Today is my aunt’s birthday, and I was looking back at photos to share in a Facebook post to celebrate her life. I went scrolling through the 2017 photos to rediscover that we had some fun nights, plenty of summer boat days, spirited holiday gatherings, and a nice hike at one of my favorite local spots. While scrolling through I got distracted, as I often do, by all of the hikes and all of the beautiful places I visited throughout the year and it led me to one conclusion: 2017 was a damn good year.
I embarked on the 52 Hike Challenge, not knowing what to expect. Looking back the results were all I could have hoped for.
I got out more, every week to be precise
I reconnected with nature
I met a ton of virtual support
I saw new things, beautiful things, some that were right in my own state
I started to get a better mental clarity
I didn’t really get in “better” shape, but I maintained a weight for most of the year and strengthened my legs
I spent valuable time with friends on the trail
It let me to find my passion - getting people outdoors - and I’m finally branching into that area of helping people get outdoors and finding that equality balance
It didn’t cost me a lot of money, well to actually get outside anyway
It kept me sane, grounded, and on schedule with other things in my life
It’s helped me get even more fired up for our public lands and all that we need to do to protect and fund them
I visited a few National Park units, plenty of local state parks, and some new local trails. I spent more time outdoors in 2017 than I had in the six years prior. I haven’t been this excited for life in a LONG time. I grew up with hundreds of acres at my disposal and I was always outside. As I aged into those teenage years, I found myself outside less but still not opposed to spending time in the woods or at the lake. In college, I camped and road tripped so the outdoors was back in play, a little. I eventually took a job a city park ranger and did some unrelated trail work for my major - wildlife management. A few trips here and there through the years had me camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Arches National Park, and along the Loneliest Road in the USA. When I moved to Texas in 2011, the outdoors seemed to be on the back burner. I did a lot of boating and I did a few road trips between 2012 and 2017, but it wasn’t until the hiking challenge that my fire for the outdoors was reignited.
I can’t picture myself just sitting around all weekend ever again. Sure, I have moments when I’m just feeling lazy, but the desire to be camping or hiking always wins. Road trips west to the Oregon Coast, Redwood National & State Parks, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and western Texas over the past six years were the kindling and wood but the 52 Hike Challenge was the flame that set me on fire again. If you find yourself feeling a bit unsure, find something that will challenge you to be a better version of yourself. I’m not implying that everyone responds to challenges the same way, I’m just saying they work for a lot of people and maybe they’ll work for you. Set attainable goals, focus on things you love, and find your happy place(s). Surround yourself, in person or virtually, with people that support you and your goals. My year of motivation is something I’m looking back at and I can’t wait to push harder, explore further, and try a bunch of new things in 2018. Find your passion and own it. Happy trails!
Here are some of my highlights from 2017: