Today is “National Take a Hike Day” – an annual designation intended to shake us from our sedentary habits and encourage Americans to enjoy the 60,000-plus miles of the National Trail System that are woven throughout our 50 beautiful states.

According to recent statistics, the average person sits over 11 hours a day, and that doesn’t even include sleeping. Of course, technology and the explosion of convenience have contributed to our increasingly static natures. It hasn’t always been this way.

My father had to walk to Howie’s candy store to buy the morning newspaper – I just press a button and the world’s news is instantly in the palm of my hand. Other household chores that used to take many minutes of movement now take mere moments to complete.

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Some historians trace the hiking phenomena back a few hundred years, but people have been walking from here to there since the beginning of time. Modernity just has a habit of reinventing things and claiming credit.

With great gear from REI and other top-notch outfitters, modern hiking claims a charm and luxuries that used to be distant fantasies. I don’t think Moses and the Israelites found anything too charming about eating quail and manna on their 40-year hike in the wilderness.

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But I love hiking and resonate with all the beautiful reflections offered down through the years from people who longed to breathe deeply fresh air under wide open azure skies.

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world,” once wrote John Muir, the famed Scottish American naturalist credited with preserving America’s beautiful open spaces.

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“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees,” opined the literary giant and philosopher Henry David Thoreau.

Admittedly, although I’ve been running since high school, I didn’t fully appreciate the draw of hiking until I moved to Colorado almost 23 years ago. Back in New York, I ran the suburban streets of our neighborhood as well as the south shore beaches of Long Island.

Away from the clang and clamor of day to day living, everything seems possible on a rock-strewn trail, the sounds of leaves under foot and the whistle of the wind in the trees. 

There is beauty everywhere but there’s definitely something special about walking quietly in the mountainous forests of Colorado. John Denver wasn’t exaggerating when he sang, “I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky” and “The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye.”

Away from the clang and clamor of day to day living, everything seems possible on a rock-strewn trail, the sounds of leaves under foot and the whistle of the wind in the trees.

Hiking isn’t only good for the mind, of course. A brisk hike provides an excellent cardio workout, improves blood pressure, strengthens muscles and even increases bone density.

I believe human happiness would skyrocket exponentially if more people made hiking and walking a priority. Moods would improve and congeniality would increase.

Even better than quietly hiking alone is sharing the trail with a partner with whom you can share your fears along with your hopes and dreams. I love hiking with my wife and three boys. We’ve talked about things on the trail that would probably never come up anywhere else.

But maybe the great British spy writer John le Carre offered the best reason of all to get up and go for a hike when he wryly observed, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

I’m going to stop typing now and head for the hills. I wish you could join me.

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