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Where I Belong is Only a Hike Away

Am I the only one who suffers from mid-life anxiety every single day? Add COVID concerns, being more concerned with wearing a mask than wearing underwear…? I didn’t think I was by myself, but I figured I’d ask… so I’m going to try something not so new. Let’s try exercise and a little bit of self-care and see what happens. You with me? Let’s get moving then… like actually moving.

I started hiking. If you haven’t tried hiking, I recommend it. Totally and completely, especially for my buddies in the anxiety clique. It puts you in a whole new place, literally and figuratively. A friend of mine, we’ll call her Mazz, is a true lover of the concrete jungle. Give her Boston traffic over the beautiful sounds of nature any day, and yet, she would get anxiety in the mall; The first thing she did, every time, was map out the closest exit – what is the straightest route to my car, my safe space, my escape? This is no joke!

I took her hiking one day, her birthday of all days, and now we go weekly! We’ve been lost and off-trail a dozen times and not once did it occur to her to get anxious. When I pointed it out to her, she was stunned. “OH MY GOD,” she said, “YOU’RE RIGHT!” The relief on her face was truly remarkable. Now she asks, “where can we go next?” The best part is that the answer is, “ANYWHERE WE WANT!” There is a whole world with trails to explore, mountains to traverse, lakes and rivers and waterfalls and gorges and on and on and on… endless.

I am blessed to live in New England (and, to all you snow haters out there, yes, I do mean blessed!). My first “real” hike was in the White Mountains, a peak called Mt Roberts. 5.2 miles, 2582 feet of elevation. It. Kicked. My. Butt. I sat down in the middle of the trail, gasping for breath, feeling anything but athletic. My cousin (who, at almost 50, can do 2 of these hikes IN A DAY…) asked if I was going to puke. Thankfully, no. When I reached the top, looking at Lake Winnipesaukee in all of its breathtaking glory, all I could think was I DID IT. And… wait for it… if I did it once, I can do it again. That was last May. It’s now April of 2021 and I have completed 25 more hikes, totaling 114 miles and 19976 feet of elevation.

So, I decided, if this is working for Mazz and me, why couldn’t it work for others? I picked a group of people, local moms that may or may not know each other and I sent an email that basically said, “Hey all, I’ve started hiking and it’s doing wonders for my mental and physical health. I was wondering if any of you would like to join me on some hikes in the New England area.” I got a couple of people that said “Sure, let me know where and when,” and a couple of “Thanks but I’m not ready for that right now.” For those that came along, it’s been a lot of “WOW! I’M EXHAUSTED AND I FEEL GREAT! LOOK AT THAT VIEW, LOOK HOW FAR WE CAME!!!”

A mixed group of ladies, all different sizes, shapes, ages, and fitness levels, looking at the same view, all feeling elated and I’m sure a plethora of other personal emotions, who worked together to get there. Reading maps, navigating inclines, and some seriously cool rocks. Encouraging each other, cursing whoever picked this particular hike, and honestly loving every minute of it. The picture from the top shows us, sweating, red-faced, looking not so pretty, but as beautiful as the view. A woman with pride in her eyes is as pretty a picture as there ever was.

So, my friends, if you are looking for a great way to get a little exercise, explore new places, see AMAZING views, and kick a little anxiety butt… well… hiking is my therapy.

Give it a try, it may become yours too. I’ll see you at the top!

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