A Day Hike Break
On our drive from Las Vegas to Missoula we took time out for a day hike adventure. Our normal road trip routine is to drive as long as we can, with as few stops as possible, to get to our destination as soon as possible. On this travel day we decided to take a break from the road and enjoy a day hike in a beautiful scenic area. We wanted to stop at Zion National Park, but since access for dogs in national parks is restricted we found another option near by. The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area near St. George, Utah was perfect for a short and scenic escape. We may have arrived a little later than planned to our hotel that night, however, the adventure we experienced on this short day hike recharged us and made the day much more enjoyable.
The hike we chose wasn’t very long, but it took us into a slot canyon. This was my first experience hiking in a slot canyon and the scenery was beautiful and geologically extraordinary. We followed the trail into the canyon until it disappeared into the water and the rock walls left no room to keep our feet dry.
Use Your Imagination
We came upon this old, gnarled tree trunk leaning against a rock. What does it look like to you? Rob and I had the same interpretation. To us, it is obviously the prehistoric remains of a mammoth’s head and trunk left here by an ice age glacier that cut a canyon through the red rocks.
Sometimes, while trekking through the outdoors, you will be faced by physical or mental challenges along the way. You have to assess your own abilities and take risks that you feel capable of. However, stretching yourself to accomplish the challenges that you come upon is another way to keep yourself young and vital. Penny, clearly, has the better end of this tricky climb around the rock wall.
A day hike is an opportunity to clear your mind from stress and fill it with fresh air and new ideas. While enjoying the beauty that nature provides, my mind wanders and is filled with inspiration. While in the outdoors I have space to think, imagine and day-dream. There’s no wifi out on the trails and the break from technology can eases my mind and allows room for creative thoughts to take over.
A day hike lets you immerse yourself in nature where you are surrounded by stunning landscapes. Beautiful vistas, trickling streams, or a lush meadows full of wildflowers will help to calm your nerves and reduce stress.
Hiking keeps you present and can be meditative. Awareness of your surroundings is a treat for your senses. While hiking I am acutely aware of the smells that come from the trees, plants and earth around me. I listen for the sounds of birds and water. My skin feels the sensation of the breeze, the warmth of the sun, or the scrape from a prickly bush encroaching on the trail. I try to identify the plants and wildflowers, and I’m filled with awe at the sight of a snow-capped peak or a rocky cliff. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, my taste buds are aroused by sweet huckleberries. Nature has the ability to awaken every sense to a new experience.
I can always find my happy place when hiking. Whether it is an easy day hike on a soft and shaded trail or a challenging climb up a steep hill with a heavy pack, I’m happy to be outdoors. Part of that happy feeling can be attributed to endorphins that come with exercise. Another mood booster is sunshine. If you are hiking on a sunny day your body is absorbing some vitamin D from the sun and that can lift your mood.
We all know that exercise has many benefits to our overall health. Hiking puts stress on your bones which strengthens them and helps prevent osteoporosis. It also builds muscle tone which will burn fat and help you lose weight. The advantage of hiking is that you can do it away from crowds and with friends. The social aspect makes it feel more like entertainment than exercise.
Enjoy Little Adventures in a Day Hike
A day hike is like a little mood boosting adventure. There are lots of reasons to recharge with a day hike. The natural beauty, fresh air and light to moderate exercise is good for the mind, body and soul. I encourage you to find opportunities to include these little mood boosting adventures into your schedule whenever you can.
When traveling, do you take time out to enjoy the scenery or are you among those who are focussed on destination? Is it possible that the journey being more important than the destination?
Live With Vitality
I want to share with you my 5 steps on how to live with vitality. However, first I’ll tell you a story. In February as I stepped off a plane the lady in front of me struggled to get seated into the waiting wheelchair. When she finally got herself turned around and sat down she looked up at me and, with a heavy sigh, said, “Don’t get old. Die young!” I tried to tell her that my intention was to live well, strong and vital until 100 (maybe even longer). She responded with, “That’s what I thought.” The thing is, she didn’t look that old. I don’t think she was more than ten years my senior, but I can assume that her choices have been different.
I truly believe that we all have the ability to avoid her pain and despair if we choose to live with vitality. Follow my 5 steps to living with vitality and let’s see what happens. Are you in?
Looking out over the Grand Canyon.
Several years ago I became intrigued with the Blue Zones while watching an episode of the Dr. Oz Show. Dan Buettner was on the show sharing the research behind his new book, Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. He studied five areas in the world with higher than average centenarians, areas unrelated geographically. Buettner concluded that there are nine common themes that contribute to longer lives, regardless of where one lived. As you can see these five Blue Zones are located in four different continents.
Becoming A Centenarian
Each region has several lifestyle components in common that Buettner has identified as contributing factors to longevity. In fact, experts say that if we adopt the right lifestyle, we could add at least ten good years to our life and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely. These lifestyle choices include what the inhabitants choose to eat, how much physical activity they get, how they socialize, how they handle stress, their connection to a community and their purpose in life, all of which influences their quality of life and wellness. As a result of his research he identified nine lessons for longevity:
- Move Naturally; be active without having to think about it.
- Hara Hachi Bu; painlessly cut calories by 20%.
- Plant Slant; avoid meat and processed foods.
- Grapes of Life; drink red wine (in moderation).
- Purpose Now; take time to see the big picture
- Down Shift; take Time to relieve stress.
- Belong; participate in a spiritual community.
- Loved Ones First; make family a priority
- Right Tribe; be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone Values
A trail marker keeps us on course during a hike in Red Rock Canyon.
5 Steps on How to Live With Vitality
After reading Buettner’s book Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, I consolidated the lessons into 5 steps on how to live with vitality.
Focus, Nourish, Energize, Recharge & Relax, and Regroup
First, find your purpose. Why do you get up in the morning? What motivates or inspires you. It’s hard to be happy when you don’t have a “why”, a destination, or ambition to your life. You can’t live with vitality without happiness.
For 18 years my “why” was to take care of my family. From making breakfast, packing lunches, planning menus, buying groceries and other necessaries, laundry, house cleaning, carpooling, doctors’ appointments, managing schedules and the list goes on. My purpose was to be a stay at home mom. I loved it and I am so thankful that I was able to focus my energy and time to this role. Since both children are now in college I am finding a new purpose with my blog and living an active, healthy lifestyle.
Juniper tree at Guano Point in the Grand Canyon West
Secondly, eat to live. Replenish your body with foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Eat a variety of fresh vegetables. Cut out the heavily processed foods. Michael Polan, author of Food Rules, calls those products “edible food-like substances.” Polan’s advice is “Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.”
I like to think that with every meal I have the opportunity to nourish my mind, heart, and body or deprive them of the nutrients they need to thrive. Sharing this knowledge with others motivates me to continue to learn and experiment.
Thirdly, make room for activity each day. It can be a 30 minute brisk walk, taking the stairs a little faster, a yoga session…something that makes your heart beat a little faster and makes you break a sweat. To have more energy you need to energize with exercise. For many of the Blue Zone inhabitants exercise is part of their daily life. They don’t spend an hour at the gym or train for marathons. They tend gardens, herd goats, or go on nature hikes.
For me, exercise includes trail running, hiking, skiing, yoga, and walking my dog. I also know that as soon as I become sedentary I have more headaches, shoulder and neck pain. Without exercise, I get the blues and brain fog. My goals for leading an active lifestyle are not just to keep my body in shape now. It’s so I will maintain my mobility, balance and strength as I age.
mountain stream in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Eastern Oregon
4. Re-CHARGE AND RELAX
Next, take time to unwind and have fun. Most of us live with some degree of stress in our lives. Stress causes inflammation which is a contributor to many diseases. For that reason it is important to find healthy ways to de-stress. This is done by taking time for yourself. Find things that you enjoy doing that help you unwind like reading, engaging in a hobby, or taking a bath.
I’ve been exploring meditation. There is a lot research that credits meditation with a number of health benefits from reducing inflammation and curbing pain to improving mood and dropping blood pressure. I’m still in the exploration and learning phases of meditation. Finding a quiet distraction free space is a challenge as I’m living with three dogs right now. This morning as I tried to find my zen one dog was barking at cars, another wanted to sit in my lap and the third nudged in close begging for a scratch behind the ears.
Brown Mountain and Lake of the Woods; Southern Oregon
Finally, connect with others and cultivate relationships. This final step encompasses family, friends and community. Love, support and social activity are vital to our emotional health. They also help to reduce stress and therefore health problems associated with high stress levels. Stress can trigger migraines, body aches, and weaken the immune system. Persistent stress, when untreated, can lead to heart disease, depression, anxiety and diabetes according to an article written by Jancee Dunn in a special edition of TIME called MINDFULNESS the new science of health and happiness.
With our move to Bend I will need to stay connected to my friends while building new friendships. In the past our boys were a forcing function in meeting new people and being connected to a community. We established friendships under umbrellas on the sidelines of soccer games, in the bleachers at lacrosse games, on the sidewalk in our neighborhood, playdates and school programs. I will need to find other ways to meet people through joining similar interest groups. It won’t be easy for this introvert. I will have to face the challenge and step outside of my comfort zone.
Grand Canyon West Arizona
You now know that my intention is to live with vitality until I’m 100 years old. Or, at least live as close to 100 as I can feeling strong, well, and happy. In other words, vital. I won’t get there by accident. It is a challenge I have embraced, and I must live every day with the intention of taking care of myself. T
Consequently, this means making choices that support my current health and will provide me with long-term health benefits. Following my 5 steps on how to live with vitality will help guide me along this path. My hope is that it will help you as well.
What are you doing to stay healthy and strong? Which of these steps are part of your life? Is there something that you struggle with? Please leave a comment below.
Typical of many moms, I graduated from college, began a career, got married, started a family, and then quit my job to become a full-time mom.
As a child, I remember wanting to be one of four things when I grew up; a park ranger, someone who worked with baby animals in a zoo, a school teacher, and a mom.
My grandfather was a park ranger in the summers and a school principal in the winters. He was a park ranger at Crater Lake and Glacier National Parks and Colorado National Monument. I never knew him as he died in 1958, five years before I was born. However, he passed his love of the outdoors to my father who raised me with a great appreciation for the outdoors.
I started backpacking when I was five and snow skiing when I was seven. I spent many days and nights at two lake cabins in southern Oregon. At one I learned to water ski, roast marshmallows around a campfire, and sunbathe on the dock. At the other I played in the water, hunted for tiny frogs, and caught and released chipmunks.
As I write this I’m sitting on a rock on the bank of the Gallatin River in Montana. It is peaceful with the sound of the ripples and birds. My husband is fly fishing, and I’ve taken many pictures today. This is peace for me. I never pursued the forest ranger path, but many of my happiest memories throughout my life are from times spent outdoors.
My grandmother was a school teacher. Her first job was in a one room school house in Lakeview, Oregon. She loved teaching so much that she retired four times before she retired for good. She gave me textbooks and supplies to play “school” with. I was particularly excited about the teacher copy that went with the reading book. As I got older I decided I liked children more than baby animals. I graduated from college with a degree in elementary education and within a year had a job teaching first grade. I enjoyed teaching, but I still had a strong desire to be a mom.
I always knew I’d be a mom someday. I imagined a family with six kids and gave them names. In reality, my husband and I had two baby boys. I quit teaching when boy number two was born. I consider myself lucky to have dedicated twenty one years to the full attention of my boys.
So, now it’s hard to believe that I am here in Montana getting ready to say goodbye to my youngest as he starts his freshman year of college.
As parents we raise our children to know right from wrong, think on their own, be responsible and independent. We have to trust that our lessons have sunk in and that they will make good choices, be safe, and be happy. Every year we’ve relinquished a little control and influence over them. However, the jump to college is like a leap across the Grand Canyon. We may never know the parents of their new friends or what time they get back to their room at night. Every day they’ll make choices and decisions without us knowing. There will even be days we don’t talk or text each other.
Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to Keaton. I’ll give him a hug and a kiss, tell him to make good choices, be safe, and be happy. I know he will, but I still have to do my job as a mom and remind him of these things. I’ll hug him again extra tight and cry. Then his father and I will drive 750 miles away from him.
Like my grandfather and father with the outdoors, and my grandmother with teaching, I’ve followed my passions into teaching and being a mom. Now that my role has changed, I’m following my passions for nutrition, the outdoors, photography, and inspiring others to live well longer.
I know a lot of moms who are saying goodbye to their college bound children. I know they struggle between letting go and knowing their child is off to great things. If you are in this situation leave a comment below and let me know how it is going for you.