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Take A Hike

Golden Eagle Trail

Beth Simon

I grew up in the mountains of central PA, idyllic scenery to most, not to me. I despised it. I had seen enough trees and nature to last a lifetime. You couldn’t have paid me to go for a hike in the woods when I was a kid. Although all this nature was literally right outside my door, I wanted no part of it. Give me a city sidewalk, bustling streets, noise and I loved it.  So, the saying goes… “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” never rang truer for me. I never really wound up getting too far away from my mountain home, but being in a larger more metropolitan area, I began to miss those familiar pines and poplars. It wasn’t until I was turning 30 that I thought about hiking and really dove in head first.

A trail race had started near my hometown and it piqued my interest. I immediately put the rugged 25K on the “I’m turning 30 bucket list” along with other adventures like doing a polar bear plunge and traveling. I’m not even sure that I knew how long 25K was when I first put this on my list, but I soon learned that it’s far. I also learned that the actual distance of a trail race may vary from its advertised mileage based on the number of times you cross the same stream and that trail runners have a really twisted sense of humor about things like that.

The really cool thing about hiking is that it’s just walking… but in the woods. So, if you can walk, you can hike. Yes, there may be a little more nature than some may like, including dirt in your socks, rocks and roots as tripping hazards, streams to cross, or animals to encounter, etc., but that’s what made it even more interesting to me.

There are so many health benefits to hiking that are just a biproduct of having fun. I started hiking with family, whom I soon learned were much faster than me. So, I joined a Facebook group for local hikers/trail runners in my area and made friends who slog (slow jog) at my pace. I found my people. My trail family; part friend, part therapist, part comedian, and most importantly adventurers. In addition to the health benefits I was receiving by hiking, I enjoyed the comradery of like-minded individuals (“trail crazies” as they are affectionately called) who were up for adventures and getting lost in the woods.

In addition to being a great cardio activity being in nature has proven to boost your immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and increase energy levels. Geesh! What else do you need? November 17th is “Take a Hike Day.” I challenge you to get outside and enjoy some of the fine mountains Pennsylvania has to offer. Take your lunch break or an hour before or after work to take a hike and enjoy the benefits nature has to offer. I promise you won’t regret it. I only regret not starting when I was younger, so I would have had more time to explore and enjoy our beautiful PA mountains. Now, Get Outside!

Below are links to:
PA Department of Conservation (DCNR) on “Connecting People to Nature”
Health benefits of being in nature
Tips on gear and how to get started

Interested in reading more about Trail Running Races and Events in Central PA: https://www.patraildogs.com/

You’re never too young to enjoy nature or start hiking. Here is some information on Central PA events that are FREE for children under the age of 12. Free Trail Races for Children: https://www.patraildogs.com/kids-trail-races

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