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ACTIVITIES Summer Activites

THE JOY OF HIKING

photography by brent bingham

Anyone who has ever ventured on a hike, be it a flat trail or a 14er, has experienced the instant feeling of peace and contentment that takes hold. Even on the most stressful day, nature’s chorus has a way of taking over. And that might be the best part of hiking: allowing nature to sing.

In fact, a Stanford University study found that time spent in nature calms the portion of the brain that reduces your mind’s tendency toward negative thought patterns. That outdoor exercise — particularly hiking — has a direct correlation to a greater feeling of positivity and energy.

Buddhist monk Ryojun Shionuma scaled Japan’s Mt. Omine (5,640 feet), almost 30 miles round-trip, every day for 30 consecutive days for nine consecutive years. He completed the journey 1,000 times in an ancient ritual that promised pain, suffering and, if completed, enlightenment. His incredible feat, only gave more of a boost of what scientists say:  meditation combined with exercise delivers a plethora of psychological benefits by improving concentration, elevating moods and calming nerves.

Hiking is an exercise powerhouse! When using, say, a stairclimber, you’re working your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Hiking — especially downhill, however — is really what tones those muscles even more. That’s when your quads and glutes are working nonstop to support your hips and knees, the toning effect dramatically increased.

There is a plethora of hikes in Eagle County — some on the easy side to just feed your soul. Still others that will, too, feed your soul — but at the end of the day will have you yearning for a hot bath and massage — and wondering what you were thinking.

One of those hikes is Deluge Lake, which begins at the Gore Creek Trailhead in east Vail. It’s a 4-mile hike with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet that reaches over 11,700 feet. And glorious flowers are abundant. At lower levels wild geranium, lily and harebell catch your eye. And, as you get higher, mountain-dwelling wildflowers hug the ground, like alpine forget-me-not and pink moss campion.

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A moderate hike that is guaranteed to take your breath away is Lake Constantine, a 3.5-mile, six-hour hike which leads you up to this tranquil lake where you can take a breather, veg out and picnic. The trail travels though wet meadows and an array of sub-alpine flowers as well as paintbrush and rosy queens that peek out in the meadows.  A short hike beyond the lake gets you captivating views of the Continental Divide as well as the heaven-kissing 14ers, Grays and Torrys Peaks.

Or, if you just want to take an easy hike the East Lake Creek trail is the ticket. It will take you through aspens to a creek.  And at only 2 miles, it’s perfect for a family outing.

In this rage of trendy fitness, be it goat yoga or a karaoke spin class, it’s easy to forget how powerful hiking can be for both body and mind.As John Muir once said, “Of all the 
paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” 

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

John Muir