Why I hike

Sun Lakes hikers winding around boulders in Joshua Tree National Park.

Sun Lakes hikers winding around boulders in Joshua Tree National Park.

Roberta Arpan and 21 other enthusiastic Sun Lakes hikers

Hiking is strenuous; the trail can be rocky, muddy and dusty; the weather might be unpredictable; venomous critters might share your trail while nasty flies and mosquitoes invade your air space; and every now and then something unexpected happens. While the chance that some of these things might happen is near zero, they are within the realm of possibility. So one might wonder why anyone would get up at the crack of dawn to face such possible trepidations. Well, when asked why they hike, the members of the Sun Lakes Hiking Club gave exuberantly positive reasons.

Responses were tallied and almost every hiker expressed love for experiencing nature up close and personal. Hikers talk about the breathtaking scenery found only outdoors and the indescribable beauty of the magnificent colors of rock formations. One hiker added, “The mountains come alive.” Similar responses made by members echoed these thoughts: “I enjoy the splendor of the natural beauty,” “I see sights few others have the opportunity to witness,” and “I love exploring new worlds.”

A second almost unanimous reason for hiking centers around exercising. Hikers agree this activity is a physical challenge that keeps them fit and provides additional strength, endurance and cardiovascular abilities. Hiking can also be used for cross training because the variety of trails offers different workouts for your body. One hiker commented, “The aerobic benefits of hiking exceed those of the 4000 miles of bike riding I do each year.” And while it is evident that hiking is an excellent workout, hikers noted that it is energizing and perks them up for the rest of the week. And, as one hiker noted, “I almost forget I’m exercising.” Seriously?

The social aspects of hiking also cannot be ignored. Interaction with fellow hikers and making new friends ranked a close third to the reasons why people hit the trail. Among the phrases voiced by club members were: “stimulating conversations,” “lasting friendships,” “getting to know people on a more personal level,” and “being with fabulous people who share your interests and love of nature.”

Several hikers gave these additional reasons for hiking: it provides a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, knowledge of the local flora/fauna/geology/ geography, peace of mind and a chance to contemplate life. It is also noted that information is gained from other hikers about an infinite number of topics. One hiker stated that the Sun Lakes Hiking Club has opened up many other doors. Because of her connections with fellow club members, she has also taken up bicycling, Pickleball, book trading, Mah Jongg and many other activities.

To quote N. Jamiyla Chisholm (Real Simple, June 2014): “A March 2014 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that simply being exposed to nature improves not only your mood but your behavior as well.” This was collaborated by SLHC member Bonnie Tasch who states, “Nature teaches us compassion, love, humility, prudence, restraint, courage, hope – many attributes which are also considered virtues. “ Enough said.

To learn more about the SLHC, visit the club’s website at http://www.meetup.com/Sun-Lakes-Hiking-Club.