No one would ever describe me as an athlete, so I am probably late to the game in appreciating my body’s functionality. Being blessed with good genes so that I’m generally healthy also means that I tend to take my body for granted.
The truth is, I long thought of my body in terms of how it looked, how it fit into clothes, or how it was judged by others (the weird mental woman’s work of developing opinions of my own body based on what others might think).
When I set out to update the guidebook 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Denver and Boulder in late 2018, I pictured myself getting buff and toned and looking better than ever as I traipsed along Colorado’s Front Range trails more than once a week. I look back on that and shake my head, thinking, “What foolishness.” Note that I was thinking how I would look, not feel.
It takes actually using your body to appreciate it rather than judge it. Otherwise, we might miss important messages from our bodies that can direct our wellness—or underestimate our abilities as we sit back and demand that the body just be as we wish.
A Scientific American article titled “We’ve Lost Touch with Our Bodies” looks at how a combination of medications, technology, and our modern culture have led to many problems in which we are increasingly disconnected from our own bodies. Without going into great detail, the concept is called interoception, and it’s about how our mind receives and responds to basic internal signals from the body such as hunger and thirst. When we numb ourselves through medicines, screens, and more, then the messages don’t get through.
I certainly wasn’t feeling out of touch with my body, but I do think that a full-time office job and daily commute meant my body—like so many others—had morphed into the shape of a dining room chair, and I didn’t give it much thought. As long as I wasn’t sick, made it to a yoga class and the gym every so often, and fit into my favorite jeans, there was nothing to think about, right?
Body image is a complex topic for both men and women, and it changes with age, not just size. Psychology Today did extensive surveys on body image over the decades and concluded that, despite discontent with their bodies, people would rather be assessed for what they do, not how they look.
Somewhere on about hike 30-something in the middle of one of the snowiest Colorado winters in years, I began to think differently about my body, as I needed more energy and muscle to get from trailhead to peak and back, over and over again. I forgot all about how my body looked or might look in the near future and instead focused on what it needed from me in terms of types of food, hydration, and rest. My goal was essentially the same—complete all 60 hikes by deadline—but how my pants fit was no longer on my mind.
I developed a new respect for the hard work my body was doing as I tackled trails with thousands of feet of elevation gain in just a few miles, pushed myself to get up pre-dawn to be on the trail, and then asked my body to do it all again the next day or a couple of days later. I became grateful to my body for making it possible for me to meet my goals, and I showed this by making sure I ate protein-rich foods along with fresh vegetables and fruit, had enough snacks and water with me on each hike, and soaked in plenty of Epsom salts when I got home.
I started off as a slow hiker, and I finished as a slow hiker. My pants fit exactly the same on my last hike as my first. And I was thrilled with my body!
I learned that what matters is how you feel, not how you look.
National Wildflower Week ends this Sunday, May 10, 2020. The photos and posts being shared online with the hashtag #NationalWildflowerWeek have been a welcome window into the wild while sheltering at home (and we do hope you’re safe at home these days!).
There are many types of wildflowers and many purposes that native wildflowers serve. The shelter they provide to insects (think links in the food chain) and the diversity they bring to an area’s ecosystem are both very important. Then there is the beauty factor.
It is a surreal feeling to be out on a hike, make a turn, and be greeted with a field bursting in color. Or to emerge from a pine grove or ravine and see flowers laid out like a carpet before you. Leonard M. Adkins, author of Wildflowers of the Appalachian Trail, credits wildflowers as an inspiration for him.
“As the miles drew me northward, I could not ignore the attractive pink petals of spring beauty ﬂowers delivering the promise of warmer days to come. It seemed everywhere I looked tiny bluets spread out in lengthy carpets along the edges of the trail, mirroring the clarity of the sky above me, while flame azalea reﬂected the sunsets of which I was so fond. How could I have been so ignorant of such an exquisite element of the Appalachian Trail? How could I have always been questing after the big picture, while overlooking the smaller elements that make up the whole? It was time to learn more about this natural world of which I was becoming a part.”
When I read that quote, “ignorant” is the word that resonates with me the most. Nature has a way of instructing us and showing us just how little we know and how often we’re looking at the wrong things. All the more reason to keep books nearby and measure your own adventures and outdoor experiences by the folks who have done it before.
Wildflowers are a wonderfully simple reminder of the joys you can find on and around the Appalachian Trail. And, if you’re safe at home these days, the colors you’ll see while learning the varieties make for a rewarding break in the day. We hope you’re well and able to get outside soon.
by Mindy Sink
I recently wrote about some of the things I learned while researching my new guidebook, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Denver and Boulder. One of the lessons I learned in my research was that preparing for various conditions and possibilities along the trail is key to a good hiking experience.
In the post I said, “The more prepared I was, the more enjoyable the experience.” By this I meant that I had water, snacks, hand warmers, a trail map, bandages, sunscreen, a hat, and so on. I found that when I took a little time to research what conditions I might expect, what the elevation gain would be, and other basics that would affect how long I would be out (how much food and water I needed, for example) that I could enjoy myself more.
Yet in a world of Facebook groups for all kinds of hikers and apps to show how crowded the parking lots are or where hikers can share photos from the trail the day before, some of the spontaneous fun of heading out in nature can be lost.
Here’s a little story in which good preparation led me to an unexpected adventure. I wanted to get in a hike on a later summer afternoon (okay, maybe it was more like early evening). My husband said, “You’re going to need a flashlight or a headlamp,” as I left the house. I said, “Really? OK, I’ll throw one in.” When the last 2 miles of my 6-mile hike were in the dark, I was very glad to have that flashlight—and I have never hiked without it since. Because I had a flashlight, I safely hiked in the light of the moon!
I recently read a query in a Facebook group for hikers in which someone described everything he had learned about a specific trail, but he just wanted to know what else to expect. Who knows? Maybe you’ll hear a hummingbird zip past your head, see a deer grazing in the trees, glimpse a moose wandering by, pick up the scent of a new flower in bloom, or watch the morning light hitting the rock just so as a snake slithers over it. No two people will have the same hike from one day to the next. Part of the joy of being in nature is the unexpected. The adventure of hiking lies in what doesn’t make it onto Instagram—those moments that take you by surprise in spite of your planning.
I can think of so many hiking experiences that make me laugh because things didn’t go as planned. There was a group hike in Eldorado Canyon State Park where the wind just wouldn’t let up, and at one point I was holding onto a tree to keep steady! I was prepared with a warm coat with a hood, but the adventure was in finding ways to block the wind in a group as we kept moving. Another time I went to the wrong trailhead, completed a hike, realized my mistake, found the “right” trailhead, and did that hike too. Then I decided that I liked the “wrong” hike better and put that one in my book instead.
It’s not that a little insight isn’t helpful, but it’s OK to learn from just trying, even if you have to make more than one attempt. Those accumulated experiences become part of your preparation. In doing research for my book, I found that, much like restaurant review sites, hiking reviews can be a bit misleading if not inaccurate and can therefore create missed opportunities for others. In doing some basic research for the land agency website for a trail, I found that people had been leaving reviews for the wrong trail, in one instance.
Life is made up of stories. A year or so of hiking by myself, with family, and with friends has resulted in a patchwork quilt of tales to tell and reminisce over together—not a string of hikes just like someone else’s.
Hit the trail with some preparation, but keep your eyes wide open for the unexpected joys of being outdoors.
About the Author
Mindy Sink is the author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver and Boulder and Walking Denver, which her daughter, Sophie Seymour, contributed to. She contributes regularly to The Denver Post, Colorado Parent, and other publications. Before becoming a guidebook author, Mindy worked for The New York Times Rocky Mountain Bureau, covering regional topics. Mindy also works in healthcare communications. She lives in Denver with her husband, Mike Seymour; their daughter, Sophie; and the family’s non-hiking cat, Marvel.
The post Preparation Is Vital, But Leave Room for Adventure Too appeared first on Menasha Ridge Press Blog.
Given the current situation and guidelines for sheltering in place, some families might need to get creative with Mother’s Day gifts this year. If you can’t take the matriarch in your household out for dinner and haven’t found any perfect mom gifts, we’ve got you covered. Following are 10 ways to celebrate while social distancing.
1. Serve breakfast in bed.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Even toast and orange juice will send the message, especially if the children are the ones to prepare and serve it. If you feel like upping the ante, grab a favorite cookbook like Good Food from Mrs. Sundberg’s Kitchen, and make some eye-opening dish like baked apple pancakes or bacon cornbread.
2. Clean the house.
As far as Mother’s Day gifts go, this doesn’t need much explanation. Let Mom rest, relax, and pamper herself while the rest of the family takes care of all the cleaning. That means folding the laundry too!
3. Give her a homemade gift.
Have the kids make something special. Write a poem. Draw a picture. Color a coloring page. Build a LEGO creation. These tend to be the best mom gifts, even when we’re not staying home for the holiday.
4. Have a backyard picnic.
If you served breakfast in bed and are planning something special for dinner, a simple lunch sounds lovely. Cold-cut sandwiches and chips never taste better than when you’re sitting outside, enjoying a family picnic. Grilled hot dogs work too. Serve with homemade lemonade (8 cups water, 1 3/4 cups sugar, and 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice).
5. Take a family walk.
Some of the best Mother’s Day gifts are simply time spent together. Make time to go on a walk and enjoy a bit more of your neighborhood’s fresh air and splendid sights. Bring a bird-watching guide and go birding for added entertainment.
6. Go on a bicycle ride.
If Mom wants to be outside even longer and venture a bit farther, you can hop on your bicycles after or instead of your family walk.
7. Cook her favorite dinner.
You know what she likes best. Planning and preparing her favorite meal ranks high on the list of mom gifts. At our house, it’s grilled chicken kabobs.
8. Rent her favorite movie.
The digital age makes it pretty easy to rent movies online. Gather around the TV, and let Mom pick a movie to watch together.
9. Go stargazing.
This makes for a very special memory if it’s something you don’t often do, so it’s a perfect finale for your Mother’s Day gifts. After dark, bring that picnic blanket back outside. Lie down together and look at the stars and the moon. With a little prep work—or a copy of Night Sky in hand—you can even identify a few constellations, such as Ursa Major and Leo. Venus will also shine brightly, halfway up the western sky.
10. Hug her . . . a lot.
It may not be the Mother’s Day any of us were planning, but where would we be during this crazy time without the love and support of Mom? Take time to give her plenty of hugs throughout the day. She deserves them.
There is something that teachers have known for a long time – journaling is a great way to get kids engaged in learning. It forces them to think critically about what they’re seeing, dealing with, and feeling. That skill sounds pretty handy right about now, doesn’t it? We hope you’re doing well and are able to stay safe at home. And if you’re at home with kids, we hope you’re able to get them outdoors (safely distanced), engaging with what nature has to teach them.
It’s only a half step beyond what teachers know to see the value in putting a notebook in your children’s hands and have them log entries into a nature journal. The journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a place for your kids to record what they’re seeing around them, when outside. A nature journal or nature log becomes immediately valuable to children because it’s made up of their own artwork. It’s their own record of their world. And it’s their own personally made keepsake when things go back to normal and they do finally get to go beyond the backyard.
Keeping a nature log isn’t just a writing exercise. A good nature log book will include factoids, trivia questions, games to play, and a place to doodle. It helps to get your kids looking at their world from all kinds of different angles and using different ways to express what they’re seeing. It’s all about getting kids engaged with the world as they’re experiencing it. Plus, they’ll enjoy showing off their artwork and recounting what they saw to family members.
Nature Log for Kids
One good example of the above ideas is the Nature Log Kids book by Adventure Publications. It’s a kid’s journal with space to record nature experiences. It includes nature facts, games, experiments, crafts, and ways to help the Earth. So the experience can go beyond just a writing exercise to help guard against boredom and encourage kids to take a deeper look into nature.
And once everything opens back up, think about keeping a notebook, journal, or one of the Nature Log Kids books in the car or your child’s bag, so that it’s always at hand.
We hope you and your family are well and able to get outside safely.
The world is a weird place (and probably not the safest to explore) right now. We hope you’re tucked in and doing OK. Staying healthy. And staying home. But if you are (and if you’re like us around the office at Menasha Ridge Press), you’re definitely longing for a backpacking trip. To be out in the woods, alone, sounds pretty good right now, if we’re honest. And in the spirit of encouragement we’re thinking about learning some new backpacking skills, specifically in the “ultra-light category.”
This is an area that appeals to a lot of backpackers, but it can also be scary, as you don’t want to go “all in” and then find yourself on day two out on the trail, missing some crucial piece of gear. So we’re thinking. . . while we’re stuck at home, why not practice in the backyard? That way we can run inside if we need an extra layer or make adjustments so that we’re ready when all of the trails and parks open back up.
To tackle this project, let’s consult Rick Light’s Backpacking the Lightway. Rick has years of practice in this area and has a solid sense of how to help more traditional backpackers make the transition to a lighter load.
Modular Packing Systems
Rick is big on organization. You certainly have to be when every milligram counts. In the book, he makes the case for developing a personal modular system based around certain categories of essentials with your trip in mind. Each “system” is actually just a stuff sack with the required gear. Imagine being so organized that you could go to your gear closet and grab your Warm Weather Layers System, Medical System, Nutrition System, etc. That’s the dream, folks. And it helps take some of the questions and anxiety out of “going light.”
The nine systems Light recommends are:
- Hiking System (things worn, not packed, like poles, boots, etc.)
- Clothing System
- Shelter, Sleeping, and Lighting System
- Navigation System
- First-Aid, Repair, and Personal-Hygiene System
- Communication System
- Fire System
- Nutrition System
- Specialty-Gear System
Even though we’re just practicing in the backyard, it’s a great exercise to think about each gear list (make sure you read through the official Leave No Trace guidelines) and what all would go into your systems, put each system together, and then . . . get it all into the pack. And not just into your pack, but balanced well (yikes!).
Because everything must go in the pack (even for our backyard practice run) it’s helpful to think about organizing around these modular systems. Learning to take some weight out of your pack isn’t always about doing without or just buying lighter, more expensive gear. It’s mainly about being smarter and prepared in a way you don’t have to be when you’re just throwing everything into the backpack.
So stay home, stay safe, and pick up some new camping skills while you’re home. Richard Light’s Backpacking the Light Way is a solid read for folks just starting to explore the world of ultra-light backpacking.