When I first got back into hiking, I was working as a bedside nurse. It was exhausting work to be sure, but it also gave me lots of flexibility and time off, allowing me to hit the trails during the week, sometimes multiple times a month, and have them mostly to myself. When I changed roles to a more 9-to-5 position, my job satisfaction increased but my hiking time all but disappeared.
It’s had an effect on me, to be sure. Hiking is mental health therapy for me, and when I don’t get to do it for a while, it shows in my behavior and demeanor (my wife will be the first to point out when I need to go for a hike). Scheduling time to hike a trail for a few hours by myself requires a lot more planning, but I realized that I was overlooking a very simple solution to my dilemma: going for a walk at the local park.
While hiking is synonymous with remote woodland trails in my mind, the truth is that at its core, hiking is the act of walking, “especially in the country or woods (according to the Oxford Dictionary),” but not exclusively. As a hiker, I admittedly have a bias towards walking out in nature, but the truth is I can have a good hike right in the middle of the city if I go to the right location. While I’ve made great use of the state parks in my greater metro area, I also have a number of large city parks that feature some good trails and paths that I can visit on my way home from work or on a busy weekend afternoon. These green oases in the middle of the concrete forest provide the right amount of connection with nature when remote immersion isn’t possible.
One of the principles of simple living is making the most out of what you already have, and while I will always love heading out into a state park or into the mountains for a long hike, taking advantage of the paths and trails in city parks around me means that I get to remain active and connected to nature in between longer expeditions. By integrating walks at the park into my hiking repertoire, I reinforce the idea simple living is accessible in a modern, complex world, and that anyone can hike, because hiking is walking, and walking is hiking.