It wasn’t until last year that I really gained an appreciation for hiking. Growing up in Florida I always wanted to be surfing, and by the time I was half way through college I was, surprisingly, all about rock climbing. But hiking was never at the top of my list, until last year.
There are over 200,000 miles of trails across the U.S. that invite people to enjoy nature. On this National Take A Hike Day, we celebrate that. Hiking trails provide an invigorating terrain for physical exercise and a peaceful landscape for a mental escape from whatever’s on your mind. For me, hiking through trails across the country kept me sane when I lived in a 82 square foot apartment on wheels with my little brother.
For those who don’t know, I spent all of 2016 road tripping around all 50 states with my brother, Adam. Before you ask, yes we flew to Hawaii. We lived in a 2008 Sprinter Van that we decked out ourselves. Space was limited…very limited.
Before we hit the road I thought it was going to be all rainbows and unicorns, but not even a week into our yearlong adventure I realized that was NOT going to be the case. Even though we’re brothers, we’re both very different people. We think differently, process ideas and emotions (yuck!) differently, and we drastically differ when it comes to addressing conflict.
Imagine driving in a van for hours with your sibling and neither one of you says a single word. For some reason there’s an unspoken tension and by the time you get to your destination, you’re both going insane.
Each of you has aches and pains in your legs and spine from sitting in an uncomfortable seat all day, and now you want some space. The only time it’s possible to find space is outside of a van, and we began to take full advantage of that.
We disagreed a lot last year…a LOT. But one thing that we could always agree on was finding a fun hike. Adam isn’t much of a climber and we couldn’t find much surf in places like Wyoming or Pennsylvania, but we could find hiking everywhere.
Hiking kind of turned into this thing where we found sanity. Neither of us kept track, but I’d say we hiked hundreds of miles in 2016. We found a hike in almost every state. Some of the hikes were well-planned. In Yosemite National Park, we woke up before the sun rose to get an early start on part of the John Muir Trail that took us up to Nevada Falls, then made a loop past the Mist Trail, and finally passed Vernal Falls.
Then there was that time when we were in Zion National Park. It had just rained, and we decided to go into the park, hoping for few people, before the park closed. I had heard of people talking about hiking up to Angel’s Landing and convinced Adam that it’d be fun and doable. We did it without any research, and it really turned into an adventure when we got to the chain section. On the bright side, there were hardly any people there because of all the recent rain. Because of my lack of planning, we had the top of Angel’s Landing to ourselves at sunset for a few minutes – something I’m sure people wish for when they’re up there with 100+ of their “closest friends.”
I think our favorite hike was with my best friend, Tanner. It was November 2016, and he was getting married the next month. We invited him out on the road with us for as long as he’d like. His bachelor party was 10 days of living the van life with Adam and me.
We picked him up in New Hampshire, and he had no idea what the plan was. We drove all the way up to Acadia National Park and took him on one of my favorite hikes, the Beehive Trail. This was the first bachelor party I’ve ever been to, so I don’t know how these things go, but I hear you’re supposed to mess with your buddy. Tanner is terrified of heights and this trail has a lot of exposure as it climbs (literally) its way up the mountain. The trail was just wider than shoulder width, and there were numerous sections where we had to climb up rebar that the Park Service had installed.
Tanner is a hilarious dude, and if there’s one thing I know about him it’s that he goes dead silent when he’s uncomfortable. We didn’t hear a peep out of him for about 30 minutes, but when we got to the top and looked out over the Atlantic Ocean, you couldn’t get any of us to shut up.
Hiking is what helped keep Adam and I sane last year. It was difficult road tripping with my brother in 2016, and he says the same. But when I look back on the year, so many fond memories include hiking. Whether it was scoring permits to hike The Wave in Arizona or just finding some trail in the UP of Michigan, we always ended up feeling better afterwards.
Today’s National Take a Hike Day, so how about you? What’s your favorite memory from the trail? Maybe you should take a hike today and create a new memory.