Take A Hike

By Nell Mitchell

There are few feelings like being somewhere truly peaceful. One of my favorite places in the world is my extended family’s rustic cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ve only stayed there twice but those two weeks have stuck with me.

There’s no electricity, no running water, no internet, wifi or cell connection at the cabin on Skeels Lake. At night, the level of silence is unfathomable – the only thing you can hear is the lake lapping at its shore, the rustle of the wind and the buzz of insects. Without any sense of what’s happening in the world beyond, everything feels very simple. The only things that matter are the weather, the day’s adventure and what’s for dinner – there’s no choice but to live in the moment.

In the midst of kayaking across the lake, picking blueberries, pumping water, tending campfires and laying for hours on the sunny dock, my phone went untouched for days. I didn’t worry about what was happening back in Mill Valley because even if I wanted to know, I couldn’t. It felt like there was so much time, even after hours doing chores, adventuring and hanging out with family. I read and wrote a lot, and as silly as it sounds, I thought more about random things, recollecting old memories and thinking about the future. All because I was free from distractions that crowd my thoughts at home. Responding to my boss’s scheduling emails, weighing homework and Netflix, Snap-streak obligations and keeping up in the group message – weren’t on my mind because I had no connection to my everyday life.

It’s been over a year since I was last at the cabin and while I’ve been no less addicted to my phone, and just as caught up in the stress of my day to day life, I’ve learned to appreciate finding a clear headspace. Getting to a place, whether physically or mentally, where I can free myself from the schoolwork, social conflict, complicated plans and online distractions that overrun my everyday life, is invaluable.

Not everyone has the chance to experience what I have at the cabin, nor would everyone want to. But spending a week isolated in the woods isn’t the only way to access the clarity I found there. Nature and the mental freedom it allows is easy to find, especially around here.

As a runner, my favorite way to escape is to head out on a trail, Matt Davis and Hoo-koo-e-koo are favorites – no earbuds, no running buddy, just the trail and me. It takes me to that feeling of peace that I found at the cabin and allows me to reap the same benefits of a clear head.

For me my “cabin” in Mill Valley is a run on Mount Tam. For some people it’s a hike, or stringing up an Eno. Urging others to go out into nature maybe old news, but nonetheless I think it’s an important reminder. Not just for the sake of appreciating nature, but for our own mental health and happiness.

Learn to find your place of mental peace. Take a hike, or whatever it may be, and give yourself a chance to think a little bit.