It started as a way to get back in shape after surgery, but 71 hikes later it has turned into much more. fullsizeoutput_1ca1A year ago, on 2/18/2016, my adult daughter and I took our first hike on a trail in North Carolina. At first, I huffed and puffed after two miles on paved trails at places like Tanglewood in Clemmons and the Bog Garden in Greensboro. Eventually, we grabbed backpacks and real hiking shoes and found a couple of well marked, well maintained, primitive hiking trails in the mountains. Now we think nothing of a six-mile, half-day hike over trails listed as strenuous.

We’ve hiked a decent portion of the Mountain To Sea (MTS) trail in western North Carolina and have plans to hit part of that trail on the coast. When it comes to the Appalachian Trail (AT), portions of it are in the hiking bucket list, but I have no plans to do the entire trek, though my daughter has expressed an interest. We live in a state with diverse climates, and all are worthy of exploration. We’ve explored more of the Blue Ridge Mountains than I ever thought I would. Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock are also wonderful day trips, especially during the week. We’ve hiked through rain and snow flurries, but the worst weather for me will always be the heat and humidity in August. I’m especially grateful I found a homemade bug spray that keeps the biting critters away. Bug spray is a necessity, especially when hiking near the water.

16602624_754390301395295_2692033150543001184_nWe both carry full daypacks, even on short mountain trails. After all, if either of us sustains an injury, the emergency gear will be lifesaving. We never underestimate the power of nature. Instead, we prepare ourselves and enjoy nature to the fullest. On these hikes, I experience the beauty of our new home state and learn a little more about its history. When we pass the remains of someone’s home from long ago, I can’t help but think of how hard travel between homes – much less towns – was in days gone by.

Sitting on a rock, eating a bit of jerky, with red-tailed hawks flying below us before they swoop up and glide overhead, is a sight I will never forget. The deer that watched as we took photos of her and her fawn, the sight and sound of songbirds in the trees, the turtles basking on a rock in the middle of the river, and even a snake warming itself on the trail, are wonderful memories. We’ve even met a few interesting humans while hiking. And let’s not forget the refreshing streams, rivers, and waterfalls that are so abundant in this area.

img_7938While hiking, we solve the problems of the world and address plot holes of stories I’m working on. As one of my beta readers, she is an excellent sounding board. Sometimes we hike in silence, listening to nature, and enjoying the peace and quiet. And sometimes we hike while I huff and puff, leaning on my walking stick because the trail is steep and my knee objects.

I enjoy the views from the top of a ridge, but I feel most at peace in the woods, surrounded by nature, walking a trail. As we start our second year of hikes, I find myself optimistic about my life. After all, it’s the journey, not the destination, and North Carolina offers marvelous journeys.

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