Hiking is a hobby. I hike because I really enjoy the entire routine. As a hiker, waking up at the crack of dawn, driving a good distance, and arriving at an unfamiliar place to explore excites me. An alarm ringing at 5:00 AM on a workday is not something I look forward to, but no matter what time the buzzing begins on a hike day, I hop out of bed with exuberance. The activity, the sights, the silence, the sense of adventure - I love it all.
Naturally, most people don't consider somebody partaking in a hobby that they enjoy as any type of tangible accomplishment, but I would say it most certainly is. I'm not relegating this belief to only hiking either. There is something amazing that happens when one truly accepts and embraces something they love doing. I would argue that committing yourself to any beneficial activity is notable in itself. In an age where one can become glued to a device and watch any number of amazing things on a screen, many people simply watch and choose not to experience.
I have myself been guilty of non-committal in the past and found myself focusing almost all of my energy on going to work and paying my bills. Sure, I would break the cycle from time to time, but not in a consistent or beneficial fashion and not always for my own personal enjoyment. My tunnel-vision served only as an excuse for making unhealthy choices. I loved fishing and rarely went, I wanted to exercise and simply neglected to do so, and I knew I wanted to get out on a hiking trail, but hadn't gone in years.
My reunion with hiking on Mother's Day 2017 in Ramapo Mountain State Park was really more like a saunter in the rain that turned into a bit of a trudge as we wound up losing the trail. We wandered around without a true goal and spent no more than 2 or 3 hours out there. My best friend's mother and sister and our friend, Seany, were along for the hike. None of us had been on a true hike in quite awhile and, although we had a great time, I wouldn't consider this much of an accomplishment.
However, after enjoying myself so much on that initial trip, I decided that I wanted to hike more and I committed myself to doing so. As with any new endeavor, I intensely researched the topic online and began to acquire the necessary equipment. I remember searching "Hiking NJ" for the first time and immediately becoming excited by the myriad of options available.
I would say the first accomplishment was deciding to return to Ramapo Mountain to properly enjoy the trail. On this return trip in July, I was much better prepared - I mapped out our route, had a goal set (Van Slyke Castle), and I had maintained a consistent workout regimen for the previous 2 months. The day was perfect for a hike and the forest was at the peak of it lushness. We made it to the castle ruins and I caught my first glimpse of the NYC skyline from the mountains. The trip was a success and I was determined to continue.
Later that month, on my birthday, my decision to go on my first solo hike was the next accomplishment. Although I had plans to hike with a friend of mine, the plans fell through. Instead of rescheduling, I went for a hike to Osio Rock on my own. The sensation of being out in the woods alone is much different from that of hiking with others. I relaxed on one of the armchairs made out of slabs of rock in the "Living Room" and took time to think and breath deeply atop a boulder. This experience may have been entirely different if I chose to wait on others.
Now, with a few weekly hikes under my belt, I had fully committed to this consistent beneficial habit. Each and every week, I would hike at least once and most of the time I would do it alone. At the end of August, I decided to test my limits and hike the nearly 10-mile Stonetown Circular. Up to this point, I had been completing hikes that were about 5-6 miles long and this particular trail is known to be a bit tough. Sure, I may have run out of water and lost the trail at one point, but when I finally got back to my car I knew I had accomplished something.
In October, taking a trip to Virginia to hike in Shenandoah National Park was another milestone to celebrate as it was my first time hiking in an entirely new region. This committed me deeper to my hobby and opened up my eyes to even more options. Driving to Virginia, stopping in Washington D.C. on the way, checking out the Luray Caverns, and heading through attractive, quaint rural towns kept my brain well-stimulated as we took in the sights and sounds of a brand new place.
Other perceived achievements followed, including setting up a campsite and hiking an almost 14-mile loop, my first winter hike, and now committing to the 52-week challenge. With each achievement came some progress and when looking back on the experience as a whole, it is amazing to examine the knowledge and awareness that is gained from simply throwing yourself into something passionately.
Once I had committed to hike and began to recognize milestones, I naturally began to branch out further and further into the topic. My options have expanded as I continue to discover new places to go and things to see. The benefits of this activity have been noticeable both mentally and physically and they occurred organically.
Every step along the way matters and achievement doesn't always mean completion. Whatever it is that you have been wanting to do, commitment is that first step. From there, enjoy yourself, determine your own goals, and recognize when you do something worth celebrating.