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Why Do You Hike?
May 05, 2014

May 2014: A Note From Diane

A warm welcome to all new subscribers, and a hearty "howdy" to everyone!

Why do you hike?

For adventure? A cause you believe in? Healing?

This month, I give you a glimpse into all of those reasons for hiking, beginning with why Anna and Ross are tackling the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail in USA), a synopsis of a research article on the benefits of forest bathing, and ending with a beautiful nature video to inspire you when you can't put boot to trail.

Let's get right to it!

Who Are Anna And Ross?

These hikers will be on a long trail for months, powered by a diet some folks might consider inadequate: plant derived foods only.

In the end, they hope that their trail miles will add up to more than just bragging rights. They’re hiking to draw our attention to what they believe is a compassionate answer to the food disparity in our world.

I asked them a few questions to get a sense of why they are setting this goal for themselves.

Hiking-For-Her Q: You’re hiking without animal products in your trail diet. How will your protein/carbohydrate/fat ratios compare to what’s recommended for through (long distance) hikers?

A: “A plant-based diet is naturally higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and fat than most other diets. The majority of thru-hikers focus their calories on protein (for muscle recovery) and fat (for calories). Our diet will be lower in these macronutrients. This approach has worked great for a lot of ultra-endurance athletes like Scott Jurek and Rich Roll, among others.”

“Carbohydrates are the easiest and most efficient source of fuel for our body to burn, and you actually gain a little bit of water in the process of metabolizing carbs. Breaking down protein and fat is hard work for a body that is already hiking 25 miles every day, and you actually lose a little bit of water in the process of metabolizing protein. Over the long term, this makes a pretty significant difference.”

“Our favorite carbohydrates include rice, oatmeal, potatoes, couscous, buckwheat noodles, tortillas and dried fruit.”

Hiking-For-Her Q: What are you using as protein sources?

A: “We'll still be getting some protein, especially in our evening meals when we are getting ready to rest and recover.”

“We often eat dehydrated beans with rice, nuts and seeds, quinoa flakes in our oatmeal. Cliff bars are a pretty good source of plant protein, as are ProBars. Dehydrated hummus is a great protein source that goes well on a tortilla for lunch. The company Taste Adventure makes great soups and refried beans that rehydrate pretty quickly.”

“Sometimes we'll mix some flavors together - like refried beans with corn chowder and some instant mashed potato, then wrap that up in a tortilla. It's a perfect and delicious combination of carbohydrate and protein.”

Hiking-For-Her Q: What is it about Well Fed World as an organization that makes you recommend it as a place to make donations?

A: “A Well Fed World is an organization that is working at the root of many of the global problems we are currently facing. They are a hunger relief and animal protection organization that funds both domestic and international projects related to promoting a healthier and more compassionate lifestyle.”

“Cutting back on animal products in our diets has such far-reaching positive implications. For many people, this way of eating leads to weight loss, getting off of medications, and no more visits to the doctor. This lowers health care costs for all of us.”

“Environmentally, a plant-based diet results in less water use, less methane and CO2 emissions, less deforestation. Feeding animals for our own food is highly inefficient. We feed and kill millions of farm animals every day. By consuming fewer animal products, we free up all kinds of resources that can be redirected towards ending global hunger disparities.”

“Lastly, by changing to a plant-based diet, we can end the perpetuation of violence and animal suffering in the Western culture. A Well Fed World encompasses all these aspects within their mission. We believe this is the most effective way to make a difference in our future. We encourage everyone to learn more and consider making a donation to our cause.”

Long trail hikers are motivated by many things, but this pair of young hikers are more altruistic than most!

Forest Bathing: Not Just For Forest Sprites

I love that name, don’t you?

I try to bathe myself in the essence of forest in every season of the year. And now I know 1 reason why I feel so much better afterwards!

Long story short: Japanese researchers collected blood and urine samples from people who spent brief amounts of time in forests, and compared them to samples from those who visited urban areas.

The researchers honed in on stress hormones, and a specific immune system marker: natural killer cells. Scary name, right?

But think of them as patrol cells, looking for weird or misshapen cells that could lead to trouble (infections, cancer) and immediately dealing with them with destructive enzymes. They’re on your side!

These “NK” cells were abundant in forest bathers, compared with urban visitor. Bonus! The levels of NK cells remained elevated for a month after the forest visit!

Read the details

for yourself.

Nature Meditation

While we’re on the theme of Nature Healing, check out this 4 ½ minute video which I use to calm myself down when my long list of “must do’s” prevents me from hiking. Enjoy!

Which scenes resonated strongly with you? Do more of that type of hiking!

We all hike for different reasons. Compassion and healing seem like great reasons to me!

Please be sure to sneak in a little forest bathing time, and if you can introduce one person to our wonderful sport of hiking while you're at it, more power to you.

Up to something interesting or extra-ambitious this hiking season? Send me a brief description, for possible inclusion in the next newsletter.

Need answers to hiking questions? Send them along and I'd be happy to tackle them.

From me to you, Happy Trails always.

-Diane a.k.a. Happy Hiker

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