Whether it’s the smell of fresh pine or the soft touch of a breeze on a windy day, nature offers a feeling- a sense. Work, relationships, anxiety, stress…the pandemic that continues to take lives and jobs…it’s tiring. People are always looking for a breath of fresh air, and hiking is an easy way to find one. With hopes to encourage others to go outside and explore, these seven individuals shared why they hike and how it makes them feel. From trails in local parks, to mountains and rock scrambles in Utah- these are their stories.
Katie hikes for Happiness
Growing up just south of Saratoga, New York, Katie Adams immersed herself in the Adirondacks at a young age. She usually hikes with others, specifically her brother or cousin, but also enjoys taking trips with groups of friends.
“I love everything about it,” Adams said. “Hiking is a challenge that gets you outside for an entire day with people who share the same interest, and at the end you get to appreciate an amazing view; there’s nothing like it.
It gives you an opportunity to clear your mind or just let it wander. I always feel an overwhelming sense of happiness.”
Some of Adams’ best hiking memories are the ones that didn’t go as planned.
“One time my brother and I attempted to hike Gothics in May and we were not at all prepared for the snow we found,” Adams said. “We spent probably three to four hours trudging up as the snow was just getting deeper and deeper, until we were about half a mile from the summit and the snow was hip deep. We decided it was too much and that we had to turn back. I remember when we took a break and decided we couldn’t sensibly make it to the top and then make it down safely; we both were just sitting in snow eating our sandwiches like, ‘damn.’ That was a huge learning experience about how different the weather is in the peaks than at ground level. Later on we re-did Gothics, this time in the fall so there was just a little bit of ice. I think we hit three peaks right by Gothics and it was such an enjoyable trip. It was one of those perfect crisp fall days- the trails weren’t crowded at all and all of the people we met on top of each summit were so friendly; not to mention the breathtaking views from the Great Range.”
Ian hikes for Appreciation
Ian Fien is an avid rock climber and hiker, and is currently studying biology. He usually hikes with his partner Lydia, his climbing partners or family.
“I’ve been hiking since I was ten or 11,” Fien said. “I started out with occasional hikes with my family, just casual loops around parks and some small summits. When I started high school I joined the cross-country ski team. To train we would run through Webster park during the cold and wet evenings – I started to appreciate the pain. It’s not always a comfortable activity and I think that comes as a reality check for many when they go on their first serious hike. The discomfort grounds you and helps you appreciate the comfort of your home, the ease of driving and the availability of food in the fridge.”
Fien’s definition of hiking has changed over the years, but he has always found it enjoyable.
“It’s extremely meditative,” Fien said. “It takes me away from distractions and allows me to think through the things that are stressing me. In recent years it’s become more of a means to an end, I hike to get to the climb, but then climbing is just vertical hiking.
My favorite hike is probably trap dike in the Adirondacks. It’s an extremely challenging hike- many people bring rope or gear, but it’s really only class four. The hard part about telling a story about a hike is that any one portion of the trip won’t do the whole trip justice. You just have to go on the trip and experience it for yourself. It’s just as much about the lows as it is the highs, the challenges overcome and the appreciation gained.”
Tess hikes for Serenity
There hasn’t been a moment in time Tess Klossner wasn’t hiking. Born and raised in the small town of Tupper Lake, New York, she’s been able to explore and enjoy the beauty of the Adirondacks in her own backyard.
“When I was little my parents would put me in their backpack and take me on hikes; as soon as I could walk I was hiking them myself,” Klossner said. “I usually hike alone, unless I’m going to do a high peak or me and my friends are just sitting around bored. I hardly ever bring my phone, usually just my dogs. Being at the top of the mountain, covered in sweat and out of breath just taking in the beauty, the fresh air and the birds chirping… that is really the only time I feel 100% at peace. It’s the best type of alone time.”
Hiking helps Klossner clear her mind and escape all the stressors in life.
“I get a chance to escape reality and just really process anything that needs to be, as well as help myself remember how lucky I am to be on this earth and to be thankful for what I have,” Klossner said. “A lot of people don’t get to live in a place as beautiful, I really am lucky to have been born where I was- hiking helps me remember that.
My favorite memories are when I take people from college up my favorite mountain back home- Mt. Arab. It’s a quick and easy one, but it holds one of my favorite views and overlooks my entire town. It’s one of the few mountains left with a fire tower on the top, making it so much cooler. It’s the first mountain I ever hiked and I have a handful of sappy, sentimental memories up there so I love to share it with my college friends and let them try to enjoy it as much as I do.”
Ben hikes for Connection
Ben Vanderstouw hiked Mt. Jo at age four. He’s worked as a botany technician, but is currently unemployed- exploring the country living the dirt bag climber life.
“Connection to the natural world and forest/desert ecology is super important to me,” Vanderstouw said. “It’s great for my mental health and overall well-being. I also often hike to find wild plants and fungi to observe and eat, as well as to approach rock and ice climbs.
Hiking allows me to focus my attention fully on my surroundings. I love when I can smell, see and hear everything around me with clarity– time in the wilderness does that for me. I’ve hiked a lot in the Adirondacks, parts of the Finger Lakes trail, many mountains in New England, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, California, Nevada and Northern Mexico (Nuevo Leon).
Recently I hiked Lone Peak near Salt Lake City and I got to experience beautiful alpine meadows, stands of ancient bristlecone pines and scrambling on immaculate granite.”
Sean hikes to Reset
A runner and lover of the outdoors, Sean Killip hikes as a way to take a break from the distractions and busyness of everyday life.
“Hiking acts as a reset button for the mind and body,” Killip said. “There are no demands from other people and it gives me the break I need to go back and succeed in my societal roles. I usually hike alone, but I also enjoy going with family or close friends.”
Killip likes to find new trails and explore local parks around upstate New York, but his go-to place to hike is the Adirondacks. He’s climbed 20 of the 46 high peaks.
“Any high peaks in the Adirondacks stand out to me, but one trip in particular was hiking the Dix Range,” Killip said. “To get there my sister and I had to drive five hours on a Friday night and then hike in four miles at 12 a.m. to set up our tents. With very little sleep we set out in the morning to start the range. Sadly, we only finished four of the five peaks, it was getting too late so we turned back. Sleep deprived, we stumbled our way down a herd path and somehow got lost and went the wrong way, adding a couple more hours of hiking. It was sort of horrible. I kept mistaking sticks for snakes and we just needed rest. My legs felt as if they were going to fall off those last few miles. It took a few days to change my outlook on the trip, but I soon realized it was one of the best hiking trips I’ve ever had. For me, nothing is more refreshing than countless hours in the woods with people that make you smile. Even the hikes that make you sleep deprived and slightly delusional can be a good time. It gives you headspace and a huge sense of accomplishment.”
Sid hikes for Peace
Sidney Kulzer has been hiking as long as she can remember, but has really found a passion for it within the last few years.
“I’ve always struggled with anxiety and other mental health issues, and when I hike it calms my mind and just puts the whole world into perspective,” Kulzer said. “It’s so easy to get caught up in everything around you and let it negatively impact you. When I hike it makes me realize how small all of those problems are in the grand scheme of things, and how lucky I am to be able to just escape.
It’s almost like a spiritual thing- when I’m on top of a mountain I feel super in tune with the universe. I’m a part of something that brings me so much comfort that it almost doesn’t matter what I’m going through at the time, everything is okay.”
Kulzer also appreciates the physical demand of hiking.
“It feels amazing at the peak to know I challenged myself and that I’m able to push myself that much,” Kulzer said.
It’s hard to choose just one, but Kulzer’s favorite experience has been hiking Indian Head in Keene Valley.
“It was in the summer, the weather was literally perfect and it was my first kind of long hike,” Kulzer said. “Going into it I was skeptical just because of the length, but the entire hike was beautiful. When we finally got to the summit it was sort of windy. Walking out from the tree line and onto the bare face of the mountain, feeling the wind and seeing the high peaks surrounding us on the side and looking out at the water over the cliff in front of us was surreal. It was the first time in my life something really took my breath away. I was completely in awe and I remember thinking to myself, this is why people say the Adirondacks are God’s country. I honestly think that was the moment I really, really fell in love with hiking.”
Will hikes to Release
William Meany is currently studying environmental sciences and has been hiking consistently for about four years.
“Hiking allows me to take a break from the busy world and go adventure out in the wilderness,” Meany said. “It also allows me to do what I love in an outdoor environment; being an environmental science major I love looking at every flower, tree or animal I come across. There is only so much you can see in a classroom and you can always learn something on the trail.”
Meany tends to hike alone, but also enjoys the company of close friends or family.
“Hiking allows me to take a break from everything that stresses me out,” Meany said. “It’s a great outlet that only has positive effects on the body and mind. The thrill of adventuring miles from the nearest road is exhilarating and allows me to breathe a little easier.
My most memorable experience was hiking the Cranberry 50, a 50-mile backpacking route in the Adirondacks. Specifically, the last three miles of the trail stand out the most. It was our third day of hiking and we finally reached the town we started in and it was all road walking from there. My partner and I took off our wet muddy shoes and we limped through the main street of the town – our feet hurt from the pavement but it was a relief just to take our shoes off. As we walked down the street people congratulated us as they could tell we had just finished. We were covered in dirt and could barely walk, but we had made it.”
Hiking can be simple, or it can be challenging. It can be painful, but rewarding. It’s an activity that can give you exactly what you need whenever you ask for it. Waking up each morning to an increasing COVID-19 death toll will get to you after a while. So, go out and enjoy the smells, the sounds and the sights. Slow down and let your mind escape somewhere new. However much you put in, is what you’ll get back.