While writing has been a strong suit of mine for quite some time, reading has not. So when we gained 750 feet of elevation in only a mile (in comparison, Mount Washington was a little over an average of 1,000 feet per mile), I had wondered if “The Outbound” app, which I would highly recommend if you’re big into the outdoors, had said anything about steep elevation gain. Sure enough, it had. Did I read that? Of course not.
I took my friend/teammate/RA Derek up to Hawk Rock in Duncannon, PA, a small town northwest of Harrisburg across the Susquehanna River. After the map app on my phone had a small freak out and decided to stop working (thanks Apple), we were able to get his phone to right the ship and get us there not much later than we expected. It was a long day for my phone.
Like I said, it was a short hike: one mile up, and one mile back down, but it’s those short hikes that can catch you off guard sometimes. I wasn’t expecting much of a hike, in all honesty, but 750 feet in one mile is not a bad gain, especially when it’s in short spurts, whereas Mount Washington was a greater gain per mile but much steadier. Yesterday was, more or less, flat or straight up, but it was the first time I had got that burning sensation of elevation gain in my legs and unathletic-looking calves, and it was a great feeling.
It was more crowded at the top than I expected for a Sunday afternoon. A couple of ladies sat on top of the rock and (unfortunately) had a smoke, a few younger couples made their way up later, and then a few older ones. Meanwhile, I was dangling off a cliff.
Yup, sorry Mom. In the name of being an idiot and trying to get a good picture, I swung my legs over not one, but two cliffs today. My best decision ever? No, but not my worst. Some of my favorite pictures? Yes.
I was struck, however, by a young couple who started on the trail before the two of us did, but arrived at the top shortly after.
“This is what you made me climb all this way for?” the man asked.
Woah there buddy, one mile isn’t that bad. Easy.
I get it, not everyone is as passionate about the outdoors as I am. To each his own. What struck me is the seeming ignorance so many people have about this planet. It’s as if people don’t realize that they can’t get this anywhere else, perhaps in the entire universe. I won’t rant too much about it. If you want to read that discussion, here you go.
With that in mind, I strongly believe that going outdoors, whether you go for a walk or are going for a grueling hike or are just going to lay in the sun, is as good of a mental medication as you can get. I’ve had the worst of weeks made better by some quality time outdoors, and I know people who have, as well. In fact, and I could be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure science has proven that going outside has mental health benefits. If you like your brain, maybe you should start hiking.
At the beginning of our hike, I was saying how I thought it was awesome that our generation was getting more and more into the outdoors. That’s likely attributed to the increase in social media (namely Instagram and Snapchat), because the cooler the places you go, the cooler the pictures you get to share, right? 100%. Regardless of why we’re doing it, we’re doing it, and I think that’s great. Gone, for the majority, are the days like the ones I spent in middle school and early in high school where entertainment was a television or video game instead of a trail. I follow 867 people/pages on Instagram currently, and I’d say the majority of them have posted at least one, if not many pictures of them taking in the great outdoors. I love that.
I also learned the hard way that mother nature does not like people using their phones while hiking, unless it’s for taking pictures or navigating. After responding to a text, in what certainly was an awkward happening, I missed my left pocket and down fell my phone, straight onto a rock. And while it hit the very edge of the phone, it was still enough to send a crack down and across the screen. Trying to be glass half full, I realized that, while a centimeter more to the left my phone doesn’t crack, but a centimeter more to the right, and it probably destroys my screen.
So go and get out there. Immerse yourself with the outdoors. Fill your lungs with life and your heart with admiration. Push yourself up the mountain, and guide yourself back down. Feel the breeze. Look for miles. Look at the stars. Wonder what’s out there, then go find out.