I love the summer, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning to the sun shining, throwing on a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt, and taking on the day ahead. Sure, it might frizz up, but I can just throw my hair up in a pony tail. Sure, I might look a tad disheveled, but the only makeup I need is sunscreen. That all being said, hiking in the summertime is absolutely no joke. I’ve done it in some of the hottest places in the U.S., like the Grand Canyon, and throughout the world, like the Israeli desert and Thailand. It was tough, and I remember the struggle like it was yesterday. But, looking back on it, it has definitely made me a stronger person.
1. I learned that giving up is not an option
As beautiful as a hike may be in the summertime, let’s be honest; we can’t wait for it to end so we can clean up in a nice, warm (or maybe, cold) shower, and sit in the AC or the chilly nighttime breeze. Unfortunately, the only way to get out of the heat and the scorching sun is to speed things up. Either you stop here and melt slowly into the ground beneath you (okay, so I’m being a bit dramatic), or you push on until the end. Even when I was thirsty as all hell, I had sweat dripping from every crevice of my body, and my water had started to taste like some questionable, lukewarm liquid, I learned very quickly that the reward for continuing on was much more desirable than the consequences for giving up.
2. I understood to appreciate things we often take for granted
Summer hiking takes dirtiness and discomfort to a whole new level. A majority of my outdoor experiences during the summertime meant giving up things I was all too used to; a good night’s sleep, feeling clean, eating food without utensils (and not dirty-ass hands), and having cold water readily available at the turn of a tap.
So, you drink your water a little more slowly, even though someone in your group is holding the jerry can. You tell your family where you’re going and when you’re expected to get back, even though you’re only due to be gone for a few hours. And, most importantly, you make sure to always look who is in front of you and behind you, because your hiking buddies might very well be the people to save your life in case the heat becomes too much to bear.
3. I knew the pain was real, but not life-threatening
I’ve had all sorts of things happen to me while hiking during the summer, that probably wouldn’t have happened during the rest of the year. I’ve been stung by more bees than I would have liked at a single time, but had to be more concerned about my peers who were allergic. I’ve fallen and scraped my knees, cringing from the sting of the sweat and dirt getting into the cut. I’ve had terrible sunburn take over my face, and was allergic to the aloe; the only thing to soothe it. But, all and all, I dealt with this pain, realizing I would sure as hell have any of those problems than others which can arise during a summer hike.
4. I no longer underestimate myself in all aspects of life
You’re a lot stronger than you think. Before I did some of the hikes I’ve done, even if they weren’t Mt. Everest or Death Valley, I really doubted myself. I just looked at the trail ahead, sweat dripping down my back, and really stirred up negative thoughts inside my head. I imagined needing to be rescued halfway through, unable to go on. Of course, none of those things happened, and I ended each and every summer hike just fine. This made me wonder why I couldn’t believe in myself from the start. Now, whenever I second guess myself, I think back to these experiences, and remember that it’s only a little while longer until I’ll reach the end of whatever I’m going through.
5. I’m fearless and open to anything
The thing is, if you can hike in the summertime successfully, then there’s really not a lot you can’t do. That might sound like a bit of a stretch, but it’s absolutely true. Because I’ve been able to overcome such hard hiking conditions, there’s really not much more I fret about. Of course, this doesn’t go for everyone. As someone with asthma and migraines, I really feel a sense of achievement when I’ve completed a hike in the summer. To me, it’s like I’ve won a gold medal. And, I’m that much stronger now because of it.
Hiking in the summer is difficult, but it teaches us a lot about ourselves. Of course, each season presents different struggles to each individual hiker. Which season has made you stronger as a hiker, and why?