The Joys of Hiking

It doesn’t take long before hiking in the woods or mountains becomes addictive.

The trees and fungi-covered boulders emit a subtle energy that silences the mind. Thoughts flow smoothly in a continuous peaceful stream with each step. I would recommend hiking as a cure for depression.

When I stop thinking of reaching a goal (a summit or a lake) and just imagine that my steps will go on forever, a pleasant, negative ion-saturated feeling gradually takes over, one that encourages the senses to transcend mundane experience. Soon you feel enveloped in a tangible inner silence; at its zenith it transforms into a white light of pure being. (Hey, what did you expect from a meditator?).

My feet might hurt following a hike but thankfully, very rarely during one; my hiking boots give my flat feet perfect support. Plus knowing our physical limitations helps, preferring to keep hikes no longer than four hours, maximum.

After a hike, the feeling in my body is similar to how I feel after swimming in the ocean, a fresh and renewed bodily awareness. Plus you feel as if you’ve accomplished something; hiking, while not always difficult, is rarely easy. There are almost always vertical stretches or tricky parts walking over giant roots or rocks. All that fresh air and cardiovascular workout, not to mention the great views occasionally on hand – how could you not begin to look forward to the next trek in the woods after a couple of days in the city?

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia.

The hike at the summit of Mount Revelstoke, B.C., and the coastal trail along Lake Superior, while completely different, will stand out as the two best hikes of our trip. The former strongly reminded me of a fantastic trip to Switzerland Naomi and I took almost 20 years ago. The alpine flowers and distant mountains are our constant companions. The vibe near the top of a mountain peak is bound to be pure (“Sattvic”) and I loved strolling along, mindfully and mindlessly, listening to the bell that Naomi had ringing on the top of her backpack to ward off bears, a perfectly blue sky smiling on us.

The hike along Lake Superior didn’t provide the view of the great lake that I was hoping for. And we did have to endure hungry mosquitoes chasing us on this humid day. But the outstanding moss growths on the ancient rocks walls we passed and nature’s raw, untouched quality created an unforgettable feeling that stayed with me for weeks afterward.

When we finally reached our goal, a beach in a bay of the magnificent lake, and swam in the cool, clean waters, it felt like heaven. It was here that I developed the idea of making a hike a “walking meditation” with no goal in mind. My body registered the subtle energies around me better when I wasn’t thinking that the hike was a long one. The “now” began to predominate, and when it clicks, when it happens, is a very liberating, enjoyable feeling.

A moment’s respite, Mount Revelstoke, British Columbia

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