I finish this post with all of us on the cusp of what normally is a joyous season filled with friends and family. This year our world looks different. I can only imagine that you too have struggled to find meaning and joy during this hard time. That you have also had to stretch yourself in ways you never have before. With all this change and growing and hard, life can seem just so heavy and challenging. You know me though. Always one to also look for the lesson. As annoying as it is to hear that voice at times, it always shows up eventually.
If you are here for some hiking location ideas and not the personal post I’m sharing with my hikes today, then scroll down. I am so excited for you to get out there. Happy hiking!
I should be honest. I wasn’t always a focus on the positive kind of person more than not. It has taken YEARS of learning and unlearning to find myself in my current headspace. Of course I still complain. I still vent (just ask my husband), but largely I am growing into this practice of gratitude and finding joy in every season. I am proud to say I have worked hard to seek the lesson life is teaching in whatever unfair, hard or frustrating way the lesson is being taught. Perhaps this year the lens through which I view my life has been focused a bit more because of my experiences.
This year has brought more ups and downs than any rollercoaster I have been on before or at least it is a tie. For those that know me well, you know this year carries a lot more weight than just the obvious COVID. 2020 has really been a year for those unexpected things that would make any year really hard and overwhelming and challenging… and then life also said, “let’s do those things AND a pandemic.” I know of SO many others also experiencing crazy hard, heart wrenching and challenging times this year that are in addition to this little virus that has forever changed us.
Yet somehow I remain stronger than I have in other hard seasons. I gravitated at times to my unhealthy habits of my past as a means to control and when I felt out of control. It’s normal to do that in times of hard. I also sought out exercise to boost the natural chemicals in my brain. I found peace in stillness and pause. I deepened my yoga practice. I began meditating. I worked on my relationship with myself. I practiced creating boundaries that helped me to thrive.
Perhaps the most meaningful and transformative thing I did though was continue the goal I set at the start of this year before I knew much of COVID. A goal I set before I knew that I would spend 4 months of this year and counting not running due to an injury during perhaps one of the hardest seasons of our lives. Little did I know when making this goal during the last days of December 2019 just what this goal would do for me. It ended up being one of my only goals that wasn’t canceled. It kept me pushing myself to get outside and get up. It motivated me to create meaningful experiences for my family. It was my solace on my broken days when it seemed 2020 would re-expose every break I’ve ever had.
There is something about the power of nature to open its branches to you and take on your burdens. The leaves seem to nod in encouragement while the empathizing sky absorbs the sorrows of your past and present. There is trust in those tree trunks. When you leave the woods behind, you just know they will hold that information and turn it into something beautiful…a peaceful stillness, a spring blooming flower, a forest bursting with autumn colors, a green canopy of cool on a hot summer day or a magical sunset to inspire hope in the darkest of times. And all without saying a word. A silent conversation. A healing release. A secret between you and the trees and the Earth. The only clues of your presence the fading footprints in the dirt and the ones forever in your heart and soul.
As you close out the year and head into a new year, a blank calendar of opportunities, I urge you to take some steps outdoors amongst the trees. There is so much healing power waiting there. It might feel silly at first. Unnatural. Un-you. Give it time. Embrace a new experience.
Here is the second half of my journey this year (52 Hike Challenge-Part 1). With snacks and a portable potty seat safely traveling to our destinations was never an issue.
#27-Harrington Beach State Park (Whitetail Trail, Quarry Trail Loop and South Lakeshore Trail)
#28-Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve
#30-Copper Falls State Park (Doughboy Trail)
#31-Potato River Falls (Upper and Lower Falls Trail)
#32-Superior Falls (MI)
#33-Interstate Falls (MI)
#34-Dells of the Eau Claire (North River Trail + Ice Age Trail)
#36-Buena Vista Trail
#37-Willow River State Park
#38-Kinnickinic State Park
#39-Presque Isle River Scenic Area (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Area-MI)
#40-Escarpement Trail (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Area-MI)
#41-Jay Cooke State Park (Wild Valley Rd–>Jay Cooke State Park-Superior Hiking Trail-MN)
#42-Ely’s Peak (Jay Cooke State Park–>Spirit Mountain Campground-Superior Hiking Trail-MN)
#43-Hartley Nature Center (Chester Woods Trail–>Martin Road-Superior Hiking Trail-MN)
#45-Perrot State Park (White Pine Run)
#46-Levis Trow Mounds Recreational Area
#47-Mt. Simon Area (Eau Claire)
#48-Perrot State Park (Brady’s Bluff)
#49-Perrot State Park (Walnut Nature Trail and Riverview Trail)
#50-Tettegouche State Park (MN-High Falls)
#51-Tettegouche State Park (MN-Shovel Point)
#52-Miller Bluff, Hixon Forest
It made sense to me to end my 52 Hike Challenge on the same trail I began it on in mid-January of this year. I retraced my footsteps a different version of myself. I climbed that bluff more aware of myself than when this challenge began, yet also in a world I could never have imagined living in.
#53-Mill Bluff State Park
Bonus “Hikes”: Two really short walks, so I did not count either in my 52 Hike Challenge, but are in my top 5 places visited this year: Palisade Head and Black Beach.
On hike #52 I made sure to pause and just listen and feel it all. With a hand on my heart and a hand on the Earth, I was filled with so much gratitude for the moments, healing and perspective this challenge brought me. In a year that has been so crazy, hard and heavy, these hiking boots (and shoes) have kept me more than grounded. I know this challenge isn’t over yet.
Where are your feet taking you next?