort that takes place in all 50 States, hikes were planned at Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion Historic Site in Portsmouth, and for the first time, Weeks State Park in Lancaster.
A New Hampshire record of over 350 people turned out at the three events, including 26 dogs at Weeks State Park.
I had the opportunity to attend and joined nearly 70 others on a venture along the Parker Trail on historic Mount Monadnock to a viewpoint known as “Little Mountain”.
During the trip I spoke with two gentlemen who shared their story about how last year’s First Day Hike at Monadnock motivated them to kick off monthly hikes together throughout 2014. They succeeded and returned to renew that goal for 2015.
New Hampshire State Parks offer an amazing opportunity to explore, learn, connect, and recharge in nature year-round.
While you probably already have your favorite Parks for warmer weather activities, some ideas for getting out this time of year might include Nordic skiing in Milan Hill State Park, a winter climb or hike in Crawford Notch State Park, winter camping at Monadnock State Park, trying out your “Fat Bike” in Bear Brook State Park, photography at Odiorne State Park, or snowshoeing in Pawtuckaway State Park.
One reason I spend as much time as I can in the woods and the mountains all year long is that I consistently learn more about myself while I am there; I can not help but evolve in my values, ideas, and perceptions.
The woods and mountains of New Hampshire can be a hard-won ally, but they are eternal teachers, if nothing else. The trail leaves its footprint within us and the lessons they teach will reward those who are willing to listen.
1. “Failure” is merely opportunity for learning and growth.
If a situation on the trail causes me to turn around early, puts me at risk, or takes away from my experience (weather, improper gear, time restraints) I don’t give up on the hike for good. I come back better prepared. Also, much of the time, the fault is no one’s but my own.
Coming up short in my job or in life no longer causes the same amount of stress or self-burden it once did. “Failure” is truly opportunity for evaluation, fresh perspectives, and sometimes, new chances. Charles Bukowski reminds us that “You have to die a few times before you can really live.”
2. New trails, new places.
I have my favorite trails and mountains that I revisit, but I wouldn’t be interested in only experiencing the same path every day. Many of us, even when planning to encounter new trails, work in loops for a varied experience.
While everyday routines are comfortable, they also create complacency and kill the imagination. Second guess any voice in your mind telling you that new places, people, opportunities, and experiences will not benefit your journey. Like the hike, new paths will make your life more interesting and enjoyable.
3. Live in the Present.
As one who primarily hikes alone, my only conversations tend to occur within my head. Typically, it’s very one-sided and my “hiking partner” will sometimes focus on everything but the trail. As I become aware of my mind’s derailment, I remind myself to enjoy where I am and what I’m doing when out in the mountains. Taking some time to shut down those thoughts and take in the trees, the wind, the sky, and the air allows me to get the most out of why I’m out there in the first place.
I have begun a conscious effort to enjoy the present more often every day, improving my level of self-awareness, and increasing my appreciation and gratitude.
4. Stop. Look around.
This relates a bit to point 3, but on the trail, I take more time to enjoy views, scan the woods for wildlife and plants, and check out geological features. Instead of spending my time on the trail thinking too heavily about the destination, I like to enjoy the whole journey. Sit on the side of the trail and just listen. Close your eyes. Reflect.
It’s not any different than what we need in our day to day lives. We can get so narrowly focused and wrapped up on where we’re going that we neglect to enjoy where we are and what is around us. Rushing along the trail of life causes us to ignore the simple beauty surrounding each step.
5. The Summit is Half Way.
Your journey does not end at the summit. It is actually only the half way point of your climb. In fact, the descent can be the most challenging and dangerous of all, both mentally and physically.
With any luck, our lives contain many victorious and rewarding peaks. Satisfaction in climbing one mountain, one time is usually not enough. We look for new peaks and new routes.
It is the entirety of our ascents and descents every day that builds our bodies and minds for each new adventure, inspiring us to climb again.
So keep climbing, friends, and never stop exploring.