Last Tuesday it snowed and with it cold temperatures, very cold temperatures. Wind chill in the Cove was in the negative digits.
Tuesday was also my day off. It had been a week since my last hike and was fittin’ for one. Fittin’? If you live to hike and be outside in the woods and in the mountains like I do then you know what I mean by fittin’. It’s that moment when you start to twitch and maybe even have some irritability. And all you think about is the outdoors and your favorite trail. Everyday routine and technology begins to drive you nuts and looking at other peoples hiking pics on Facebook or Instagram isn’t helping your fittin’. Oh, if you’re an avid hiker you know exactly what I’m fittin’ is.
So I set out for Canoe Creek State Park. When I arrive it had started to snow again. It wasn’t heavy, but just enough to distort my view as the wind blew white flakes in my eyes.
I was determined to get out in the wood. Snow, wind and cold were not going to be a deterrent. I was prepared both physically and mentally.
I started out on Limestone Trail to SmithHillside to Mattern and down to Marsh Trail. Not only did I put in some miles, I also put in a good workout. Mattern and Smith Hillside have some elevations. Add to it snow and ice and your in for a thigh burning workout. Which I felt for two days after.
It was here I stopped for a break. I had worked up a good sweat under my winter hiking gear and was feeling warm. Timing of my break was important. If I stopped for too long and allowed my body to cool down while feeling sweaty it could lead to hyperthermia. But I also needed to take a break and rest my legs as I began to feel them getting sore. I didn’t want to risk over doing it and pulling a muscle. I still had the other side of the trail to hike going down.
While taking my break and looking across the valley I felt a calmness and peace. At the moment nothing in the world mattered. I didn’t care about my job or what was going on in the news. The only thing that mattered at the moment, I was no longer fittin’.
Winter can be a tough time to hike for some. While I hike in the winter, I don’t hike as much as I do from spring to fall. And so, like lacking in nutrition and vitamins, when I don’t get a good dose of hiking in, it has a negative effect on me. I start fittin’.
There is no doubt that hiking and being outside have many healthy benefits. Articles have been written by doctors giving proof of the health benefits of hiking. You can find many of the articles on Backpacker.com and WebMd.
But what about the spiritual benefits of hiking? Hiking can help you connect with God. You become aware of your soul’s intention to connect with God by sensing the majesty and wonder of nature. His very creation and artistry.
Hiking is my time to listen to God, to shut off the world and everything in it that drives me nuts and causes worry and anxiety. Trust me, as someone who struggles with worry and anxiety I can attest first hand to the spiritual benefits of hiking. When I’m in the thick woods of a valley or on a mountain top, all the things that worry me disappear and I’m no longer fittin’.
And while we all can benefit spiritually from a hike and being out in nature the true test of a literal mountain top experience is when we come down, go home and head back out into the world. I know for me I’m not real good at that. I tend to ask God all the time why He doesn’t leave me on that mountain top because it sure is better up here. And then He reminds me I wasn’t created to be on the top of the mountain all the time. However, I am given the right gear to make it through the valley. I just have to use it. I need to take the time I spend hiking with Jesus and listening to Him and then apply it to my life when I’m not hiking.
Each time I spend with Him in the woods hiking He gives me a package, a maildrop, trail magic. Inside is wisdom and direction. My responsibility is to take it with me, not leave it on the mountain top. Leave no trace right? Take it out with you and then use it.
Once we and I do this I can bet you our fittin’ will not be so bad. Because I’d rather be fittn’ to hike to spend time in worship to Him then be fittin’ to hike as a way to escape all the time.
Remember to hike by faith and not by sight. Get outside, spend time in His creation and stop fittin’.
written by Brian Ford; director of Hike By Faith