In my head the past few weeks I’ve been mulling over why the outdoors has been such a big part of my recovery from alcohol.
I’m not sure that I’m able to fully understand why the outdoors is so healing, but at the very least I’m starting to be able to articulate a few thoughts:
- In early sobriety I felt powerless. I felt like I was a failure in so many areas of my life, and being outside and feeling myself have the strength to do things that were physical helped my mind follow suit. If I can climb/bike/hike this thing, maybe I’m strong enough to not drink!
- I’m not sure the origin/author or exact wording of this quote, but it goes along the lines of “In order to stop drinking you have to find something you love more than alcohol” For me, the outdoors has become something I can fill the void of alcohol with. There are other things in my life right now too, but in the first few months whenever I felt a very strong craving to drink I knew it was time to take a walk, go for a hike, do SOMETHING active.
- Being outside reminds me that I am part of a much larger world than myself. From the smallest bug to the largest mountain, we’re all connected. Sound cheezy and a few years ago I would have made fun of someone saying something like that, but in my current walk it feels true.
The thing that I’m also finding is that it doesn’t have to be an extreme outdoor challenge to feel good.
It can be a simple walk at the park or a even just being outside in my hammock.
Of course, I love the challenge of a hike as well, but I am reminded even when I take 15 minutes to do a quick walk outside how much of a difference it makes.
On that note, here’s a little breath of fresh air from one of the loveliest places Vegas has to offer–Mt. Charleston.
Mt. Charleston is roughly an hour drive up the 95 north from the central area of the Strip, but well worth the time investment both for locals and out-of-towners.
If it’s your first time headed up there, I highly recommend their new visitor center, which just opened in the spring of 2015.
Not only will the staff help you determine what hike(s) may be best suited for you, they also have a ton of information about the area and activities to enjoy–and they have this crazy cool window art that doesn’t look like anything until you hold up an eye cover and look through and it looks like stained glass!
The trail we most recently hiked was the Fletcher Canyon trail.
It’s a moderately challenging trail with some elevation gain, but it is well cleared and well marked for those of us (me….) who sometimes are directionally challenged.
As summer creeps in here, I recommend that people be thoughtful about the time of day they choose their hikes–morning is better as it gets warmer out and bring more water than you think you’ll need.
Mt. Charleston also has tons of picnic areas as well if you are interested in packing the cooler to spend the afternoon enjoying a meal after your hike.
On the day we were exploring we ran into a few people going up the trail–families, retired folks, solo hikers, groups of friends, and other couples.
But it was relatively peaceful and we would go 15-25 minutes without seeing anyone else.
The plant life differs here so vastly from the flora and fauna you’d see at Red Rock or Calico Basin.
Mt. Charleston features many unique (for the desert) types of trees–Ponderosa Pine and White Fir, and one of the oldest types of tree we have in the U.S., the Bristlecone Pine.
Bristlecone Pines are sometimes two to three THOUSAND years old.
That makes my brain break.
TWO THOUSAND YEARS OLD.
Hiking among them fills me with awe and respect.
It reminds me that my life is short, and I can’t take the time I’m given for granted. I may live 70-80 years if I’m lucky–and after I’m gone these silent giants will continue for the next generation to enjoy.
How many others have stood before them?
They’re a beautiful ancient bridge between past and present.
They know a time without electricity, without the neon lights of the valley below, they know a time without wi-fi and ‘likes’ and status updates.
About an hour into our hike we came upon some snow–and not being totally outfitted to freeze much further up, we decided to turn back and check out a turnoff we’d seen on the hike up.
A good lesson on a few levels for us…1) always be prepared and 2) trust your instincts and if you need to alter your plan, do so!
As we came back down we decided to do the Eagle’s Nest Loop.
We’d met a retired couple along the trail who had recommended it to us, so we figured why not?!
We were SO GLAD we took the additional adventure to explore the Eagle’s Nest side trail.
The view here was in-cred-i-ble.
The uphill is a definite work out–but the pay off is so spectacular–it overlooks a meadow area that is peaceful, sunny, and expansive.
All in all we spent about 2 hours on the trails in this area. It wasn’t the most challenging hiking I’ve ever done, nor the easiest.
But it is one of the more peaceful hikes I’ve done in a long time.
Seeing birds, listening to the small creek that runs along the Fletcher Canyon trail, hearing the wind blow through the pines–it has a way of making a person feel infinite and finite all at the same time.
I hope you’ll have time to explore Mt. Charleston if you’re visiting, and if you’re a local and haven’t been up there (or haven’t been up there in some time) I can tell you it’s well worth the drive for a few hours of bliss.