The memoirs “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” and “Not Without My Father” are two riveting stories about life changing adventures on the trail.
The first, “Wild,” is a No. 1 New York Times best-seller written by Cheryl Strayed and made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. The book chronicles how Strayed faced depression and her sex and heroin addictions after the death of her mother through a grueling 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail stretches from the New Mexico desert, through the Sierra Nevada mountains and to the Canadian border.
The second, “Not Without My Father,” is written by local Charleston author Andra Watkins. The book, also on the New York Times best-seller list, is exceedingly funny and touching. Watkins originally decided to hike the length of the Natchez Trace Trail as a publicity stunt to promote her historical-fantasy
fiction novel set on the trail, “To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis.” Instead, her 444-mile trek provided her with a new understanding of her father, who served as her point person along the way, and of herself.
Both women endured long hikes for different reasons. Both women became physically and mentally stronger as a result.
These are inspiring books to read, but you don’t have to do a massive hike to achieve the physical and mental benefits that hiking provides.
According to medical research, hiking is both a cardio and a weight bearing activity, giving you the benefits of both forms of exercise in one activity. The medical benefits of hiking include: lowering the risk of heart disease, improving blood pressure and lowering blood sugar levels, boosting bone density, strengthening leg, hip and core muscles, improving balance, helping with weight control and reducing the symptoms of stress and anxiety. It can also help stave off mental decline as we age.
An added benefit is that you can explore some amazing parts of the Lowcountry, South Carolina, the U.S. and the world.
The National Park Service extols all the medical benefits and encourages people to lace up their boots and hit the many trails on the more than 400 national parks around the country. The park service also encourages you to improve your relationships by hiking with a partner or friend: “Hiking with a partner, or even in a group, can improve the strength and health of your relationships. Because hiking ranging in difficulty from an extremely challenging climb to a casual way of spending time outside, it’s a great way to strengthen the friendship and bonds you have with your companions. Whether it’s with a younger sibling, neighborhood friend or even a grandparent, hiking a trail together can bring you closer and help build a healthy relationship.”
In South Carolina, Congaree National Park offers a variety of hikes that meander through the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. And, just down Clements Ferry Road, the Francis Marion National Forest offers many trails, including a section of the Palmetto Trail, which goes across the state from Awendaw on the Intracoastal Waterway to Walhalla in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
You can get started hiking today on the 25-plus miles of trails on Daniel Island!