5 Reasons to Love Being a Day Hiker

Last weekend, my good friend Amy and I ventured a few hours east of Nashville on a mission to explore the popular and beautiful Cummins Falls.

Cummins Falls, TN

Cummins Falls, TN

It had been a hell of a week, involving a family member in critical condition after an accident, emergency surgery for my best friend, and unauthorized charges on my debit card. When it rains it pours, right? Needless to say, I was looking forward to a short jaunt in the woods.

As soon as we stepped from the gravel parking lot into the green tunnel of the lush and shaded trail, I sighed, relaxed, and thought, “I needed this.”

As the morning progressed, Amy and I picked our way along the rocky, rooty, watery path of the Downstream Trail (aptly named for spitting us out about a mile downstream of the falls). We crossed back and forth over the stream several times before reaching the falls, marveling at the fact that so many people attempted this trail with small children and large coolers, flip flops on their feet and their hands full of picnic gear. Amy and I looked like absolute minimalist hikers in comparison, with our little day packs with just snacks and water.

Despite the crowds and the coolers, I was able to stay mindful of my surroundings, of the color of the rocks in the river, the cut-outs in the sides of the gorge made by centuries of passing water, the unique flowers, and gorgeous sights along the trail. I was present. I was revived.

For the last several weeks, I have been obsessing over long distance hiker blogs, reading and dreaming of more long, wild adventures. In my heart, I know that not even by next year will I be financially stable enough to finance another epic sojourn, and that realization really bums me out. This trip, just like my Savage Gulf overnight trip a few weeks ago, reminded me that when it comes to being outside, it’s not an “all or nothing” situation. I don’t have to either live outside for six months or give up on the outdoor spaces of the world.

I can be gainfully employed in the indoor world and still seek solace and peace in the outdoor world. In other words, I can be a day hiker.

Although my mind is still thru-hike wired, and my heart is still thru-hike hungry, I have found the same kind of restoration in short trips as I did on my thru-hike. And let’s face it; there are some really great perks of being a day hiker, like:

1. LUNCH. Whenever, wherever, because, you know, CARS.

2. CLIMATE CONTROL. Hiking on a blazing hot day? Guess what? The car has air conditioning! So does your house! Cold and rainy? Guess where it’s warm and dry? That car you left at the trail head…and your house. The discomfort is only temporary.

3. CLEANLINESS. Okay, I may not shower quite as often as most normal people, but it is nice to come home from a hot, sweaty hike to cool off in the shower. It’s double nice when you happened to wander through poison ivy patches on your hike.

4. SHARING. Most of my experience on the trail was shared and intimately understood by those hiking with me and the handful of people back home who were greatly involved in my hike. As a day hiker, I have the opportunity to share outdoor experiences with a much wider range of people, and that’s AWESOME.

5. PICTURES. Without the fear of “will my phone die? Do I have enough battery to get to town?” I am able to take a gazillion pictures of flowers, rocks, waterfalls, and Amy and I being silly…things that most people won’t really care to see, probably, but I love them. What’s that? You want to see some pictures of Cummins Falls? OKAY!




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