by Roger Dubin
The holidays are over. January is in the books. Some of us made New Year’s resolutions. If we did, then there is a good chance that healthy practices were a part of them. Eat better, exercise more, meditate, get outside and experience nature, become more spiritual, be a better parent, spend less time connected to our phones and other devices—these are just a few of the popular ones. But there is one activity that can help with all of them, and that’s hiking.
My suggestion will come as no surprise to any of you that know me or have read my previous columns. I hike about three times a week, and this practice has improved my mental and physical health tremendously. Last year, I also became a volunteer trail supervisor in Harriman Bear Mountain State Park, fulfilling one of my other resolutions from the year before: Find a way to give back.
Among other duties, my supervisor responsibilities require me to hike each of my 55 miles of trails at least once a year. Last July, I found myself with a little time to check some trails. It was a hot day, with occasional showers forecast for the afternoon. I didn’t mind the prospect of rain on a hot day, but because of the potential storms, I picked a lower elevation in a more protected section of the park.
As predicted, we did get some rain and sporadic thunder. But the day was hot and the rain provided relief from the heat. The occasional thunder in the distance made for an exciting soundtrack. Being out there in the wet sparkling woods, enjoying a wondrous hike, made me want to hike in the rain more often. It reminded me of the joy my children experienced jumping in puddles when they were younger. Just as I was having this euphoric thought, what did I hear through the trees? The magical sound of children’s laughter, coming from a group of about 15 kids and their counselors cavorting in one of the park’s shelters.
A couple of counselors spotted me as I approached, and they immediately came to greet me, putting themselves between the kids and me. I was very impressed with the friendliness, the professionalism and also the cautiousness of the counselors. I had encountered another camp group a week earlier and was a little surprised by the lackadaisical supervision of those campers.
This particular group was from the nearby Nature Place Day Camp. After I introduced myself as a New York-New Jersey Trail Conference volunteer supervisor, I explained that I was also writing an article on hiking with children. So under the watchful eyes of the counselors, I got to speak a little with some of the older kids. They were clearly thrilled to be there, to have nature and the outdoors as part of their lives. And not a single one of them was looking down at a tablet or cell phone.
So how does this all fit into my theme of Resolve to Hike? It’s very simple. If you want to get healthy, have fun and enjoy some magic, don’t forget your mother—Mother Nature. Don’t let a little rain in the forecast put you off. And if you want to do something wonderful for your kids, send them to a nature camp, where they can develop skills and have experiences that will last a lifetime.
Roger Dubin is marketing director for Natural Awakenings. Contact him at MrNaturalNYC@gmail.com or on Instagram @MrNaturalNYC.