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Letter from The Publisher

Tracy Patterson

After reading the inspiring article “Into the Woods—Hiking for Health and Happiness,” in this month’s Fit Body section (see page 32), I felt compelled to share a story from my university days.

My friend and I lived close to the Rocky Mountains, and we decided one summer that we were going to hike every weekend, which constituted three days since we only worked a four-day week. The first couple of weekends, we drove the hour or more out each day to hike, returning to the city in the evening. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we’d rather cut down on the driving and stay out there enjoying two nights in the wilderness.

I had an old Ford half-ton truck with a regular cab at that time. We packed everything we needed for camping into black garbage bags because there was no cap on the truck and we had to be prepared for the rain (or snow!) that might descend on us at a moment’s notice. I slept in a pup tent, while my friend who had rheumatoid arthritis slept in the cab of my truck because it was better for her to be as high and dry as possible.

Given my friend’s condition, she wasn’t sure how she would fare with all the hiking. I, on the other hand, was in tiptop shape. We figured out a way to accommodate both our needs: She would simply go at her own pace, and if I felt like pushing myself further, I would just go ahead and truck up a slope, for example, come back down, and hike back up with her. It worked like a charm! We mostly stuck together, but I could get my “extra” hiking in by implementing this little trick.

It didn’t take long before we were hiking farther and farther—my friend looked back over the area we had traversed one day and said, “I can’t believe I hiked that far!” To her, it didn’t feel like she’d worked very hard to make such progress. As the summer wore on, we would set out with no time limit except darkness, hike, stop along the way for lunch, hike some more, and arrive back at our campsite near dark to relax and make dinner over the open fire.

Apparently, this form of activity helped my friend’s arthritis immensely, as it wasn’t too much too soon, it was varied terrain and usually a soft trail, and there were stunningly beautiful wilderness views that kept us wanting to see what was around the next bend. Before she knew it, she was hiking miles and miles without any soreness, and staying in the cab of the truck seemed to work for keeping the dampness away overnight.

And needless to say, I am a complete believer in the practice of “forest bathing,” mentioned in the “Into the Woods” article. The whole experience allowed us to ignite our inner beings by listening to our individual body’s needs, becoming aware of our surroundings (sensing, for example, if there might be a big ole grizzly bear up that next corridor!), and generally knowing what it was to be grounded and humbled in the vast peaks we called home for the summer.