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.
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…)
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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.