By Mindy Sink
As I was updating the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver and Boulder, I found myself learning new things—about myself and hiking. I hit the trails mostly on weekends to complete more than 60 hikes for the book in every season. Here are my takeaways that seem relevant to life, both off and on the trail:
1. Meditation doesn’t require sitting still.
I have never been able to meditate. Finding quiet time to sit in a comfortable position and let my mind go still leads to what yoga teachers call “monkey brain.” That is, my thoughts are racing around in my mind. Yet without trying at all, my thoughts would quiet on the trail. In fact, I would mentally plan in advance what problem or issue in my life to think through while on the trail. Then I would arrive, get my backpack ready, set my GPS, and start off… and nothing. By the time I returned to the trailhead after a few miles I felt calmer and sometimes realized that what I had thought was a problem really wasn’t. Om.
2. Be grateful. Or, I like my body.
I recently read an article about how we—as humans—are all increasingly out of touch with our bodies. Essentially what the author was saying is that we aren’t using our bodies, and when there is a problem, there’s a pill to take, so the true cause of a pain or other symptom is often ignored. Add to that all of the body judgment so many of us have about ourselves or others. Rather than just being awed at what our bodies can do, we push them to have certain shapes or skills (or even harm them). When I was signing on to research and write my guidebook, I boasted to my editor, “Imagine the shape I’ll be in!” How embarrassing! Who cares? By trail 30-something I was just grateful to my body for getting me up the sides of mountains and safely back to the trailhead. I stopped caring about my shape and began treating my body with more kindness and appreciation for the hard work it was doing.
3. It’s probably not personal.
I like hiking alone, but I also like to hike with family and friends. I think it’s safer to hike with companions. When I started doing my guidebook research and posting pictures on social media, people came out of the woodwork asking if they could join me. Family, close friends, people I hadn’t seen in years, all asked to hike. “Yes!” I said to every single one. Then many of these same people would vanish mid-text. There was a moment where it bugged me, but as these good intentions piled up, I found my sense of humor and empathy. For one thing, I barely had time to join me on the trail! At any moment, people might be busy with family or work or find themselves ill or not up for a hike in winter, and it doesn’t matter. Instead I saw this as a chance to appreciate that they’d reached out in the first place. (Sometimes it turned out to be a good thing I was hiking alone anyway, as I would get a little lost or discover poor conditions; it was a relief to not feel responsible for another person on the trail.)
4. You got this. Or, believe in you.
Given my deadline, as well as travel plans in another country during peak hiking season, work, family, and just life, I had friends say, “You can’t do it.” Not in a mean way, but in a math way. Ouch! But it’s not personal—and I had a deadline—so I just did the work. Yes, at times things felt out of balance in my life, but it was finite; after some time on the trail, my mind felt calmer, so I wasn’t worried. I honestly didn’t know if I could do it; I just kept hiking and doing the math and moving forward with my deadline/goal in mind.
5. A little stubbornness goes a long way.
I’ve always been a stubborn person, for better or for worse. If you’re into the zodiac, I’m an Aries through and through. There were many times on trails where I was tired or confused or fed up or not sure if I could do it, and I just kept going. For example, I hiked a mile on the wrong trail, turned around to the trailhead and started over, making my 8.5-mile hike a 10.5-mile hike one day. To be sure, this was no Cheryl Strayed moment on the Pacific Crest Trail, just a lady less than an hour’s drive from a comfortable home and a hot meal who was feeling unsure and weary and time-starved. Yet in so many ways in life this lesson can serve as a reminder to push through bouts of discomfort to achieve a goal.
6. Connect where and when possible. (Say hi to your fellow travelers.)
There’s something about being among ancient, massive trees and rocks to make a person feel small in the universe. I ended up doing many hikes in the off-season, and this meant seeing fewer hikers on trails than I would have in the summer months. I would get so excited to see them, ask about trail conditions, and share a laugh about something or other. How amazing to connect with other people! Now that we are so often looking at our little devices, hearing them unexpectedly ping in the wilderness (I used an app on my phone for my GPS), human-to-human connection feels increasingly rare and therefore special when it happens.
7. Preparation is vital.
I think I’m in the majority when I say planning is something I’m planning to get to… eventually. When it came to hiking every weekend, as opposed to just once in a while, I had to train myself to get my backpack prepared ahead of time, to research what I was getting into, to call ahead and ask about possible closures or trail conditions, to maybe buy additional gear, and so much more. The more prepared I was, the more enjoyable the experience—even in less-than-ideal conditions at times.
8. Stopping is just as important as going.
Given my schedule, I often wanted to just get to the end of the trail. Not so fast there! What’s the point if I don’t pause to see where I am? Gosh, the views. So often I was hiking in a place I had driven by my whole life, or even hiked before, but I was seeing it with new eyes, from a different perspective. Yes, I was being mindful. Remember to pause, look around, take a deep breath, and have a moment of gratitude and awareness for being in this time and place.
9. Love begins with the self. Or, keep hydrating.
It’s nice to be pampered and taken care of, and I certainly earned some massages. Yet caring starts on the trail—not after—with doing what your body needs in terms of drinking plenty of water, eating nutritious snacks, and taking a break as opposed to pushing on to the summit or rushing to the finish. When we fill our own cup, so to speak, we can be there for others, too, and research shows that giving to others simply makes us feel good. When I had to plan my own refueling, it reminded me to be kind to myself, to take care of me, and, in that way, I became more able to spread kindness to others I met along the way.
10. It’s the little things.
I didn’t do a thru-hike (or even a full segment of a thru-hike!) or climb a famous mountain or do anything extraordinary, but I did something that challenged me and I’m better for it. It wasn’t about competing or punishing my body; it was about doing something that was fun and finding ways to share it with others. None of us has to be the best, to have the most likes or follows or sponsors; we just get to improve daily and with each new hike.
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.
One of the positive aspects of the current crisis is that more people are going outside more often. Even folks who are not naturally inclined to get moving are doing so. Walking is something nearly everyone can do, but people are also rediscovering the joys of riding a bicycle.
Cycling is an excellent way to be outside while keeping a safe distance. A short spin around the neighborhood is always rejuvenating and can be done quickly. Longer rides close to home are excellent for maintaining healthy habits in this time of social distancing.
Elizabeth Skinner, co-author of Bicycling the Blue Ridge, has noticed that more people have turned to their bicycles for exercise and fresh air. “In the past few weeks, I’ve seen bikes all over my neighborhood: kids on bikes, adults on bikes, bikes strewn all over yards and in driveways. It has reminded me of the freedom and empowerment that I discovered on my bike as a kid.”
As with all outdoor activities, it is important to ride a bicycle safely. Elizabeth shares some simple and practical tips for hopping on your bike and enjoying the great outdoors:
- Check your local guidelines: Visiting parks and trails has been discouraged, and many are not currently open. So choose a place that’s close to home, and verify that it is available for biking. Most importantly, make sure that you comply with local guidelines for social distancing.
- Pick a quiet time to go: Whether you’re zipping around your neighborhood or pedaling along a country road, skip the busiest places at the busiest times. Instead, go whenever and wherever the fewest people are out and about during daylight hours.
- Bring your family: A bicycle ride is more fun when shared with others, but group rides have been highly discouraged. Instead, go alone or share a ride with your immediate family members. Now more than ever, it feels good to get out of the house, out of the yard, and into some open space. Remember to implement bicycling safety practices, such as wearing a helmet, obeying traffic laws, and riding single file.
- Carry what you need: Try to avoid stopping to buy water or snacks. If you think you might need either—or anything else, for that matter—bring it along. A small backpack works nicely.
- Be safe: This isn’t the time for dangerous terrain or daredevil stunts. A serious injury means a trip to the hospital, which could put you at greater risk for exposure to viruses and which could further tax a hospital staff that might already be overwhelmed with patients.
- Keep it clean: Follow guidelines from the CDC to protect yourself. This includes washing hands often; avoiding contact with your mouth, nose, and eyes; and wearing a mask over your mouth and nose while in public.
Elizabeth also encourages cyclists to look ahead to the coming months, when we return to our normal routines. Planning a future trip and imagining where to take your next long ride might be a fun mental exercise for you and your family.
For Elizabeth, that place is the Blue Ridge Parkway. “The beauty and solace of the Blue Ridge mountains is the perfect balm for these stressful, uncertain times.”
Bicycling the Blue Ridge, 6th Edition by Elizabeth and Charlie Skinner is the definitive guide to Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It features detailed, mile-by-mile descriptions that provide information on lodging, restaurants, stores, and bike shops. Professionally designed maps and elevation profiles are also included, so you always know where you are, where you’re going, and what to expect along the way. The guidebook is available wherever books are sold, including bookstores, gift shops, and online retailers.
About the Authors
Elizabeth Skinner and Charlie Skinner have spent the last two decades bicycling, hiking, and exploring the Piedmont, foothills, and mountains of North Carolina. They share their love of outdoor adventuring with two daughters and continue to pass along their years of experience to grateful readers. They live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
If your children are anything like mine, their at-home dream routine is to wake up, play video games, and continue playing video games until they pass out. There is a remedy for this: a daily schedule. The kids might revolt without at least some time for video games, but a good day of structure also includes opportunities for learning and physical activity. My boys’ days at home look like this:
9:00 a.m. — Breakfast:
The boys get free time before 9 a.m., mostly because the 13-year-old likes to sleep in. That gives the 10-year-old a chance to play video games, so he’s happy. At 9 a.m., they are in charge of making their own breakfast, typically some combination of cereal, microwave bacon, and toaster waffles.
9:30 a.m. — Morning Walk:
It’s time for some fresh air, so we go for a neighborhood walk. Of course, we bring our dog too.
10:00 a.m. — Study Time:
If there is homework to be done, this is the time. If not, the boys can choose an alternative, such as sudoku, journaling, or crossword puzzles. If you’re at home, For the Birds Crosswords is a nice way to join in.
Noon — Lunch:
We all eat lunch together and then go for another short walk.
1:00 p.m. — Quiet Time:
The boys are expected to read for 30 minutes. The 10-year-old is into sports books like Phillip Lindsay. The 13-year-old prefers fantasy and is making his way through The Lord of the Rings.
1:30 p.m. — Learn Something New:
The boys choose an educational video to watch on YouTube (e.g., how to use Microsoft Excel); a how-to book to read, like Essential Knots; or we show them how to do something around the house, such as laundry.
2:00 p.m. — Ask Mom or Dad:
There are at-home projects that need doing. The boys can spare 30 minutes to help out.
2:30 p.m. — Free Time:
For a job well done, the kids get to do whatever they’d like, including video games.
3:30 p.m. — Exercise:
The children are expected to spend some time each day getting sweaty. This can include anything from running to playing basketball. In case of bad weather, we turn on an exercise video.
4:00 p.m. — Connect with a Friend:
Call a friend, write a letter to Grandma, send texts to a bunch of buddies—we want our boys to stay connected with the people in their lives.
4:30 p.m. — Study Time:
Here, the boys find something quiet, calming, and educational: Finish homework, read, or work on a puzzle. If they are feeling rambunctious, we’ll send them outside with a bird identification guide or Backyard Bugs to catalog what they see.
5:00 p.m. — Free Time:
If homework is finished, video games are allowed again.
5:30 p.m. — Dinner:
We always eat together at the dinner table.
6:00 p.m. — Family Fun:
We might go on a hike or a bicycle ride, play a board game, or have a Nerf war. Once a week, we even play video games together. This is our time to do something fun as a family.
7:00 p.m. — Movie:
We wind down together with a movie or a television show.
8:30 – 9:00 p.m. — Bedtime:
The boys get one more chance to read (because we love books), or they can go right to bed.
This is currently our Monday–Friday schedule. On the weekends, we let the children enjoy more time with their video games, and we do more activities together. I encourage you to find a routine that works for your family and stick to it. It helps everyone feel a greater sense of “normal” when we know what to expect each day.
Everyone could use a little extra comedy in their lives. Give yourself a rest from the daily stresses, and exercise your sense of humor. Find out what Ole and Lena are up to in two timeless joke books: Ole & Lena: Live Via Satellite and Ole & Lena: A Stud and a Hot Dish.
As we learn in Ole & Lena: A Stud and a Hot Dish, poor Ole had some health concerns after he fell down the stairs. The pain was so severe that Lena rushed him to the emergency room to see a doctor.
Ole said, “It hurts ven I touch my head, my legs, my stomach, and my chest.”
The doctor coolly replied, “Of course it does. You’ve broken your finger.”
The comedy in these books focuses on the dim wits of this infamous Norwegian duo and their continual misunderstandings. If that fits your sense of humor, you’ll love these hilarious joke books. Ole and Lena get everything wrong—from exercise to school to work and, of course, family.
Ole: Lena, you are da only woman I know dat takes an hour to cook minute rice. Who else do you know who has to ask somevun how to boil vater? And vhile ve’re at it, how many people need to look up da recipe for ice cubes?
Lena: Ole! After all da sacrifices I make to put dinner on da table…
Ole: I don’t call ’em sacrifices. I call ’em burnt offerings.
The books are based on the stage performances of Bruce Danielson and Ann Berg. The Minnesota teachers originally took on their roles to fill in between acts at a local school and community variety show. Before long, Bruce and Ann began doing their own shows at venues across the country—and they did so for more than 20 years.
Bruce and Ann adapted their ever-evolving comedy routines into books that capture the spirit of the characters and the sense of humor of the two teachers. Each book includes 96 pages of stories, jokes, visual gags (in the form of photography and Norwegian games), and more. Anyone in need of a good laugh will appreciate the content in these joke books.
Ole & Lena: Live Via Satellite and Ole & Lena: A Stud and a Hot Dish are priced at $6.95 each. They are available wherever books are sold, including bookstores, gift shops, and online retailers.
Libraries are a cornerstone of healthy and vibrant communities. They serve so many roles and meet the needs of so many people. Using data from all over California, the Panorama Project identified the state’s most requested book–that they didn’t have available–with the idea of “what are libraries and bookstores missing? What titles are their patrons really after?”
It should come as no surprise to anyone in the local library space that the title with the most unmet demand in libraries in California over the summer was a regionally focused travel guide: Tom Courtney’s Walkabout Northern California. Library patrons are looking for local travel books. They want to get out and explore their unique communities and skip the tourist traps. These are just a couple of reasons that people seek out books like Walkabout Northern California at their local library.
Published by Wilderness Press, Walkabout Northern California describes 14 walks in the wilds of Northern California, and each entry includes “a map, mile-by-mile details of the route, logistical tips on places to stay and eat, and inspirational ideas to simplify your travel and reconnect with nature’s rhythm.”
Wilderness Press books are available through AdventureKEEN’s full catalog, as well as through all the standard library distribution channels such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Wilderness Press is attending ALA and PLA this year. We are happy to help support libraries and want to make sure that our local nature and travel titles are available to everyone.
Saturday, February 22, is National California Day. The tradition of celebrating each state with its own day began in 2017. Starting on the week of Independence Day, each state was given a day by National Day Calendar®, based on the order in which it entered the union. As the 31st state (admitted September 9, 1850), California’s day falls in the 31st week after July 4. How does one celebrate? National Day Calendar suggests that you “take a tour of California and find something new to discover.” At AdventureKEEN, we think a fantastic way to do that is by tackling a few hiking trails!
Your National California Day can include a breathtaking hike to North America’s tallest waterfall, Yosemite Falls. Or traverse the McWay Waterfall Trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the unparalleled beauty of mountains meeting coastline. Explore the awe-inspiring forests and giant trees at the Redwood National and State Parks. Experienced hikers and backpackers might want to explore the challenging Lost Coast Trail.
Regardless of where you find yourself—or at what skill level of hiking—chances are good that there are beautiful hiking trails nearby, perfect for you. If you aren’t sure how to begin your National California Day outing, you’re in luck. AdventureKEEN has been helping people like you get outdoors and into nature for more than 50 years. The popular guidebooks 101 Hikes in Northern California and 101 Hikes in Southern California are great places to start.
Written by hiking expert Matt Heid, 101 Hikes in Northern California benefits readers by narrowing down the multitude of options for hiking in Northern California to the very best of the best adventures. It covers hiking trails in the northern two-thirds of the state, including nearly the entirety of the Sierra Nevada, south to Kings Canyon National Park, and the entire Big Sur region along the coast, south to Silver Peak Wilderness.
The southern portion of the state is covered in 101 Hikes in Southern California by Jerry Schad and David Money Harris. For National California Day, you can trek the diverse terrain—from desert to beach to mountaintop—on an easy stroll or overnight excursion. The guidebook covers the Santa Monica, San Gabriel, San Jacinto, and San Bernardino mountains; the Mojave and Colorado deserts; and many more iconic locales.
These guides are unique in the amount of natural history information they provide, and they include essential directions for completing a trip. Best of all, you can find hiking trails within a short drive of you; recommended outings are spread out across the entire state.
Now is a great time to get outdoors and celebrate National California Day. Countless opportunities await. And if you aren’t in California, no problem. Find a hike near you, and enjoy the Great Outdoors!