In our previous Wisdom Note, we learned how to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. In this note, we will focus on how to live life when it gets difficult in 8 life lessons from hiking tough trails. If you miss any of our Wisdom Notes, please go to the blog to read past newsletters.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns as our trail is sometimes obscured with obstacles that we did not anticipate. I seem to face this on a weekly basis. So, today our trek will cover…
8 Life Lessons from Hiking Tough Trails
As one of ten kids growing up on the farm, I, with my siblings, would invest many hours exploring the wooded hills, playing in the creek, and fishing at the pond, which was located on the “lower 40 acres.” It was part of our life and fostered my love for being outside in the woods and hiking through God’s beautiful creation. With more years and maturity on my horizon, I have learned many lessons from hiking, both while I am on the trail and analyzing lessons that I have learned in life. Today we will look at 8 of those lessons.
1. Move slowly. Don’t rush through or you could get hurt.
I have been known as someone who is a fast walker when I am heading anywhere in life, especially when I have a destination in mind. While hiking, I have come to realize that it is not wise to rush along the trail, especially difficult ones.
Injuries and nasty bruises will result if the pace is too fast. A wise lesson to learn is to take things slowly.
This is especially true when going downhill. It’s imperative to move at a comfortable pace, making sure your footing is stable, and your body doesn’t push itself too hard. When you rush and misstep, those hiking with you might see your body roll down the side of the mountain. It’s not worth the injury, so be careful and take every step with care.
2. Don’t focus on the end destination; enjoy the journey.
You may forget that the majority of a hike isn’t glamorous at all. Even so, I find just about any trail interesting to observe with its own beauty, but usually, you can only see a very limited distance in front of you. The pictures of people standing in front of open landscapes with grand mountains in the background are beautiful, but it’s a lot of hard work to get there. When you’re rushing through a trail in order to get to the checkpoints, you miss out on the majority of the hike. There are many interesting things to look for and the conversation of those with you to enjoy.
3. You have no choice but to keep going.
If you have ever been on a very long or strenuous hike, you know there may be times that you feel you can’t go on or finish to the next stopping point. When you choose to work out on a treadmill, you have the option to press the red stop button, walk off the fatigue, and go fetch some water.
When you’re halfway up a mountain, you have no choice but to keep moving, unless you’re equipped to camp out at a checkpoint. From what I have studied about hikers on the Appalachian Trail, they need to make a certain amount of mileage a day, or else they’ll run into bad weather when they travel from south to north, jeopardizing their entire journey. Strenuous hiking forces your body to reach limits you didn’t even know possible because you have few options.
4. Always know your next step and pay attention.
Trail markers keep hikers alert and always aware of where their next steps are. Each trail marker is painted specifically so a hiker can see the next marker. This has them always looking up and planning ahead, seeing which turns to make next.
As a hiker and with life, if you just assumed that you are following an obvious path, it’s easy to wander off-trail. This can be a very precarious situation if you do not have the proper navigation tools, such as a good map or GPS. When you are running out of supplies, daylight, or both, it is not a position that you want to be in. Plan ahead, and follow your plan.
5. Hiking relaxes you.
Some people will argue that hiking, being such an active hobby, is the complete opposite of relaxing. Personally, I find there is nothing I like more than retreating into nature during times of turmoil and stress.
With hiking, the consistent rhythm of your steps and silence helps to quiet your thoughts. There is something special about being out in creation that helps to clear the stress and clutter of life.
6. It’s okay to sweat. It’s okay to smell.
If you have ever been on true wilderness hiking or camping, there are no showers in nature and no bathrooms either, so you quickly recognize the familiar and lingering stench that forms after a couple of days in the wild. As a true hiker, you own your own stench.
No one should feel embarrassed about not looking the best or smelling the best when trudging on a difficult hike. It’s best to embrace feeling dirty, and it’s completely healthy to sweat – that means your body knows to cool itself down when it’s being overworked. It’s impossible to look fabulous while you’re on an intense hike, and so it is with life. Sometimes you won’t look or smell your best, but keep moving forward.
7. Weather is unforgiving.
Even on the easy trails, hiking in nature is an arduous process. You’re vulnerable to the elements, whether that’s baking under a sultry sun, getting drenched in a summer thunderstorm, or freezing in the biting winter. Because the weather is never under any control, you’re the one who’s forced to adapt. Be prepared, dress in layers, and expect the unexpected. Plan wisely, and never allow yourself to be in a situation where the unexpected could mean a loss of life or limb.
8. Know what’s important to bring and what’s not.
When you’re planning on hiking and camping in the wilderness for a few nights, you begin to understand what is necessary for survival and what takes up empty space. The only way to bring anything on a difficult hike is on your back, so bring only what is necessary. Experienced hikers know how to pack the very basics (weather-appropriate clothes, good hiking boots, a tent, basic foods, etc.). As with life, it is best to pack light and not become burdened with things. You can quickly become trapped by what you own in life.
Today we learned 8 lessons from hiking difficult trails which will help us to navigate the tough trails of life. We need to be prepared; preparation is an important concept in the Bible as it is mentioned nearly 200 times. One of those is found in Proverbs 24:27, “Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house.” The tagline for Wisdom-Trek is “creating a legacy,” and this is very important to me. Over the next couple of weeks on our Wisdom Notes, we will explore creating, living, and leaving your legacy. Encourage your friends and family to join us on our 5-days a week podcast: Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.