Last night, as my pup and I meandered the trails in search of some fresh air and peace and quiet away from the city, we were quickly reminded that the popular trails close to home aren't always going to provide what we are looking for this day and age.
Times have changed. People no longer blaze these wooded trails to become one with nature. The trails have become home for the modern-day hipster seeking out that perfect instagram photo or FB check-in. A Snapchat story showing how "outdoorsy" they are with their new REI hiking boots that they bought on sale that are leaving blisters on their perfectly pedicured toes. Their backpack full of makeup in case the strain of elevation gain causes a sweat. Their water bottle filled with white wine for the perfect Boomerang "Cheers" at the top.
And you know what? That's fine by me. It really is. It means that we are getting outside rather than sitting in our living rooms absorbed by the next reality TV show that comes across our screens. HOWEVER....should you fall into the category of the not-so-nature-loving and find yourself on the trail with me, I have a few requests. I promise, this will make your experience with Mother Nature MUCH more enjoyable, as it will mine.
1. DRESS ACCORDINGLY
Last night I encountered a girl on the trail in bare feet. Wearing high-wasted denim shorts that showed her butt cheeks (and other things I'd rather not mention). She was fluttering around like a fairy taking pictures of every leaf, every flower, every bug. As I neared her pink pixie cut and saw her face I could see the agony. She was doing everything she could to prove to herself and the others in her group that she was One with nature, but truly all she could think about was how badly she would rather be pretending to like that new local IPA at the bar her friends all hang out at.
Wear clothes. Wear shoes.
By clothes I mean breathable layers that will allow you to be comfortable no matter the weather. If it rains, if it drops in temperature after the sun dips below the mountain, if you didn't realize how strenuous it was going to be and all the sudden you are soaked in sweat...you want to be prepared for anything. You don't want to be tugging at the sweaty denim shorts that were ALREADY meant to creep up into your private areas.
By shoes I mean SHOES. With laces. Flip flops typically don't do well on the trails. They don't have traction or ankle support. And do you really want to have to make a social media post about how you sprained your ankle hiking that super easy trail? No, that's embarrassing. And if you wear real shoes....wear socks. Yes, it's hot. But your feet will thank you. Because blisters, well, they don't go over well at the nail salon.
And unless you have the feet of a hobbit, do not, I REPEAT, do not go barefoot. Just don't.
2. LEAVE THE PERFUME FOR AFTER THE HIKE
While we are on the subject of my barefoot pixie, she failed in another area as well. She was DRENCHED in cotton candy perfume. Two words: BEAR BAIT. So not only is she barefoot and can't run away if needed, she is attracting every insect and wild animal in a two-mile radius with her sweet stench.
One of the first things I learned when I started my solo-treks outdoors. LEAVE THE SCENT AT HOME. Honestly, don't even wear fragranced deodorant. No lotion, no colognes or perfumes. It attracts things that you don't want to attract, and that can really ruin a hiking expedition. TRUST ME, your natural scent is likely more appealing anyway.
3. PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT
A picnic at the top of the mountain while the sun sets? Sounds AMAZING. But most people realize about half-way up that carrying all that food and that bottle of wine WASN'T a good idea. And God knows they don't want to pack it back down. So they leave it.
It breaks my heart to see beer bottles littering the sides of the trail (and that broken glass could really hurt a barefoot pixie). And another thing that baffles me? All those damn cigarette butts! It's dryer than Satan's butt crack out there and you are flicking your cigarette butts into the woods?! Are you TRYING to ruin everyone's adventures for the next five years? And WHY are you hiking and smoking at the same time anyway? No offense but it seems counter productive. Just my opinion.
4. DO NOT INVADE MY BUBBLE
I hike to enjoy the wide open spaces nature has provided me beyond the city limits. I hike to avoid people. I hike so I can find silence and listen to the wind and the birds and the crickets. I hike to find serenity in my personal space.
DO NOT ENTER MY PERSONAL SPACE.
Last night a group of three people stood directly behind me as I made myself comfortable at top of the hill. And they discussed the girl that one of them took home and undressed after he played against her in some volleyball tournament. I got to hear all the details. From ten feet away. In fact, I'm pretty sure the people at the trailhead heard his story as well. So did the bears. And the barefoot pixie.
This is not an amusement park. If I am sitting on a rock enjoying the sunset, do not stand in line behind me waiting for me to leave said rock. It is MY ROCK. I got there first. Go find your own. It's A VERY LARGE mountain. And there are lots of view-points. And like the irritated driver in the parking lot who's loading her groceries while someone waits for her spot, I will sit on that rock until you leave. Just to irritate you. Because you being in my bubble irritates me.
5. DO NOT APPROACH MY DOG UNLESS SHE APPROACHES YOU
One of the women who was enjoying the man's story of volleyball sex passed me earlier on the trail and made a U-turn after my dog. Arms fully spread out in front of her, voice up ten octaves...."CUTE DOOOOOOOOOG!!!!" It was terrifying. Not only for me, but my pup, who took off running the other direction. She reminded me of Sasquatch. Maybe it was because we still smelled of cotton candy due to the cloud of pixie dust we walked through earlier on in the hike, but still not a reason to approach my dog without asking permission first. She hasn't bitten anyone to this day. But last night I would have given her full permission. I mean, if I didn't rear my teeth and do it first.
6. SHARE THE TRAIL
If you are super busy taking photos of every leaf and every bug and every stick and working super hard to get the right lighting for that super cute selfie, I ask you, please let me pass. Please don't make me follow behind you absorbing your cotton candy scent and listening to your stories about that Netflix series you've become enthralled in. Because now I'm in YOUR bubble. Tailgating you like an irritated driver behind the RV hanging out in the far left lane of the interstate. Do not walk three across to keep me from passing. It's just not nice.
7. PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY
Now don't get me wrong, I take TONS of pictures on all of my hikes. I love documenting the trail and the beauty nature presents us with. I LOVE sharing it with others and inspiring people to get outside. Even the cotton-candy scented pixies and sexually driven volleyball players. But sometimes you just gotta put the phone away. I've made rules for myself. Pics at the beginning and at the peak. The rest of the time the phone is put away unless I see something that just CAN'T go without a photo. I want to see the trail with my own two eyes, not through a Snapchat filter. I also put my phone on airplane and night mode. I save battery this way (you never know when you may get lost and need that GPS) and also don't have to worry about the distraction of notifications interrupting my bonding experience with Mother Nature. She hates cell phones.
When I reached my incredibly popular rock last night to watch the sunset there was a man two rocks down talking on his cell phone. He completely missed the sunset while he was doing business with the person on the other end of the line. I also now know everything about his business and the code to his safe, because his voice carried through the mountain tops. The bear knows too. And so does the pixie.
Stop working, stop social networking, stop CONNECTING with the outside world. If you are on the trails, CONNECT WITH THE TRAILS. With nature. With the fresh air. The sunset. The flowers. The dirt. I promise, it will make the experience a completely different one next time around.
8. JUST BREATH
This isn't a race to the top. Or a race for likes. It's not a race back to the bar afterward to brag about what you accomplished. Stop thinking ahead. Think about the moment you are in RIGHT NOW. Surrounded by beauty. By magic. Yes, there's magic on those trails, but unless you are there for the right reasons, you'll never experience it. Even with all the cotton candy pixie dust in the world.
Take a hike, my friends.
See you on the trails.