I Hike, Because…


I hike because…

  • no one expects anything from me in the woods
  • the only responsibility I have – is to myself
  • the only thing I need to trust – is my determination

I hike because the only way I have been able to find a space for myself in this world where the only hat I am required to wear – is my grit.

I hike because there is something about moss-covered branches, gigantic wild ferns, and rotten tree stumps that help me forget about all the craziness that awaits me outside of the forest boundaries.

I started hiking a few years ago because I, well, I don’t really remember my original reason.

To be honest, I always said I liked hiking, but I never actually hiked. It wasn’t until our family joined Scouts – that I started actually hiking.

At first, I hiked as a way to lose weight. I was at my highest – 318lbs. I couldn’t figure out how to fit going to the gym into my insane schedule. But once a week – I could go straight to the woods on a Friday after work.

I’d ordered our Friday Night Pizza before I stepped on the trail to be delivered shortly after I got home.

And I put one foot in front of the other. I may have stopped at every bench shelf I passed. But I was still putting one foot in front of the other.

I was determined to earn all the badges available to us Adult Scouts.

I was determined to do a lot of things. Even after majorly spraining my ankle quite a few times.

It was after I nearly died on the operating table that I started kicking my hikes into high gear.

But then I hit the deepest depth of my depression: 4 months before the world shut down from an out-of-control pandemic and 5 months before my best friend died.

I stopped hiking.

I stopped moving.

I stopped living.

In the beginning, I silenced my mind as I traversed roots and muddy slopes. At first, I forced my inner voice to shut up. I didn’t want to hear the shit it said. Because I went into the forest to be alone.

And at that time – that meant being divorced from my own thoughts.

After I hit my deepest, darkest, depths of depression 4 months before our world as we knew it shuttered; 4 months after I nearly gave in to my inner voice – believing this world would be better off without me, my soul knew something had to change.

3 months before the pandemic – I hit the trail again.

This time, I urged my inner voice to wake up. To come to the surface. I urged my thoughts to work with me, not against me.

I walked, and walked, and walked that first hike.

I walked until I came to a compromise with myself.

I walked until my thoughts ran out.

5 miles later – I was sore, exhausted, and ready for my next therapy session.

3 months of weekly hikes later – the World stopped. Our lives stopped. Our future…stopped.

And so did my hikes.

You see, I have a hashtag.

#AdventuringIsAHazardousOccupation

Because it is.

At least in my world.

In my world, I blink and completely miss the weathered root system underneath me and before I know it, I am on my hands and knees, circling my ankle to make sure I can still move it as I start laughing because of course I hurt myself again.

And because I have a history of accidents with gravity, I stopped hiking because I didn’t want to be an undue burden on our struggling healthcare system.

And no. The irony is not lost on me. Our healthcare system is struggling 10x harder and I am out here, exploring the woods, with an extra bounce in my step because this year is my year.

Last year I quit my job. 7 months ago now.

I quit my job to follow my dreams.

I quit my job because when my best friend died – I had to rebuild myself.

I had to heal.

And quitting a toxic job that drained every ounce of strength from me – was the compromise.

Something shifted last November as I wrote my first novel.

It wasn’t one thing. Rather, the thing that shifted was a culmination of things. A harem of possibilities that came together to help me realize that I already was the person I wanted to become.

I just needed to believe in myself.

As I was struggling at being a business owner – I had nothing to lose.

So I believed in myself.

The moment I did – everything… shifted…

I have officially lost 60lbs since I started hiking a few years ago. A good 70% of it in the past 7 months.

And now, when I hike, my inner voice and I are one and the same.

And now, when I hike, I listen to the birds as they hop above.

I inhale the fresh air as it mixes with the wet moss.

I look at the top of the trees as my feet safely find their footing.

I savor the grit that mixes with the knowledge that there is an ice-cold Dr. Pepper waiting for me at home.

I feel my heart pounding as I give it a pep-talk to just keep fighting.

And now, when I hike, I hike because it is the only place I can get out of my head yet beam with egotistical pride that I am finally living my dreams.

This year, I know with 100% certainty, that this is going to be my year.

No matter what life throws at me – I know that I can handle it.

Each mile I walk – proves that I will make it through whatever darkness lies ahead.

Because darkness isn’t darkness anymore to me.

Each hike I hike – has shown me that shade is part of nature and so are the places where the sun finds its way through the trees. That in order to experience the sun – you must walk through the shade. Because there is no shade without sun and no sun without shade.

This year, I stopped letting excuses get in my way. Because there are no more excuses that will benefit me.

One of my goals this year, is to hike 52 hikes.

Whether that is 1 a week, or 5 a week – I am going to make it to 52 hikes. And honestly – I am probably going to pass that.

But 52 hikes is the goal.

Why?

Because it’s a promise in the stars to myself that I am investing in my mental health. That I am dedicated to finding balance. That I am committed to 2022 being my year.

I have gone back and forth on whether I wanted to write a debrief after every hike, or not at all, or just an end-of-the-month review.

Seeing as I just completed hike #5 yesterday – this specific post is going to be a Month-in-Review, a culmination of the past 5 hikes.

Here is the data:

And here is what I learned:

  • I am unstoppable.

Adventure on with curiosity,
-Kelly Steele, MBA

P.S. here are some pics from January’s Adventures

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