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52 hike challenge: Starting Small

Follow Her: Eli Edlund lives in Seattle, Wa. with her husband and two young sons. Follow her journey as she makes her way through the 52 Hike Challenge.

Taking the 52 Hike Challenge One Mile at a Time

I learned of something called the 52 Hike Challenge about a year ago. A challenge to get out into nature and hike at least one mile, at least once a week (on average) for an entire year. The purpose is to encourage people to discover the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of hiking.

I would have called myself an avid hiker before I had kids. Kids tend to change your life a bit though, so I don’t get out on the trail as much as I used to, or as much as I’d like. That’s putting it mildly. So I have followed (with envy)  the adventures of others doing this challenge on social media over the last year. I’ve read their posts, envied their beautiful pictures, and thought “Oh, I could do that, if only…”.

If only I didn’t have little kids. When do I have time for solo hiking? It’s so hard to drag them out on a trail. And when I do? We’re lucky to make it a mile.

A mile? A mile I certainly can do. Who says a hike needs to be long, steep, arduous, far away, or posses stunning views? Honestly, this is about getting out into nature, some portion of nature, at least once a week. Why lament the peaks and deep wilderness I am unable to trek because I can’t convince my family to come along. Because it’s too far away, too long, too steep, too cold, too wet, too hot. Too many excuses.

Who’s telling me I can’t hike one mile through an urban park and find joy and recharge there? I am. I am the only one holding me back from the smaller joyful experiences because I want something grander. While setting my sights only on a larger vision, I’m postponing all the small joys I can be experiencing.

52 hike challenge

Getting Started: Today’s Hike

So today I start where I can. I drop one kid off at a friend’s and another at grandma’s in the neighboring suburb and drive to a park that I frequent with my kids, this time gloriously alone. There are many intersecting trails here. Some are very familiar. I choose a one mile loop that I have never walked before. I walk alone, at my own pace, over uneven soil. Stretching my legs and lungs not stopping to wait for anyone, or telling anyone to slow down and stay where I can see them.

There are no grand vistas on this small suburban trail. I can hear the busy road only yards away. But that is fine. I breath deep and notice that there’s a smile on my face the entire time I’m walking. I realized that I haven’t done anything physical for the sheer joy of it for a very long time. About a year ago I retired from playing roller derby (another story for another time), and before derby, that joy came from hiking. Few things lighten my soul like walking in the forest.

So I begin small and use the 52 Hike challenge as motivation to get to the mountains and the deep forests more. To take time for myself to hike alone, or with friends — not only when my family is willing and able to accompany me.

52 hike challenge

Small Journeys. Big Rewards.

There is so much nature so close to this city: wild rivers, long beaches, towering mountains. But finding that wildness in the unpaved soils in my city is also worthwhile. Instead of bemoaning the day-long, breathless, epic views i am missing out on, I will learn to appreciate the small journeys.

Some of us can’t summit a peak just yet, because we can’t get away for a whole day, or aren’t in good enough shape yet, haven’t hiked in 10 years, or ever. We are recovering from injuries, or surgeries, or illnesses. But each one of us can start somewhere and find value in even the smallest walk in the least wild of places.

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.