Hiking For Exercise!

Perhaps you’ve wondered whether running, hiking or exercise is for you?  Perhaps you’ve even wondered if people who seem to swear by their exercise program are lacking a bit upstairs? They’re a bit crazy or even addicted to the habit of taking care of themselves through exercise. If so, you will find this outdoor adventure blog very insightful if not motivation to help get you get out that door.

Hiking for Exercise — It Does my Mind And Body Good!

The February morning dawned cloudy, dreary and mild. Ugh! I prefer blazing sun in the mountains but would hope for the best.  I hadn’t been hiking in a couple of weeks and was very anxious to hit the trail. Packing my gear, water and snacks, I gassed up my SUV and drove toward the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City.  I arrived at the trail head in Big Cottonwood Canyon at 9 AM and strapped on my backpack. The snow pack was thin and I elected to wear spikes and pack my snowshoes in my backpack with me.  Nice decision as the trail was snow packed and icy…but snowshoes would definitely have been overdone.  The trail runs next to the creek and the stream was roaring down the canyon.  I paused and took pictures appreciating nature’s beauty.  I continued up the trail and across a very familiar bridge on the trail to Lake Blanche.  Since I was the first on the trail that morning, the 1″ of new snow was undisturbed, at least until I passed the Twin Peaks Wilderness entrance sign.  Almost immediately I noted that snow had been disturbed, with an instantaneous realization that I was looking at Moose tracks.  I glanced quickly to my right and saw her…not more that 10 yards off the trail.  Experience also told me that there could be a calf nearby and I rapidly scanned in all directions. Was the calf in the brush? Or, hidden in the pines nearby? I scanned closely and quickly.  No calf! My attention then immediately turned back to the moose who had spotted me first and was watching intently.  Finding me to be harmless she moved into a thicket and continued to voraciously forage on the unusually open pines and brush in this spectacular area.  I moved carefully to a position between me and the moose and took a stunning picture through a “Y” branch in a pine tree.  Absolutely gorgeous! I was then surprised to notice that his young moose was missing the lower portion of her left leg.  She seemed to be moving along surprisingly well and I snapped another picture or two of her.  I also wondered what could have caused this injury to such a magnificent animal?  Since mother moose are extremely protective of their young, having a predator injure the moose when younger would have seemed difficult, but not impossible. Perhaps a fall?  Another type of injury? Who really knows.  Just sad and very unfortunate.  After 5-10 minutes of watching the moose safely, I was anxious to move on up trail to the Lake that I adore.  I raced past her gingerly, taking one last picture.  I was now definitely energized and looking forward to what lay ahead!

As I continued toward Lake Blanche, I leaned into the steep trail pausing at times to snap great pictures. About half way to the Lake,  Sundial Peak  juts up abruptly  into view.  Time to frame a picture!  Just minutes later, there is striking Dromedary Peak and as I neared the Lake, a view of the valley with a zoom lens that never ceases to amaze. I was unusually winded on the hike and stopped more than I typically do to catch my breath. I was feeling the remnants of a weeks old cold and also not hiking for 2-3 weeks.  The hike begins at around 6,200 feet and ends nearly 2,800 feet later at just below 9,000 feet.  The roughly 3 miles in distance will tease the lungs and tense the legs. However, this absolutely doesn’t deter me and the thought of seeing Lake Blanche in winter splendor simply pushed me forward with even more determination.  Speaking of the Lake, this hike didn’t disappoint. As I crept up trail the last quarter mile, I could see 10,600+ foot Sundial Peak shrouded in clouds.  I paused as clouds chased across the upper reaches of its craggy precipices.  I took a moment to watch the clouds move, ebb, and shudder across the nearby sky using it as an excuse to pull in some much needing oxygen into my system. As I pressed on, Lake Blanche encased in ice and several feet of snow was laid beautifully before me.  I stopped again briefly to take in the view.  Picture hundreds of acres of un-tracked snow.  Picture the sun mostly smothered by dark and yet puffy clouds.  Also picture a forest of pines on the far side of the Lake dusted with snow.  Just then a light breeze moves past cooling my perspiration dotted face…a welcome blessing from a challenging vertical hike. Can you imagine this?  If so, you can now get a small glimpse of why I spend time regularly in the central Wasatch Mountains.

Exercise on Snowshoes!

After strapping on my snowshoes, I moved down a steep slope to the Lake.  I made sure that I didn’t venture too close to the edge of the ice as the mild winter had likely weakened the ice layer. Getting wet (or worse) in the wilderness could put a real damper on my day and I’m extremely aware of risks when hiking solo. Taking each rewarding step I hear the sound of snow rushing against and through my snowshoes. The sound of the swooshing snow is always relaxing to me and I take it in deeply.  I also viewed with my eyes the scenes I had only imagined in my minds-eye at the trail head 2 hours before.  It is also what motivated me to continue hiking even when exhausted about half way up the trail.  As I snowshoed, the clouds lifted a bit and I was blessed with crystal blue sky and a ribbons of February sunshine glistening off the pristine snowfields in all directions. Pausing near the southern end of the Lake I took in the stunning beauty once more and turned my camera lens on this amazing scene.  Switching directions and hiking back along my snowshoe trail I was again mesmerized by the beauty of the upper peaks of the Wasatch range. I snowshoed across a small stream that runs into the Lake year round’. The air was crystal clear and each breath that I take seems to tantalize my lungs and blast away any worries or concerns. This is exactly what I want people to experience. Exercise regularly with preferably a portion of their exercise regimen in the mountains.  As I checked my IPhone, I noted that my daytime “date” with the back country must soon end for today. I pushed back along the fringes of the Lake toward an old dam that has long ago fallen into disrepair but simply adds more striking beauty to the area.  I then plunged backward in the soft snow and snapped a picture of my snowshoes framed by Sundial Peak.  I smiled inwardly as I thought of how blessed I was to have this scene all to myself…evidence again of how hiking blesses me (and others) very regularly in the central Wasatch Mountains.

As is almost always the case, I stayed longer in this pristine scene than I planned.  How can I leave such an amazing place with any time to spare? I pushed my departure back to the very last second and loved every moment.  As I finally began to hike out on snowshoes, I was surprised to see another hiker moving steadily up the trail just before the Lake.  I soon recognized the figure as my great friend Brett who had told me via text that he would be hiking in the area later in the day. We spoke briefly about the trails stunning beauty and how he’d fared on the trail. His facial expression appeared totally awe struck (and yet relaxed) by the breathtaking beauty. He told me that the day was spectacular. He also noted that he hadn’t hiked this trail in several years…and was absolutely thrilled to have made the trip. I asked Brett whether he’d seen the moose at the beginning of the trail?  He had seen the tracks but no moose.  This is typical for moose behavior as hikers or those on snowshoes tend to push the animals back from the trail.  We each took pictures of the other in the rugged beauty and then parted company, promising to meet again very soon for a snowshoe adventure in the back country.  In fact, Lone Peak sounds really good come July!

Why Hike For Exercise?

The hike out to the trail was uneventful, unless you call viewing stunning winter scenery in all directions an “event.”  Oh and did I mention that I use my hikes for a great opportunity to check in with my Higher Power?  And, contemplation about life in general? Planning for the future and also planning future outdoor adventures?  My bad! That is yet another reason to seek time alone in the mountains…to regain one’s perspective on family, friends, career, and my Higher Power, i.e., God.  As I approached the area that I had seen the moose earlier in the day, I looked closely for any sign of her.  The day was warm and the 1″ of snow there this morning had melted off the trail.  There was no sign of her. I plan on hiking here again soon and will watch closely for this elusive moose. After all, seeing wildlife only adds to the awesome trail experience.  The sound of water rushing down the canyon tantalized my ears as I moved closer to the trail head.  The Mill B South Creek rushes into Big Cottonwood Creek and I follow the creek out to the trail head…and my parked car.  As I packed my gear into my SUV, I couldn’t help but take a quick look at some of the over 100 pictures I’d taken.  What pictures did I find the most beautiful? Well, the moose pics of course! I always wonder if I framed the picture of the animals well (moose, mountain goats, deer) or if the picture could be fuzzy.  Thankfully, these were great. I also looked closely at the Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak pictures…particularly those where the sun blasted through the clouds for a few moments.  These appeared impressive as well.  Wow, what a great day in the Wasatch of northern Utah!

Hiking Wrap Up

Hiking or snowshoeing in the Wasatch during the winter does have its inherent risks.  Avalanches do occur, particularly during or after sustained periods of heavy snowfall.  Thus it is necessary and extremely wise to check the avalanche conditions and know the terrain that you will be dealing with. A great place to start is the Utah Avalanche Center’s daily forecast.  It can be found at https://utahavalanchecenter.org/.

Please also expect to see an upswing in your mood and overall energy level following an outdoor hiking or snowshoeing adventure.  People tell me that my mood and energy level are both increased for several days following a hike.  In fact, my wife has told me that I’m “giddy” with almost too much energy immediately following a hike.  Fortunately, this is a tremendous, positive side effect for those willing to exercise in the outdoors on a consistent basis.

Is hiking or snowshoeing for you?  That’s totally up to you! The only thing you have to lose is negativity and blah mood.  What will you gain? That’s totally up to you and your effort! I look forward to hearing about your adventures in Utah’s great outdoors.

Why Hike for Exercise?

Why NOT hike for exercise.  I’ve blogged on this critical subject in the past.  You will likely find these blogs of some key interest as well.  Remember to get off the couch and out that door!

http://englandcounseling.org/inversion-got-you-down-ramp-up-now/

http://englandcounseling.org/healthy-options-to-a-boring-subject/

http://englandcounseling.org/why-exercise-magnatooele-why-not-exercise/

 

Michael Boman, LCSW is a Mental Health and Relationship expert.  Michael is also a strong believer in self-care, exercise and overall wellness.  Michael welcomes your comments regarding your experiences with health and wellness.  He can be reached at . Michael is also available to speak to your community, school, professional, or church group regarding these critical issues impacting individuals and families. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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