The beautiful view of nature as far as the eye could see brought me to tears the first time I hiked up Round Valley. It was late March and the hills were completely green, wildflowers were blooming, the sky was perfect, and the trees looked like a painting. I cried for the beauty all around me, but also because of so much more. I cried because life had just thrown many difficult hurdles at me, the biggest one being that I lost my job the day before. I cried because I was exhausted. I was 250 pounds the first time I did that hike. It was so strenuous for me. However, above all, I cried because I was proud of myself.
At that point I had lost 75 pounds, from my highest weight of 325, but that was the first time I did something I never thought I could before. In that moment, all the things that were happening felt manageable. I wasn't scared because I felt like I was capable of doing things bigger than I had ever let myself believe. I knew that day that whatever chaos would come into my life, I would make hiking a priority. It was something I needed to do for myself, not only to lose weight, but to give myself time to think and process all I had on my plate.
After that day, hiking became my meditation. Walking miles at a time through nature allowed me the clarity to plan, set goals, and manage anxiety. I've had so many wonderful adventures on hikes and seen so many interesting things- from exploring caves (video below), watching vultures sun-bathe, being afraid of a barking coyote (that I did not know at the time was really not a threat to me), and much more.
Hiking is now my passion. Though once the Round Valley trail was a difficult accomplishment for me, it's now my favorite hike and I walk it a couple times a week. I can march right up that hill with ease, and I know almost every rock, every tree, every step along the full 5 mile trail.
What I have learned is the best exercise for weight loss is not the latest fad or what a trainer tells you to do- it's the one you have passion for and will be consistent with. For me, that is hiking. Hiking has helped me lose 173 pounds in a healthy and sustainable way.