A park ranger’s favorite places to melt stress away
I hike it. And I like it.
I have always been a hiker. Even before I could walk, my parents strapped me into the backpack and carried me up Yosemite Falls. Growing up, my siblings and I would roam the trails behind my house, discovering the best sticks for building forts and looking for salamanders under rocks.
Family vacations were spent exploring by foot during the day and cooking s’mores over the fire by nightfall. Now, trails are the first places I look when searching out my next destination. I’ve tied up my hiking boots around parks in Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, and of course in our own backyard, my office, the National Parks of the United States.
As an Interpretive Park Ranger, my job is to educate people about the special places that they can explore while visiting the parks. Through programs like the Healthy Parks, Healthy People partnership between Cape Cod Healthcare and the National Seashore, people form a deeper connection to the places that support them economically, physically, and socially.
Do you have a place that you can go where the world just makes a little more sense?
We have the most awe-inspiring, always-changing, affordable trails right at our doorstep! Cape Cod National Seashore’s 44,000 acres of preserved land between Chatham and Provincetown provides the perfect place to set aside your worries and go for a hike. With the centennial celebration this year, the National Park Service is advocating that it is no longer enough to sit in your air-conditioned car, rolling down the window to snap up some scenic shots. It’s time to go out there and experience all that these beautiful places have to offer.
In the words of Edward Abbey, former National Park Service ranger, “A man on foot, on horseback, or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”
Since working at Cape Cod National Seashore, I have found a multitude of opportunities for people to rise up from their beach towels and get active. I have explored trails that can take you to remote lighthouses and marsh views. On Great Island, I travel down paths that lead to beaches away from the traffic and crowds. At the Marconi Station Site, I can get lost in a swamp and then find myself overlooking a sea cliff. Summer on Cape Cod might be the time to load up on lobster rolls and ice cream cones, yet it can also be thought of as a time to reset mentally and physically.
I hike because it makes me feel good. With others, I can talk about whatever comes to mind. By myself, I can get lost in my thoughts or allow the effort to melt away stress. I can enjoy the amazing views that are made that much more worth it by the sweat sacrificed to get there. The trail is so uncomplicated, just a place where your feet hit the ground.
Simply going for a hike can reduce blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight over the long term. The added benefits of getting healthy outside help mentally. At the National Seashore, Cape Cod Healthcare has partnered with the park to encourage their patients, staff, and the local community to take a hike. Ranger-guided programs have also been added that are designed specifically to be mentally or physically beneficial: bike tours, long hikes, and yoga are just a few.
So often, people can get lost behind the walls of a cubicle, where the flowers don’t bloom and the leaves don’t crunch beneath your feet, where the flick of the switch takes place of a sunrise. Now, we have the opportunity to explore new trails and discover what was there all along.
For my own sanity and survival, I just get outside and take a hike.