There are very unproven but recommended ways to boost your happiness levels while hiking and we’ll share our favorites with examples of them at work!
Hello again from the unpaved trails to all of you Happy Hikers!
My name is Mike Rudd and I am an outdoor adventure writer, hiking/trail running junkie, and part of the HPH Community.
I’m back with a new article on five things that I have done over the years that increase my happiness levels while hiking! Can you possibly get happier while hiking you might ask?
Yeah it’s possible!
Once again this is biased and not data driven, we aren’t planning routes up El Capitan in this article. This is supposed to get your mind thinking about ways to enjoy the hiking trails more and inspiration to get you on hiking trails more!
Hiking with a Pooch!
Even if you don’t own a dog I believe if you go hiking with dogs whenever you can you will laugh more than you usually do on a hike. We went to Moab Utah a few weeks ago to meet our friends and their dog Monkey. Monkey is a 2 year old mini doodle and because Arches National Park doesn’t allow dogs on the trails we went on the Grandstaff Trail on Bureau of Land Management space.
Monkey sprinted back and forth with a dog 7x his size before they did a five foot leap off of a boulder, he purposely avoided all the rocks on the stream crossings and went through the water, he got scared of his own echo when we were in a canyon, and he was so tired afterwards that he just rolled himself into a blanket (covered in mud and wet as could be) and fell asleep in his Mom’s arms as we drove back to town.
Pooches + Hiking = Happiness!
Hiking with a Sandwich.
Well I am definitely biased since season four of the ,Hashtag 59 Podcast is all about Switchbacks and Sandwiches but there is value to preparing a fun meal to take along on your hike. We ate leftover veggie burgers in coconut wraps at Corona Arch in Moab, Jackfruit Avocado Jalapeno sandwiches at the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, leftover Thanksgiving Day sammies at Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree, and the classic PB&J with coconut shavings in the Narrows in Zion National Park.
It beats a Clif Bar for a meal when you can do so and hiking with a sandwich guarantees a good laugh when you open your pack to see the condition it is in on the trek.
(HINT: It likely doesn’t look the same as when you packed it!) The preparation of the sandwich adds to your hiking experience and you can take some funny photos and tag me in it for our podcast! I would love to learn some new recipes as well :).
Hiking in Silence.
I once arrived at the trailhead of Bear Butte Mountain near Sturgis South Dakota and read that this protected tribal land was hiked by the Native Americans in silence. They viewed it as a walking meditation and walk of peace to the top and back. The trail was adorned with prayer flags. I am so glad I followed in the tradition of hiking in this fashion. Turning your hike into a silent moving meditation is something that might seem odd to some that it would make you more happy. However happiness levels are proven to increase with a consistent meditation practice and when you try something different (hiking in silence) you will find yourself growing as both a hiker, and as a human. In the long run doing the same thing every single time on the hiking trails will throw us into the same ruts and routines we attempt to escape by heading to the outdoors. Trying something like a hike where you feel into each step and notice the birds and simply wave or nod at other hikers might just light something up in you that you weren’t aware of! ALSO if someone needs to talk to you on the trail in an emergency situation it’s okay to break the silence :)!!!
Trail Running instead of Hiking.
This one might not be for everyone but as someone who is a hiker and a trail runner I promise you that you aren’t just “buzzing by” all the beautiful surroundings. For instance you pay WAY more attention to the rocks and the roots than you would have ever imagined. You see the blades of grass, puddles, and the ground below you in an absolutely different state than you do when walking.. Will it make you happier? Maybe not at first if you aren’t a runner or if you take a nasty fall but I have noticed, just like the silence experiment, that mixing in a trail run as a hike will put you in a different state of mind. For myself this leads to a different, yet ultimately happier, version of the trail. Then going back to hiking gives you an absolutely different perspective out in nature and that’s what I am always craving!
Some of my favorite trail runs have been the mountain biking trails in Copper Harbor Michigan, Great Seal State Park in Chillicothe Ohio, and Oyster Dome in Larrabee State Park in Bellingham, Washington.
Hiking without a finished timetable.
Bringing extra water, food, and your 10 essentials are necessary; but allowing yourself to not have a finished destination and turnaround point can lead to a mysterious adventure on the hiking trails. I would not have found alpine lakes in Idaho, random arches in Utah, and jackrabbits in the Mojave Desert were it not for adding on a side trail or just continuing past where I thought I was going to go.
When you don’t know and you don’t have to be back somewhere by a specific time then your mind grows curious on the trails. Each new turn or find can turn into its own Choose Your Own Adventure outing. It’s something that can keep your senses on high alert and give you endorphins you’ll never find if you know EXACTLY when and where you are going and how you will finish.
Hiking is great without any of these things. It will make you happier to simply just be in the outdoors. But to me life is a fun experiment. Something that can be lab tested and messed with to see how we feel, what we are made of, and a curiosity in shifting experiences. When we do that we might just find that we can be 1% more happier when we hike by mixing it up. To me 1% happier is ALWAYS WORTH IT!
Do you have any hiking experiments you have tried out? Leave a comment and of course this is supposed to be a fun exercise and a happy place to hang out so share what’s showing up for yourself in a loving and kind way.
May we get to hike more because after all, Happy People Hike!