^^^^So, on picture #4, I had to ask myself how much courage I actually had!  I had to hug the rocks to get to the gorge in pictures 5 and 6.  It was the most terrifying experience of my life.  I think I experienced self-inflicted panic.  You should also know that I’m a so-so swimmer, and I had no clue how deep the water was.  Here’s to courage!^^^^

I take long nature walks all the time.  Some of them are more walking than hiking (to me, it isn’t a hike if it doesn’t include some climbing, rocks, at some sort of waterfall); however, they are an important part of who I am.  They help me find a sense of peace with myself (What’s your thing that makes you feel at peace with yourself?).  I never feel like I need to hike with someone.  It’s one of the few things in life that I can do solo or with friends and enjoy it either way although  think I enjoy it a wee bit more when I’m solo.  Hiking solo is like getting into a bathtub when the water is way too hot.  Initially, you ease into it and wince a little, but once you’ve added a wee bit of cold water (aka “deep breathing” when you’re in the woods), you’re good.

Here’s the rub:  my friends and family hate it when I go alone BECAUSE IT ISN’T THE SAFEST THING TO DO, especially when you’re alone.  It generates all sorts of gnashing of teeth…and those concerns are legitimate; however, those cries aren’t loud enough to keep me in my living room watching Netflix. But it won’t be the first time you’ve done what you’ve wanted to do despite the risks!

I dare you to go hiking/nature-walking alone!  I double dog dare you.  If you do, here are a few of the benefits you can expect:

1. You think a lot about how fear impacts your life.  You’ll have to ask yourself whether that’s the only barrier to hiking…and whether you’re living your life hemmed in by your fears. You’ll also have to make peace with this reality:  if today is the day that God has set aside for you to come to glory, it’s gonna be a while before anybody knows you’re en route to glory.

2. You get to hang onto your dignity:  if you have to use that She-Pee you bought (but never expected to really use), nobody will know.  With respect to #2; I got nothing.  You should have emptied out before hitting the woods.  Good luck with that!

3. You’re going to test your limits while being cautious because you want to go home as intact as you were when you arrived.  But you’ll also think about how much stronger your body should and could be and how you’re totally in charge of that.  Are you really honest with yourself about how you take care of your body?

4. You learn where you need to work. If you pay attention to what bubbles up into your mind, you’ll know what bothers you. Your mind will keep coming to it.  Here’s the even cooler thing:  whatever emotions you feel while you’re out there can be freely expressed.  Nobody will see you, hear you, or know.

5. You’ll come to understand what it means to exercise freedom with welcomed restraints.  While you won’t have to adjust your pace for anybody and you can leave as early in the morning as you like, you will want to make sure you’re on your path by a certain time and out of the woods by a certain time.  The specific time is important because that’s how your community knows you’re safe.  If you tell them that you’ll be on the trail by 9am, your butt needs to be on that trail by 9am so that you can be out by 2pm, as planned.  You told Jessica that you’d check in by 2:30pm, and she’s calling the cops by 2:43pm (she only gave you 13 minutes just in case your phone signal is weak).  Essentially, you’ll learn to respect people’s love and concern for you.

6. You’ll learn how important the opinions of others actually are to you.  Although you can eat where ever you like on the drive home, you’ll have to ask yourself whether you’re willing to go into a restaurant with your sweaty, stinky, dirty self.

7. You get to inspire somebody else with your courage! If you’re a bit uneasy about being totally alone, you can check in with your FB community via pics and go Live as often as you have signal.  You’d be surprised at how infrequently you lose all signal.

8. You’ll learn something:  you’ll get to notice how loud the woods are.  You’ll also be forced to learn something about preparing for the woods….and then, you’ll realize that LLBean exists to take all of your money on hiking gadgets.  You’ll also notice that there are lots of life experiences that you’re probably cheating yourself out of because you’re afraid or thinking you can’t afford them.

9. If you’re scared when you first enter the woods, you get to notice what you’re like when you’re anxious…and how long it takes you to get your bearings (There are probably some similarities between how you handle anxiety in the woods and in other parts of your life).

10. You’ll come to believe that God invented the selfie stick just for you!