SUMMER SUNDAY: Trail Therapy

SUMMER SUNDAY: Trail Therapy

photo(66) There are lots of ways to improve your mental health. There’s the traditional method of going to a counselor. The unhealthy method of drinking a bottle of wine. Or the expensive method, indulging in some retail/shopping therapy. But the best things in life are free. Hit the trail, and you will feel better.

You know when you get the call from a friend, and she says, “I need to go for a hike,” that she’s speaking in code. What she’s really saying is I need to talk. So I’ll clear my day, finish up some work on the computer at night, and spend a long lunch or afternoon hiking and talking, figuring out life, and getting some exercise.

Sometimes it’s me that makes the call, asking for some company. I’ve worked out most of my problems, frustrations, and sadness on the trails surrounding Telluride. If those trails had ears, what tales they could tell. They’ve been privy to my darkest secrets, my confessions, my tears. Sometimes I’ve trod alone, but always surrounded by the peace that comes from the mountains, pounding every bit of pain into the trail with each footstep. The trails are worn not just by the weight of the people who hike them, but by the weight of everything they carry, both literally and figuratively. And I always emerge lighter and more lucid.

It’s a combination of things: The exertion of hiking up and down a mountainside, the serenity of being outdoors, and the sanctuary of a place to talk to a friend, to connect with someone in a quiet setting and have an intimate conversation. The trails are the one place that you don’t have to feel guarded when you’re talking, or speak in a hushed voice so you’re not overheard. It’s liberating to go on a hike with a friend and have the opportunity for a conversation like that, a real talk. And it’s therapeutic to be doing it outside, rather than in a bar or shut inside a counselor’s office. And a whole lot cheaper.

My mother-in-law Susan Kees is a licensed counselor, and the author of Telluride Hiking Guide. She says hiking is the “best therapy there is.” She’s in her 70s now, but every time she looks at me—or at any of her friends—and sees that they look troubled or upset, she does the same thing. She’ll grab your hand and smile and say, “Do you want to go for a walk?” I hope that when I’m in my 70s I’m still doing the same thing, hiking with friends and getting some trail therapy.


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