My daughter and I took a beautiful six-mile hike recently to Ramona Falls at the base of Mt. Hood. On the way, she asked, “Why do humans hike?”

I said that we hike to satisfy our need as humans to explore, to move, and in some cases, to survive. Personally, I love the feeling of moving my body on a beautiful day through gorgeous landscape, feeling the breeze, enjoying the silence, drinking in the views. Caitlin said, “This sure beats sitting at home watching TV!” She’s hooked.

I realize that hiking is also a celebration of growth—the practice of going somewhere we might never have gone, and celebrating how far we’ve come.

Caitlin and I are going backpacking in Yosemite in August (fingers crossed!), which has always been a huge challenge for me. I didn’t grow up backpacking, so I’ve never felt completely confident in my skills. But the family we backpack with are THE BEST to hike with.

Their enthusiasm, joy, strength, wisdom, experience and cooking create an incredible week of exploration, inviting me to climb higher than I’ve ever dreamt I could go. Their magnetism and energy around it make each year a fantastic experience into the unknown, of discovering inner strength I never knew I had.

The Inner Hike

Another question comes to mind: Why do humans choose to thrive with challenge? Some of us may not choose to AT ALL. We might prefer just to keep ourselves locked down and refuse to adapt to a change or face into a test.

I’m reminded of a moment many years ago. During a swim lesson, I asked everyone to come in to the water, hold on to the edge and prepare to blow bubbles. Shivering on the deck, refusing to get in, was a skinny, hesitant boy whining with all of his might, “Why do I always have to do the HARD stuff!!!”

To him, life was not fair in that moment. He was being asked to do something extremely difficult and scary. He was unsure of his own strength, and that uncertainty kept him back.

But I saw his strength.

And I’m beginning to see my own.

For the past four months we’ve been forced out of our normal routines, and have been given the chance to pause and reflect, to plan, to change, to do things that challenge us.

Right now, my prized attribute is my willingness to grow—to face into things that scare me. To go on inner adventures that are filled with the unknown.

The unknown can be a terrifying place, but it is also the best place for discovering our own abilities. With the right guides, I tread more boldly. With their help, I’m beginning to find strength where I thought I’d find weakness. Where I thought I’d find fear, I’m finding courage to overcome.

I started with little inner hikes. Improvising with nothing but intention and going live on Facebook. My adventures continue with a deeper relaxation into who I’m meant to be, a deeper exploration of who I can become.

I’m blessed to be surrounded by experienced inner and outer hikers in my life. Their encouragement, humor, strength and magnetism give me the ability to see the the beauty of a hike, the beauty of growth.

To those people in my life, you know who you are. I love you and cherish your guidance, friendship, and encouragement.

And to you, dear reader, I offer you my own.

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