Hiking: The Perfect Frugal Day

We hiked the Na Pali Coast in Kauai (HI)

We hiked the Na Pali Coast in Kauai (HI)

It’s glorious summer in New England, which lasts about 11 minutes before we return to epic winter, so we’re relishing the great outdoors. All around us, people are dropping dough on kayak rentals, croquet sets, badminton shuttlecocks, pool noodles, and sunscreen (just rub some free mud on your skin, people!). I jest.

A few years ago, Mr. Frugalwoods and I discovered the one weird trick to free summer entertainment and I’ll share it with you now: hiking. Plus, I wanted to write this post because I have approx. 10,000 photos of our hikes.

Summit of Mt. Bierstadt (CO)

At the summit of Mt. Bierstadt (CO)

Hiking brings clarity to the mind and vibrancy to the soul. Bonus: it’s super fun! This past Saturday, we ventured through the Blue Hills of Massachusetts and fell in love all over again with hiking (spoiler alert: this happens every single time we go hiking, and we go pretty often, so we’re constantly falling in love). I know that everyone lists hiking as one of their fave free summer activities, but I really mean it–we’re moving to a place that will enable us to hike every single day. I even named myself after the woods! (Mrs. Frugalhike doesn’t have quite the same ring…)

Mr. Frugalwoods and Frugal Hound at The Fells (MA)

Mr. F-woods & Frugal Hound at The Fells (MA)

Here’s why hiking is the best thing forever and always:

  • It’s free. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know you’re saying, Mrs. F-woods, we KNOW it’s free–you’re just walking around in some dumb woods! Touché, gentle reader, but did you also know that the gear is minimal and cheap? Unlike other outdoor pursuits (boating, I’m looking at you), hiking doesn’t require complex accoutrements. You can get by with good hiking shoes, some clothes, a pack, and a hat. And snacks! Always bring snacks!
Our ultra-frugal lunch of leftover hotdogs buns w/PB

An ultra-frugal hiking lunch of leftover hotdogs buns w/PB

  • It’s great exercise. A mile walked in the woods does not equal a mile walked on city land. A mile walked in the woods includes variations in elevation, rocks to climb over, branches to duck under, and just generally a great deal more physicality.
Me at the Mary's Rock summit in winter (VA)

Me at the Mary’s Rock summit in winter (VA)

  • It’s meditative and relaxing. While we usually pass other folks on the trail, it’s a mostly solitary activity. You do need to get off the beaten tourist path (literal and figurative!) in a national park, but that’s fairly easy to do. There’s something deeply soothing about walking through the woods with no agenda, no timeline, and no deadlines.
Mr. F on the Long Trail (VT)

Mr. F on the Long Trail (VT)

  • It’s a technology/modern life detox. Our phones don’t usually get service in the depths of wood, which makes hiking a sabbatical from the yoke of the internet (no offense, internet, I know you’re reading this…). There’s no pressure to socialize or prove yourself or look or act a certain way. You’re just a human in nature.
Mr. F strolling along the Skyline Trail last winter (MA)

Mr. Frugalwoods being a human in nature on the Skyline Trail (MA)

  • It’s as long or as short as you want. Mr. Frugalwoods and I usually hike for a full day, but you could start off with just an hour or two. You can link trails together or simply turn around and double back when you’re tired.
  • It’s not competitive. While Mr. F and I are naturally quite competitive (I’m currently winning at blog post writing) we love hiking for its sheer lack of competition. We walk and climb at whatever pace feels natural with pauses to admire the flora and fauna whenever the spirit moves us. Though I do usually win at being prepared and bringing the best snacks. But then Mr. Frugalwoods wins at hiking faster.
  • There’s a reward. You get to climb a mountain and see a view! Trust me, this is vastly more fulfilling than driving up to a view. We’ve been literally speechless (and breathless) upon summiting–it truly is awe-inspiring.
View from our hike up Tibbet Knob (VA)

View from our hike up Tibbet Knob (VA)

  • It’s awesome for our marriage. We don’t talk the entire time we’re hiking. Far from it–we both enjoy the quiet companionship of walking together. It’s a hobby we both love that puts us in a good mood. Sometimes we have revelatory, life-changing conversations while hiking, other times we just comment on the trees and crack jokes about mold (there’s a lot of mold in the woods). The point is, we’re together in an environment (the natural one!) that’s free from stress and obligation. Some people pay for a couples’ massage or fancy night out, we just go tromping through some mud. I would venture to say that many of our best memories together are of hiking.
  • We can hold hands. I defy you to find another sport where this is safely possible! We’ve held hands for miles before! We win!
Mr. F made fun of me for taking this shot and you can too

Mr. F made fun of me for taking this & now you can too

And the benefits of hiking continue even after you leave the trail!

  • Tick check. There’s nothing quite like giving your partner a full-body tick check post-hike to really rev up the romance. Have you ever explored the back of your partner’s knees? Oh yeah.
  • Pizza (made at home, of course) and beer! This is really the only acceptable post-hike meal, in case you were wondering.
  • Calm mind. The relaxation and clarity brought by a long hike stays with me for days and is a reservoir of tranquility I can tap into during the week.
Me at the Blue Hills last Saturday

Me at the Blue Hills last Saturday (MA)

In addition to being cheapskate entertainment, hiking refocuses us on our long-term goals. Nothing about our consumer-driven, debt-laden modern world matters when you’re hiking. In fact, hiking is what made us start to question the very trajectory of our lives. While we’ve always been frugal weirdos, we didn’t always have the vision of retiring early to create a homestead (in the woods!) in lieu of traditional jobs. Hiking gave us the clarity and presence of mind to solidify this goal. And that’s why it’s our perfect frugal activity.

Do you have a favorite hike in your region?

Shenandoah National Park one fall (VA)

Shenandoah National Park last fall (VA)

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29 Responses

  1. We absolutely love to hike too!! And you’re right: it’s incredibly meditative and detoxing. This is part of the reason we left the suburbs to move to the country nearly two years ago, and the love of nature and awe of the peace and quiet still hasn’t worn off. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s wonderful to hear! We’re so looking forward to the day when we can decamp to a rural homestead too! We like the city, but nature just can’t be beat.

  2. E.M. says:

    Beautiful pictures! Feel free to share more in future posts =). Have you thought about starting a blog to chronicle all your hikes? It would be nice to look back on. I really enjoy walking – I haven’t been hiking yet. It’s something I want to get into when the weather cools down a bit here. I can’t imagine the views you’ve been able to see!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much! I had to restrain myself from including about 100 other photos. Apparently we take a lot of pictures on every hike! Good idea on chronicling the hikes–I haven’t done that, though I do have them all listed in our calendar. Maybe I’ll just start including hike photos in every post :). And yes, do try out a hike when you have the chance!

  3. Clara & Eddie says:

    Absolutely agree with all you say about hiking … Not just frugal, but relaxing, healthy and meditative, and gives you a real sense of achievement. Our best holidays have been hiking hols – Eskdale in the English Lakes, and the Black Forest, Tauber Valley and the Allgau in Germany. Never really thought about the relationship benefits, but you’re spot on, as usual!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Those hikes sound marvelous–I’d love to hike my way around the world some day. It’s just such a wonderful way to connect with each other and with nature. Thank you, as always, for your kind words!

  4. NZ Muse says:

    Hiking seems to be the new thing here now we’re getting older – it’s definitely frugal fun! We live close to so many great bush trails, too.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s great that you live close to trails–makes it even more frugal if you don’t have to drive to the trailhead! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. debt debs says:

    Great inspiring post! We like to hike as well, although we’re not nearly as committed as you guys are. We used to do smaller hikes with the kids when they were young, we’ve hiked when camping, we hike at my Dad’s cottage. We have a trail near our home that I can actually walk to, to hike it (it’s not hilly though). Love that picture in Kauai. We were there a couple of years ago and I wanted to do that hike but we didn’t have time and the couple we were with weren’t too keen on hiking. 🙁

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks so much! Oh I’m sad you missed out on the Na Pali coast hike in Kauai–it really was amazing, I gotta say…
      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Mr. 1500 says:

    Right on. I don’t know what it is about walking in the wilderness, but if opens my mind. I have to bring a notepad because the ideas start flowing like a big ass waterfall in the spring. If I could take a good hike every day, I think I’d be a much more creative person.

    We live in the shadow of Rocky Mountain National Park, so he hit that at least once per month. Yosemite is my favorite place on earth to hike though.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yep. Our goal is to buy land that’ll enable us to start every day with a hike through our property. There’s just no better feeling. I totally agree on the creativity–it’s incredible what you think of when not distracted/hounded by modern life.

      • Mr. 1500 says:

        “hounded” Ha!

        “Our goal is to buy land that’ll enable us to start every day with a hike through our property.”

        The Mrs. and I were just talking about something similar. Once retirement is upon us, we’ll drop the kids off at school and then start with a long bike ride or walk into the trees somewhere. We’ll never have our own property for this, but luckily, we have lots of open spaces nearby.

  7. Wow, your hike looks absolutely beautiful. I’m lucky enough to live in the great state of Oregon. It’s very mountainous. It’s kind of funny, our weather is much like yours too. We’re enjoying our few days of summer now! Anyway, I don’t have a favorite hike. I love mirror lake, going back behind Multnomah Falls, hiking around Punchbowl Falls and more. They’re all equally awesome hikes… and there’s more where that came from.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      We’ve never been to Oregon but we really should visit. We have tons of friends who say the same: Gorgeous weather and amazing outdoors opportunities! Thanks for the hike recommendations!

  8. After I lost a bunch of weight a few years ago, I got into hiking as an activity and I love it. My hubby and I were recently in Woodstock and wanted to go to the Buddhist temple. Instead of driving the 2 miles up hill (which we would have done in our fat days) we hiked it and I loved it. With hiking you get a change of scenery and a work out all in one.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      That sounds so amazing! I never even knew there was a Buddhist temple near Woodstock, much less that you could hike your way to it! We’re definitely adding this to our list. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Growing up in Ohio, I really miss the friendly outdoors. Unfortunately, mid-July in Houston, I am lucky to get my bike rides and jogging in before decamping back to some a/c. And then there’s the problem of Africanized bees (http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/katy/news/article/A-M-experts-Africanized-bees-behind-deaths-of-5556207.php)

    We are going ‘tubing’ on the Guadalupe this weekend, so I’m counting that as a ‘hike’. I keep trying to remind myself that the winters make up for it…

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow, those bees sound like no joke! I used to live in North Carolina, and there is was the humidity more than the heat that would get you. There were certainly some days that did not make you yearn for the outdoors! Tubing sounds like a good time, you have a floating cooler to go along with? 😉

  10. Mrs Y says:

    Hiking is our newfound and most favorite hobby after a recent trip into the wilderness of Alaska . We live in the midwest so the views are just ok. Hiking has still been very rewarding. It makes us get out of the house to enjoy the nature around us and make us healthier.

    You are so right about the technology detox. We are all overwhelmed with information. To have that turned off, even just for a little bit, is great for the mind.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Agreed! A walk though the woods seems to be good for just about anything that ails you. I know it is for me. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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