Sunday, November 20, 2011

What I've Learned From Hiking: A Challenge From New England Outside

My buddy over at New England Outside has challenged outdoor bloggers to write a post about what they have learned from hiking. He mentioned to keep the post short and sweet, but I’ve learned so much from the trail, I’m not sure I can do that! My lessons learned have been vast over the last couple years, but here are some of most important ones.

Patience and Perseverance – When I first started hiking, I can recall wanting to rush to the top of a mountain. I worried about time and people passing me. Through my many journeys, I’ve learned to slow down and pace myself. I find that I enjoy the trek much more at a slower pace. It also helps me to focus in on the goal of the day. Instead of pushing through with brute force, I’m able to observe the milestones around me and really gauge my progress.

Enjoying more than the view – Anyone who has stood on the top of a mountain in the Whites knows that the views can be breathtaking. It’s probably the main reason why most hike. However, as much as the view from a summit, I’m enjoying the little things the trail has to offer. From reading blogs like the Spicebush Log, 1HappyHiker and Jim Salge Photography’s Blog, I’ve found so many cool things to keep an eye out for. Different plants and wildlife are always on my agenda to try to spot. I love going into the woods looking for the fresh Hobblebush leaves in early spring. I get excited now when I see Painted Trillium’s or Yellow Violets. I notice when I walk from a hardwood forest to a pine grove. And I’m always on the outlook for historical artifacts on the trail or traces of an earlier hiking generation.

The White Mountains, People Die Up There! – Being a responsible hiker means being a prepared hiker. When I think back to the first time I hiked in the Whites (back in 98’, up Mount Washington…funny story if you have time to read this post), I was completely unprepared and could have easily ended up as a story on WMUR News. My pack has gone from about 5lbs to probably 35lbs, and sometimes around 50lbs in the winter! Being prepared is very important and can sometimes be the determining factor on if someone makes it out of the woods alive or not. It’s not a situation any hiker wants to be in and is usually not predictable. So making sure you have all the essential survival gear with you is extremely important.

The Hiking Community – When I started hiking regularly a couple years back, I started participating in forums as well as started writing this blog. I was amazed at how large the hiker’s network was in this region and how friendly everyone is. It’s like having unlimited resources and knowledge at your fingertips. I’m extremely thankful to the hiking community for the information they have shared with me and other hikers. I’m also very appreciative to have made so many great friends!

Life – “Don’t take life so seriously, you’ll never make it out alive” – Van Wilder…I know, kind of cliché, but so true. Hiking has taught me this. Before I started hiking, I was huge ball of stress. I worried about a lot of things, including work. Hiking has given me a way to relieve stress and enjoy life the way it should be enjoyed. Being on a trail helps me forget about all my worries and really focus on what’s important. I spend most of my hikes alongside Jill, who is what is important to me. I spend time in nature, which I have come to find is very precious. Soon, I will be able to share this with Lylah too. I can’t wait for the day that she can look out over the White Mountains from the summit of her first mountain.

So there you have it. The list could probably go on and on. But for now, I think these are the most important lessons I have learned. Thanks to New England Outside for a great challenge and a great idea for a post.



  1. Karl, you have captured everything that hiking teaches us...from being patient all the way to having the right gear. This is an amazing post, thanks for accepting the challenge!

  2. Great post! Hiking is good for the soul and one of the best ways to reach a good fishing spot. Stumbled across your blog via OBN and now following.

  3. Nice post. All your comments are very true. The only additional one I can think of is the weather. A trail can look so different in different seasons and different weather. The past two Friday's I've had wild weather days that were amazing to experience and I came away with some great images.

  4. Hi Grant - Thanks! It was a great idea for a challenge. I enjoyed writing it!

    Thanks Coloradocasters - Glad you stumbled upon me via OBN. The OBN is a great website. I'm heading over to checkout your blog now. Thanks for the "Follow"!

    Hi Telemarkmike - This is so true. A trail in any season or any different sky looks so much different. I think downpours or blue skies are the most dramatic differences!

  5. Right on Karl, the trails help peel away all that extra junk that weighs us down. It's life at it's simplest and purest. Add a loved one (or two) to that equation, the biggest lesson I hope pass down some day is something Meena often says - if only life off the trail was as peaceful as life on the trail, the world would be a much better place. Keep on kickin' it brother, and have a happy first Thanksgiving with your baby!