What Hiking and Healing Have in Common

Author Angela Tague cuddling next to her dog Leo, laying outside in the grass and sunshine.

Three summers ago, I planned an outdoor birthday adventure for me and my dog Leo. After all, we share the same August birth date and a love for nature. We packed a lunch and hopped in the car for a short road trip to a park and trail system we’d never explored.

Let’s Go on An Adventure

The road leading from our home winds through the beautiful loess hills of northwest Iowa. We drove slower than usual to take in the lush rolling greenery and postcard-like farmsteads. Of course, Leo had his nose out the window to catch all the livestock and plant smells.

The journey started slow, with ease and interest.

As the minutes flew by, Leo grew tired and curled up for a nap. I focused on navigating the hills and reading signs so I wouldn’t miss any turns. Just as I began to grow tired, I realized I was moments away from the park entrance. Leo and I were both once again energized.

Disclosure: This blog is reader-supported, which means this post contains affiliate links and advertisements. I earn a small commission if you shop through them, which helps fund this website so I can continue to bring you amazing content. Thank you! ~Angela

A close-up photo of the trail sign near the playground and picnic area at the park.

Time for a Hike

We parked the car, I strapped on my backpack and we looked for the trailhead. It was in a forest tucked behind a playground and picnic area. The shaded walk was a welcome sight on the hot summer day.

Then, I paused.

The trail immediately ascended into a gravel-covered uphill climb. This was not the relaxing walk I anticipated for our birthday adventure. Leo smiled and pulled me up the incline, tail wagging every step of the way.

Covered in sweat, gravel dust and a bad mood — this journey was hard!

At the top of the hill, the trail split. We chose to curve to the right to see what lay ahead. After a few minutes of sniffing forest flowers and admiring the trees, we came upon a clearing. There sat a bench and a scenic overlook.

Leo and I relaxed into the moment.

Ah, a moment of respite. We drank in the fresh air, some water and my mood shifted. The uphill climb wasn’t so difficult. And going back, it will be easy!

After our rest, we turned back to see where the other half of the fork in the road would have taken us. It twisted and turned, went up a bit and led us out of the forest. We ended up at a gravel road near the entrance to — another park! What a find!

The bench and scenic overlook at the park. You could see lots of green trees on the loess hills.

Making Our Way Back

In the interest of time and energy, we turned around and made our way through the forest again, now with familiar footing. Leo lingered to investigate; I did too. We had both finally relaxed into the magic of the forest.

My pockets were filled with interesting rocks.
Leo’s senses were working overtime.

We navigated down the steep hill that first greeted us and landed back in the groomed picnic area. We reclined in the freshly mowed grass. As the thermometer rose, we both needed the break on this hot August day. We shared lunch, packed up, and made the 45-minute trek home exhausted, accomplished and content.

Leo, the tan and white pitbull dog, laying in the grass with a bowl of cold water and two bones to chew.

Healing is a Journey

I wanted to write a blog post this month about how healing isn’t linear. You start with the best of intentions, expect to increasingly feel better, and finally celebrate wellness.

But, most journeys aren’t that way.

There are overly hopeful expectations to manage, hills to climb, sweat to wipe away as well as beautiful moments of pause, shifts in mindset and times to relax.

Healing happens progressively, with setbacks.

Whatever you’re managing or accepting will also go on a journey, much like my birthday adventure with Leo. Keep going. You just might find a magical overlook around the next turn. Or, a hill that pushes your limits. Both are necessary for forward progress.

Until next time,
Choose healthy!

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