Spring has finally sprung! And on this 14th week of “A Year of Hikes: 52 Weeks, 52 Women, Same Trail”, I finally got to wear shorts…yay!!! Just last week, I wore a fleece under my winter jacket, a hat and ski mittens and was still cold. Today was warm, almost 50 degrees with high wispy clouds as we started off.
Each week, my hiking companion gets to pick the time, set the pace of the hike and determine the turnaround point. Heidi Bodenheimer, my buddy for this week’s hike, is an early riser so we were on the trail just after 9:00 a.m. on a beautiful spring morning.
I can’t tell you how different everything looked to me…and I’ve been hiking this same trail every week for three months! The light in the sky was somehow brighter, making it possible to see more details as we hiked along. The birds were louder, the grassy patch leading to wood, which had been brown last week, seemed suddenly green and buds were visible on most of the trees.
Heidi asked me some questions about why I started “A Year of Hikes” and what interesting things I had learned about my hiking companions. I tried my best to answer her questions explaining that I initially conceived of the idea as a safe way to connect with others during the pandemic. As I thought about the possibility of hiking with other women, it occurred to me that what people experience and what they learn on life’s journey depends on with whom they travel. Over time, my life has been enriched and my perspective broadened by talking with people from diverse backgrounds and considering ideas and issues from multiple perspectives. I decided to do the same hike each week for a year to see how my experience would differ based on my companions and our conversations, the season of the year, weather, time of day etc. I told Heidi that it was my hope to become, over the course of a year, more aware, more mindful of changes in the natural world and in myself as I walked and talked and learned from the generous women who agreed to share a tiny piece of my life’s journey.
I’ve come to believe that there’s a certain quality of sharing or openness that occurs when hiking one-on-one. I think hiking facilitates a deeper level of connection that has to do with being immersed in nature, the constant proximity of another person and the synchrony of footsteps, the rhythm of rising and falling feet in unison. I’m not sure if there is a name for this phenomenon, but I call it “trail intimacy.” To answer Heidi’s second questions, I have learned from and been inspired by every single woman I’ve had the privilege to hike with. Of course, that doesn’t surprise me! After all, I founded Prime Time for Women based on the belief that every woman’s story is unique and deserves to be shared and heard. What is surprising, is how much I’ve learned about myself! As said in a previous blog, “Every week of this journey I experience a chance to better understand who I am as I see myself through the eyes of others.”
Naturally, I asked Heidi questions, too! Heidi has an incredible entrepreneurial spirit, so I asked about her work. Heidi, the owner of Heidi Bodenheimer Health Coaching, has spent most of her 25-year career focused on helping women achieve their nutritional and fitness goals while having FUN! Since, she has long practiced and is a strong advocate for meditation, she was excited to tell me about her new position with Calm, an app that helps users experience the myriad benefits of regular meditation. In addition, Heidi also works for FitMinded Living, leading exercise programs and teaching meditation. Wow…she’s one busy lady!
We took lots of photos: some of Heidi, some of me and some of what seemed to be magical wildflowers. They weren’t there when we hiked to Warner Hollow but were in full bloom on our way back! Small white and yellow flowers stood not too far from tiny purple flowers with lime green centers. They looked like little jewels strewn over last year’s leaves. I did my best to identify these flowers but then decided to check with my friend, Mary Beth, who is my “go to wildflower expert.” It turns out the white ones are Twinleaf, and the purple ones are Blue Hepaticas. It’s fun to identify wildflowers. It’s little like being a detective…looking for clues and using deductive reasoning to solve a mystery!
I asked Heidi to strike the “strong woman pose” which, naturally she rocked. Not only that when we got down to Warner Hollow, Heidi, ever the fitness instructor, did a plank on the planks over the stream and took a picture of me doing the same! One of my favorite pictures of the day captured Heidi against the lichen and moss-covered wall with the sun streaming through the trees…so lovely. We met a lively couple who was on the last day of completing the Maryland section of the A.T. I said something like, “Wow, good for you. What a great day!” And the woman replied, “And it’s my 60th birthday; this feels really good!” I didn’t get her last name but I did take the couple’s picture… “Happy 6Oth Birthday to Shari!”
On our way back, we shared our dreams about future travel plans. Heidi is looking forward to visiting her daughter in Italy in the fall, and I’m dreaming of a trip with my husband to the Pacific Northwest later this spring! We also talked about our families: spouses, grandchildren and adult children. We agreed there is much joy in watching our adult children spread their wings and take on new challenges. As mothers, our joy in our children is matched by a strong sense of hope for their success and resilience, hoping they will see obstacles as building blocks rather than roadblocks. I told you hiking with a friend leads to deep conversations and strong connections! I hope you go hiking with a friend…you’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself and the world around you!