Editor’s note: Throughout October, our #hikeOctober guest writers share what hiking means in their lives. Today’s guest is hiker, author, and speaker, Cindy Ross. Read more of Cindy’s writing on her blog, and check out her latest book, The World Is Our Classroom – How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education.
Hiking gave me my life.
It began with the Appalachian Trail (AT) which I hiked as a young woman. Upon reaching Mount Katahdin in Maine, I ran my finger across the routed wooden sign that pointed south and read Springer Mountain, Georgia, 2100 miles. I suddenly realized that I could have a dream and if I worked hard enough and believed in it deeply enough, it would come true. All it took was a strong passion and a lot of perseverance. Hiking gave me many gifts, but the most priceless one was this incredible self-confidence and belief in myself. The trail taught me to not see limits.
On the AT, I kept a detailed, illustrated journal, and had my first book published, A Woman’s Journey, which has been in print for over 35 years. I went on hike the Pacific Crest Trail and wrote a book about that long adventure, Journey on the Crest. With a formal education in fine arts/painting, I had not thought of myself as a writer but the trail quickly taught me that one can “be” anything one wants.
Without becoming aware of it, hiking became an important vehicle in understanding myself and others. My time spent walking in the woods with people led to richer relationships and a clearer vision of who I was and what I wanted and needed out of life. Hiking was not only very important to me, it was necessary and irreplaceable.
Hiking gave me a husband, as I delivered some Trail Magic in the nearby town of Port Clinton after I became a 2,000 miler, and brought home Todd Gladfelter, a thru-hiker himself. He ended up staying, going on 35 years now!
Hiking gave us our voluntary simplistic lifestyle which we cultivated after discovering on the trail that material things do not bring happiness. Our independent life, where we work for ourselves and are free to hike, travel, and have adventures, is the cornerstone of our happiness.
Hiking gave our children, Sierra and Bryce, a life as well, as we led them over the entire Continental Divide Trail in their formative years. Todd and I learned the incredible lessons the trail delivers and how these experiences can generate extraordinary learning. It gave us the conviction, skills, and courage to pursue education in this way, and as a result, created a whole new way of nurturing and supplementing our children’s education. The result of 25 years of this alternative way of learning, using the trail, etc. resulted in my 7th book, The World is Our Classroom- How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education. Sierra and Bryce have been inspired to live creative lives and work to make the world a better and more beautiful place.
I hike every day because it makes me feel good, plain and simple. The movement helps loosen up and dislodge my thoughts so they can flow freely and help me make sense of my world, whether it’s a problem, or a piece of writing that I need to work through. I always feel better after a hike.
– Cindy Ross
Click here to learn more about #hikeOctober, an annual program to raise awareness of the challenges of mental illness, fund mental health research and conserve wilderness trails. #hikeOctober is free to join, open to hikers with all experience levels, and an easy way to have your walk in the woods, or around the block, make an impact!
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