If you've ever been hiking down the trail and felt an extraordinary sense of connection to your surroundings, you've experienced a deepening of your spiritual relationship to nature. This feeling may have come in the form of clarity and awe for what you were seeing- maybe a lone giant red cedar you've never noticed before or the sapphire sparkle in the feathers of some unknown to you bird singing away with no care in the world. You may have started to feel as if you were welcome, as if that giant cedar was going to wrap its mighty boughs around you as if you were already home. Or maybe it was just a fleeting feeling- one you couldn't really put your finger on except that you felt uplifted and maybe even joyous. If you're like most of us, you enjoy these feelings you get on the trail but usually forget about them once you're off the trail and back to your busy life.
Hiking is a beautiful conduit for deepening your spiritual relationship with nature. It creates a space to move through nature in a natural state. Hiking forces us to slow down and become mindful of our surroundings and how we are feeling. It allows us to connect deeper to ourselves. Below, we share three ways to deepen your spiritual connection to nature with hiking from our I Am the Wild Experience.
We view the world from our limited perspective shaped by our life experiences, values, the current state of mind, assumptions, and other factors. Our perspective is our own unique view and is completely different from anyone else's because we have all lived different lives and had different experiences from each other. It is a limited perspective because we would never be able to experience everything everyone else has experienced. While it might be limited, we are always able to expand our perspectives through new experiences. Perspective-taking is a skill in which we can take the perspective of someone else, or this case, something else.
On your next hike, find a place in nature where you can watch from nature's perspective. Maybe you can find a soft spot to lay down and gaze at the sky as if you are a blade of grass. Or hike to the highest point in your area and look down at everything below you, like a butterfly or bird. Nature, unlike us, has an unlimited perspective. It hasn't been shaped by all things, like beliefs and values, that we have been. Nature just is- it's in a natural state always. Finding this natural state and taking on nature's unlimited perspective is a spectacular way for us to expand ourselves while connecting even deeper spiritually with nature.
Most of us are busy all the time. It seems we always have something to do (usually multiple things) and rarely have time to slow down and be still. In fact, most of us probably can't be still even when we have the time. Our minds wander, we get antsy, and we end up diving into the next item on our to-do list. We rarely live in the moment, thinking about things we did in the past or worrying about what could happen in the future.
Being still is a practice in mindfulness that allows us to remain in the present moment, gain clarity, move from a state of "doing" to a state of "being," find a deeper awareness, personal insight, and higher connection. When we practice mindfulness and live in the present moment, we embrace the very essence of nature. Nature never worries about the past or what might happen in the future; it remains in the present moment at all times.
Find a place on your hike where you can sit and be comfortable. Maybe bring a small cushion or blanket to sit on. Once you find a comfortable position, take a few deep cleansing breaths and start to tune into everything around you. Feel the air on your skin and face; listen to the sound it makes as it rustles the leaves above your head. Watch the grass move in brilliant formation as the air pushes it against the ground. Listen to the birds sing to each other from the tops of the trees and watch them fly from branch to branch looking for their next meal. Feel the warmth from the sun shining down on your face and look at how it highlights the petals on the flowers around you. If your mind wanders and thoughts come in, watch them float away on the clouds above you and come back to the present moment. If you become antsy, reposition yourself to find your focus on nature around you so you are comfortable again. Practice this for as long as you can, but at least 30 minutes.
Breathing is the strongest way we experience a symbiotic relationship with nature. We experience reciprocity in the form of the oxygen we breathe in and the carbon dioxide we breathe out. When we breathe in oxygen into our lungs, carbon bonds to the oxygen creating the carbon dioxide we exhale. Plants breathe in this carbon dioxide, break the carbon away, and in turn, release oxygen which we breathe back in. To continue living, we exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide back and forth between one another all of the time. We both cannot survive without this beautiful and perfect relationship.
Find a place on your hike where you can sit comfortably for at least 20 minutes. Feel free to bring a blanket to lay on or a pad to sit on. You will want to be comfortable. Practice the following breath technique:
There is a special kind of magic that ensues when you get a copy of the latest issue of your favorite magazine, curl up in your comfiest chair with your favorite cup of hot tea, and flip open the cover. The crisp pages, the smell of freshly printed ink, and the vivid photos take you to another place far away from your hot tea and a comfy chair. With each issue we release, we get quite a few people asking if they can purchase a print version of the magazine and our answer, unfortunately, but firmly, is no.
As much as we would love to see our magazine in beautiful print, hold it in our hands, and smell the fresh ink, we made a hard decision in the beginning stages to not go to print. This decision was one we researched heavily and was based on our values and not finances. The bottom line is magazines make the majority of their money selling ad space, not selling actual magazines. Advertisers like to know that their ad will be seen in "x" number of magazines sitting pretty on store shelves. The number of magazines printed determines ad prices- not sold, and some magazines print way more copies than they know they will sell because of this. Because of this system, it is much harder to "sell" a digital magazine ad than a printed ad, and it is harder to quantify the digital value to potential advertisers.
So, what are some of the impacts printed magazines have on our environment?
While some magazines may be printed from trees grown specifically for printing, recycled paper, and/or some eco-friendly processes, the industry isn't considered "green." From the water, pesticides, and herbicides needed to grow the trees, the chemicals used in the processing plant, the toxic inks used for printing, the greenhouse gas emissions accumulated from transporting the magazines, and the waste after the magazines are used, there are environmental issues in each stage of the production. One of the most eye-opening discoveries we found was the sheer number of magazines that do not sell (up to 3 out of 4 as told by a magazine "insider). We wanted to know what happens to the magazines that don't sell at stores, and it turns out, they get boxed up and sent to a landfill or to be recycled, never to be enjoyed by someone sipping tea in their comfy chair.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 2.5 million tons of magazines are thrown away each year in the U.S. The magazines that are not recycled take up precious space in landfills, and as they compost, methane gas is released as a natural part of the decaying process. This methane gas is natural, but too much of it in the atmosphere can contribute to global warming. The magazines also contribute to creating leachate, contaminated liquid made from water percolating through a solid waste disposal site, accumulating contaminants, and moving into subsurface areas like our groundwater. The inks used in printing on paper, especially color inks from magazines, are incredibly toxic.
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) claims 63.4% of paper is recycled in the U.S. However, other agencies have refuted these numbers and are said to be somewhere between 20% and 40%. These numbers are for all paper types, including magazines. Much of the recycled paper in the U.S. gets shipped to China, where it is recycled into cardboard packaging for the products that China sends back and sells here. So, we're printing magazines that don't get read to send on a ship to China to get recycled into packaging for more stuff we don't need to be sent back to us? MIND BLOWN!!!
We hope you can see why we decided to go digital.
But we understand that nothing is perfect, and there are impacts a digital magazine has on the environment too. The energy used to power and store digital magazine does create C02, plus the device you are reading your magazine on takes a ton of resources to make. But we understand you will have your phone or tablet regardless of whether or not we create a digital magazine. We also hope to invest in more sustainable and renewable energy sources to offset the C02 produced with current sources.
While we might be different in the way we do things, we see the future and it is digital- it has to be digital. We also knew from the beginning our magazine would be free for anyone who wants to read it and going digital alleviates some of the pressure to sell magazines to help cover the cost of printing. We believe the information we are putting out isn't just for the privileged, it is for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, we do sell magazine ads and packages for advertisers who see value in what we provide with a little twist. For each full-page ad we sell, we choose a non-profit or start-up company we can get behind and gift them a free full-page ad. It's our version of "Buy One Get One," and we do it because it makes us feel good, and it supports the community who has supported us. We believe there are much bigger and more important things than just selling ads.
Is digital perfect? No. Is it a good option? Yes. At the very least, we can feel good about what we're doing here on many levels. So, while you may never hold an issue of Hike It Off Magazine in your hand, you can still get comfy in the chair with your hot tea and tablet and be taken to the trail far from you just as easy as if you were holding paper in your hand.
We thought we would clear this up once and for all with a simple description of the differences between Yaktrax, Micro Spikes, and Crampons. Knowing the differences and how to use each one correctly and in the right conditions is necessary for any winter hiking where ice is involved. I know first-hand the extensive damage to our body that can happen with just a simple slip on the trail. Knowing what gear and how to use it for different conditions will help lessen the chance of traumatic injuries or death. Winter hiking is something to take seriously.
Yaktrax makes multiple “traction device” options for “serious grip in any condition.” From their simplest option, the Spike-less Pro, to their “Summit” option, which they market as “a heavy-duty traction device that is essential for any winter hike or backcountry excursion,” it may seem that you can buy a pair of any of these and start hiking up an icy mountain. Unfortunately, as excellent as they seem, Yaktrax do have some limits.
The “Spike-less Pro” version is their patented skid lock coil system. They are their least aggressive system with no spikes. While they work well walking from your house to your mailbox in icy conditions, they are not suited for the trail unless completely flat with no exposure (exposure is a part of a trail that has a high risk of injury in the event of a fall because of the steepness of the terrain). They are perfect for keeping in your car to use when you need to put your chains on heading up the mountain as they are easy to slip on your boots.
Spike-less Pro Uses:
Flat surfaces with no exposure. Perfect for in town or around your house. Keep a pair in your car for putting on your snow chains on your way up the mountain. Use for packed snow or ice. They can be used with any shoes/boots.
Microspikes such as the Kahtoola MICROspikes or Yaktrax Summit have a bit more “bite” than the Yaktrax Pro because of the added spikes. The Yaktrax Summit’s 3/8th inch triangular Carbon Steel Spikes help bite into packed snow and ice better than the coil system on the Spike-less Pro’s. However, even with the additional grip, the spikes have limits and should not be used on super steep inclines, icy rocks, or aggressive slopes covered in ice. The Kahtoola MICROspikes have twelve stainless steel spikes that help dig into packed snow/ ice. Their welded stainless-steel chains offer added traction in the snow while remaining flexible and highly packable. They are my go-to choice for most of the winter trails I hike in my area.
Can be used on flat, semi-sloped/ mild incline, and slightly steeper trails with packed snow/ice. Perfect for adding extra traction to your normal hiking boots/trail runners. Use for packed snow or ice with low exposure. Can be used with any shoes/boots.
Crampons are used when you move across high angled packed snow/ice, icy rocks, glaciers, when you need more solid footing not to slide, and to hold your full body weight. Crampons do not “give” as microspikes do, so they are a sturdy option in harsher and more exposed conditions. They can also be used to climb vertical ice if they have front-toe spikes. They are used in conjunction with an ice ax. Specialized training to gain the proper skills and knowledge is recommended for terrain where crampons are needed.
Can be used on highly angled icy slopes with exposure, vertical ice (if they have toe spikes), and ice-covered rocks. Can hold your body weight. Must be used with stiff shanked mountaineering boots made to work with crampons. There are many different kinds of crampon styles depending on what you are using them for (vertical ice climbing vs. crossing a glacier).
With winter gear, you get what you pay for. Skimping on winter gear is something I would never recommend. You don’t want equipment failure to happen when you are miles from your car, and the trail is icy. You don’t want to risk injury and have to sit on the side of the trail in freezing conditions. There is a lot more to think about and be prepared for in the winter. To gain the necessary skills needed for winter hiking, consider taking a basic winter mountain skills course such as this one from Sierra Mountain Guides.