From David Letterman to Facebook fads, Top 10 lists have always had a way of capturing folks' attention. In keeping with this favored practice, I want to offer 10 reasons that you should "take a hike!" Unlike Letterman, my offerings aren't all that comedic but here they are (in a particular order but not necessarily ranked).
10. Free: Across The Bluegrass, lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and trails abound. Fortunately, nearly all of them, especially if they're part of a public preserve or park, are free to hike. Some parks will, of course, charge a minimal fee to camp but, when it comes to hiking, there'll likely be no cost involved. If you're a penny-pincher or the budgeting type, this is probably music to your ears. So, go find a trail because, by and large, hiking in Kentucky is free! Furthermore, most of the trails are kid-friendly (as long as an adult is present, of course).
9. Fun: While some of Kentucky's bigger cities offer thrill-seeking sites such as amusement parks, water parks, and the like, nature also has a lot to offer; in fact, it may have more to offer. On your hike you'll often see wild animals from an up-close perspective, find interesting rock formations, wade in a creek, jump in a swimming hole, or get cooled off by a waterfall. "Fun" is the word that encapsulates all of this! So, take hike!
8. Healthy: It's no secret that hiking can be a great workout. Making headway on a trail gets the blood pumping, works out the legs, fills the lungs with fresh air, and burns calories. You might run in place or walk in circles in a city gym and, to be sure, there's a place for that, but get out and hike, too; it's a totally healthy workout! By the beginning of April 2016, I had clocked over 30 miles of hiking. I can say, with confidence, that hiking always makes me feel better and healthier.
7. Spiritual: As a Bible scholar and theologian, I'm always looking for God. Next to my wife and kids, I find the beauty of God largely in nature. Seeing the sunset at the end of a trailhead, marveling at roaring rivers and waterfalls, looking on blooming trees and flowers, these are all things that provide me with a glimpse into the greatness of God. Hiking, for me, is a spiritual thing. Not only does God go with me into the forest, I usually find more of him there. That's reason enough for me to hike any day!
6. Adventure: Going on a hike is a great way to catch an adrenaline rush! Standing at the edge or overlook of a cliff, stumbling upon a cave entrance, and journeying to a new site can all be great sources of adventure. For those looking to get a fresh wind of excitement, I'd highly recommend getting out on a trail. Head to the Red or go take a Look at Vanhook. Whatever you do, don't let another week just boringly go by. Get out and hike! Start an adventure!
5. Beautiful: With this one, it's tough to know where to begin. Of course, as a Kentucky native, I'm a bit biased; I think Kentucky is absolutely one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Among other things, I've visited the Redwoods in California, hiked the Highlands of Ethiopia, followed the footsteps of the Apostle Paul in Turkey and Greece, and explored the Qumran wilderness in Israel but, still, I contend that The Bluegrass State has it all. The breathtaking valleys, mountainscapes, and falls are awesome and awe-inspiring. Hiking is, in large part, the urge to be surrounded by beauty. There are few better places to do it, in my opinion, than here in Kentucky.
4. Perspective: Good habits can be a good thing and solid routines can be beneficial. Yet, seeing the same thing day in and day out can drain the spirit. Hiking is the remedy to looking at the same old walls, feeling trapped between the floor and ceiling of your house, and trying to survive boredom. Hiking provides a welcome change of scenery; it gives one the opportunity to take a breath of fresh air and see things from a different perspective.
3. Bonding: I'm not a fan of hiking alone. I try to discourage folks from taking to the trails alone, especially in this day and age. You never know what you're going to encounter out there! If you have someone with you, you stand a greater chance of being safe. But if you have someone at your side, hiking provides a great opportunity to bond with them. Recently, I was able to catch up with an old friend, someone I had not seen for about a decade. What did we do? We hit the trails. It was a wonderful time to catch up, share stories, and reflect on life. Hiking was a means of strengthening our friendship!
2. Possible/Possibility: If you live in Kentucky and are able to walk, you should hike simply because you can. In other words, if it's possible for you to hike, do it! If you don't you're missing out on a grand opportunity; you're letting unspeakable riches surround you, riches you can partake of/in, without doing anything about it. In addition to it being "possible" to hike, know, too, that hiking is full of possibilities. I've learned that even if I've walked the same trail many times, if I'm open to it, I can always find new things. Those new things open up new opportunities and possibilities, whether it's having a greater appreciation for what's here or sharing those things with others, hiking The Commonwealth is full of possibilities.
1. Educational: Along many of Kentucky's trails hikers will find information stands, tour guides, and the like. These folks help make hiking an educational endeavor. Learning the history of a place, the significance of a site, or what sort of habitat or ecosystem one may encounter in a given area is important. As the old saying goes, "The more you know, the more you grow." I want to encourage you, as you hike, not simply to stop and smell the roses but to take time to learn, too. Find out about the places you visit because it'll bring you to a level of appreciate for them that you didn't have before. Education is power!
So, there are 10 reasons to get out and hike. Now that your'e done reading this, what are you waiting for? Start planning your next adventure now...The Bluegrass awaits you!