(A hike in early March 2016 to Mount Woodson in Ramona, pictured above, left me concerned for my life. I made it to the top, smiling only after an OMG recovery period!)
This journey began with the simplest of intentions. Hike my way to my 60th birthday. No grander plan that that. Sixty hikes to sixty years. I didn’t want to just show up in April 2017 for another landmark birthday without taking stock of my life. And let me be honest, I took two hikes in March where I thought I was going to have a heart attack and those were wake-up calls!
What I didn’t expect, and you can read about more of them under the heading of what I call the ‘Unintended Consequences’ of hiking, was the final stage of healing from a long period of grieving the death of a young man who was like a son to me — Jeff. He died on April 1, 2012 and rocked my/our world. I learned to tell where I was in the process each year when either the date of his death rolled around or his birthday. If you have ever lost anyone, I’m sure you can relate.
By August 2016 I was unexpectedly honing in on my original goal of sixty hikes, with this journey virtually taking over my life, in a good way. When Jeff’s birthday arrived I could feel a change, a shift in my spirit. The daunting sadness that previously had shrouded my being had finally, it seems, left the house! The final phase of acceptance had arrived and I was filled with joy and remembrance of our Jeff. It’s not that I won’t forever continue to miss him, but the feelings associated with that loss, that missing had turned over a new leaf of joyful appreciation for the time we had with him. A healing had happened and I’m quite sure it evolved through my foot-to-earth connection through hiking. One of my many ‘Unintended Consequences’ of the Sixty60 Journey. Take a hike! Hike to heal, hike to health. It works…I’m living proof.
Note: A Stanford study supports hiking as a prescription for mental health issues. While grieving is not called out specifically, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, it is a way to get through the stages of grief, amongst all of the other health and mental benefits.