There is a distinct time I remember of when I was a young girl. My father had made me upset and, in typical childhood fashion, I decided to run away from home. I made it as far as the old maple tree in our front yard. I climbed the tree, and sat there quietly in my own thoughts. Peace came over me, and I calmed down enough to return home.
When I reached my mid-twenties, I found myself broken and tired, not feeling like I fit the mold. I was upset with my life, and those closest to me felt it. Despite the fact that I had done everything I wanted, I still wasn't satisfied. Around that same time, my husband and I had a friend visit us from Switzerland. She told us about all of her outdoor adventures- hiking, camping, and sailing- they sounded magical. While she was visiting, we took her to Zion National Park, which is just a few hours from our home. Even though we had been there before, this visit to the park was different from our other visits. While we were on a short hike, our friend taught us to see the beauty around us and feel a peace we never thought was possible. On that hike, I fell in love with the wilderness. I found more than just beauty and peace, I found myself.
From that point on, we were hooked. We spent every weekend outdoors, finding peace and refocusing. We started with short, local, well-known trails populated with other people. Then, we progressed to more difficult, unfamiliar trails where we rarely saw other people. Over a period of nine months, we hiked over two-hundred miles. We hiked whenever we could. We discovered beautiful wild flowers, breath-taking scenery, and steep mountains. For us, it was like taking a vacation every single weekend.
Nature taught us lessons along the way. It taught us about our limitations and our capabilities. We started out afraid to leave a paved path or climb up a short boulder. Over time, however, we learned to go on less-trodden paths and scale mountains. We learned to not compare ourselves to others. We would see others hiking and doing better than us. At first, this discouraged us. Then, we heard the phrase "hike your own hike" while listening to the radio one day. This simple, yet impactful, phrase has become our motto for both hiking and life. Another invaluable lesson we learned from nature was how to love in a way we didn't know was possible. When we started our hiking adventures, our hearts and souls were broken, and we didn't know how to fix them. Going into the wild taught us that, though we may be flawed, we can love. Our bodies were strengthened and our souls were healed.
Every time I go into nature, I think about this quote from John Muir,
Take some time to get into nature. You never know what you might learn. Find a quiet trail and listen to your spirit. You just might feel your troubles being washed away.