A wise man once said,
If you ain’t livin’, you’re dyin’
I bet you spend a great deal of your time and energy at work. Grinding away to make that paycheck so you can stay up to date on your bills. You may also give a lot of time and energy to your friends and loved ones.
But on your off-time, what do you do for you?
What’s your reward for yourself?
You can’t cheat yourself here. Working, paying bills and going through the motions is pointless if you’re not living for yourself. It leads to dullness, instead of feeling alive.
So the question becomes, what can you do to make yourself feel alive?
One of the best ways to reconnect with life is to go on adventurous nature hikes
You can learn a lot about an area and the people who live there by asking them a simple, age-old question. The expression on their face and the words that come out of their mouth will speak volumes.
And all you have to do is ask,
How are you?
I think back to many of the places I worked, in my younger days. And the cities I lived in.
When I would ask those people how they are, 9 times out of 10 they’d grumble back,
Same $#!^ different day!
Same old same old…
Eh.. can’t complain!
You can tell right away, they’re just going through the motions.
I’ve been there before and maybe you have too. That rut is not what life’s about!
You owe it to yourself to invest some time in things that make you feel alive.
For me, going on nature hikes is something that pays dividends, deep down where it counts.
I’m excited the night before and wake up like a kid on Christmas. Whether it’s a day hike or hike + camping, just knowing that I’ll be hiking soon perks me up.
And when I’m on the trail, roaming forests and scaling mountains, I feel charged. Connected. Content!
You know what else?
9 out of 10 people you meet on the trail feel the same way!
Go on a fun hike and ask people how their day’s going.
They respond bright-eyed,
I’m GREAT! How are you?
FANTASTIC! Isn’t this beautiful?
Everyone is charged. They are alive.
These outdoor adventures can free you from the shackles of (what may be) a frustrating rut. It’s a fun, healthy way to reconnect with what matters most in your life.
But you need to be fit to have fun
Have you ever noticed?
Some of the most incredibly beautiful places on Earth, you can’t drive to! There is no shortcut to get up there or back down.
I loved this about the Blue Lakes Trail, which I’ll tell you more about in just a minute.
When you go to places like this, when you go deep into nature, you’re enjoying a piece of our planet that’s still free from industrialization, commerce, TV and the internet. There are no gas stations or cookie cutter shopping malls. No fast-food joints. Not even a nearby hospital. Just you and nature.
You have everything that matters and nothing that doesn’t.
And for places like Blue Lakes, you can’t drive to the lakes, you must hike there.
And that challenge becomes part of the experience! You grind away and power through, enjoying the sights as you go, but you’re working your butt off!
You get a tremendous workout but equally important are the mental benefits. While hiking, your focus shifts to the hike, nature, and your body. Work, bills and other modern stresses are released from the mind.
You reconnect with the essentials. With the natural elements and forces.
And when you make it to the peak and see what you’ve done, you feel incredible pride and joy.
You feel like a warrior, a champion.
You experience victory and success.
And it also shows how health and happiness go hand in hand. Without the vigorous health and enthusiasm to go on the trip, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the happiness that came as a result!
Keep yourself fit and you’ll be able to have a lot more fun. Whenever, wherever!
Happiness at 13,000 ft: Blue Lakes, Colorado
My favorite high-altitude hike so far is Blue Lakes Trail, in Colorado.
You hike through field and forest, passing rivers, streams, and wildflowers until you come upon majestic blue lakes that are fed by glaciers and underground springs. Enjoy these pictures from my trips there:
Approaching the Blue Lakes Trail, you’re greeted with beautiful mountain and valley views.
The Wanderer roamed the woods and scaled mountains until he found the legendary Blue Lakes.
Lower Blue Lake. Well worth the hike. Deep, crystal blue water fed by natural springs and glaciers. The surrounding forest has primitive camping spots. People often camp here and go on to the higher points the next day.
Once you get to the second (middle) Blue Lake, you’re awarded commanding views of the lower lake and forest. The stream and waterfall in the previous picture can be seen on far left in the above image. You can hike alongside it from the lake up past tree-line. Camp-spots are peppered throughout the forest.
The tail-end of the middle lake. To help with scale, I’m about 100ft from the lake. And yes, these lakes are loaded with fish. You’re hiking above the tree-line at this point! Oxygen getting thinner.
Once you make it to the third (highest) Blue Lake, you can hike just a little further to an even higher point near a small pond, nestled into the mountain. From here you get great views of the Lower Lake and mountain valley.
Life above treeline.
Looking straight towards the Upper Blue Lake (highest of 3). There is a trail that zig-zags up the dry patch of mountain beyond the lake. Along the top ridge, near the upper-middle of the image, you’ll see the saddle of Blue Lakes Summit aka Blue Lakes Pass. Very aggressive elevation gain in thin air, but worth the challenge.
This is the narrow trail that zig-zags up to the saddle of Blue Lakes Pass. Like hiking on Mars: dry ground, loose rock, and thin air! But when you make it to the top, you’re rewarded for your pain.
And here’s that small pond from the previous picture, with a fresh patch of snow next to it. A warm sunny day for this elevation, 70 degrees F+, and the snow remains.
This small glacier-fed pond ended up being one of my favorite spots on Blue Lakes Trail. I enjoyed a nice rest here in the soft, lush green grass before heading back down past all 3 Blue Lakes.
How to stay fit so you can have more fun
I believe we should be able to go on fun (and challenging) trips like this at the drop of a hat.
An intuitive woman I know once said,
If you stay ready, you never have to get ready.
The Blue Lakes hike has a steady gain and takes you to 12,000 – 13,000 ft into the sky depending on how far you want to go. Even so, I did not do much extra to prepare for it.
I didn’t have to do extra to get ready because I stay ready. And it can be the same for you.
If you workout on a regular basis, it’ll make it so much easier for you to perform whenever and wherever you need to.
I do a combination of weight-lifting, deep breathing exercises, cold therapy, stretching and yoga, and bodyweight and kettlebell exercises. This keeps me lean and mean and ready to go.
That may sound like a lot but really isn’t. 90% of my time goes to the first 3 activities on the list. The rest is peppered in throughout the week.
For weight-lifting programs, I still highly recommend Body of a Spartan. I use it to this day. It’s especially great for people who are just getting started, because of the exercise instructions, detailed pictures, and the conceptual information about building a great body. It’ll save you a lot of wasted time on BS routines.
With Body of a Spartan, I have super intense workouts and make steady strength gains with just 35-40 minutes a day in the gym. Only 3-4 days a week. You can maintain a great body without having to count calories or spend all your time in the gym.
I don’t do cardio at the gym or jogging on the street. I much prefer to occasionally hike or play sports, like basketball or volleyball. Most of my “cardio” comes from weight-lifting with shorter breaks for a faster tempo.
And the deep breathing and cold therapy training comes from the Wim Hof Method. Wim is a daredevil who specializes is cold challenges. He, incredibly, is able to sit in bathtubs full of ice and regulate his internal body temperature to normal. He uses special breathing techniques to super-oxygenate the body combined with mental focus and visualization.
He hikes extreme-altitude peaks, in freezing temperatures, in shorts and no shirt. He laughs when people use oxygen tanks for high-altitude hikes and says they just need to reconnect with their body.
Biology textbooks will be re-written in the wake of Wim Hof. He is doing things with the body that were previously believed impossible. Like how to influence the autonomic nervous system (digestion, heart rate, temperature, fight-or-flight, etc) and immune system, reduce inflammation, and more.
Wim explains that we have these abilities naturally, but lost touch because of our modern conveniences. Warm clothes, heat, A/C, hot showers… your body never needed to learn how to adapt quickly and strongly to the harsh elements, so it didn’t. The average person therefore isn’t able to cope with the hard nature, as Wim calls it.
The Wim Hof Method tones up the immune, nervous, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems, among other amazing benefits.
Wim also teaches you how to use your breath to a) reduce lactic acid buildup and b) reduce stress and “panic” in the body, while you’re in the middle of an exercise. This came in handy big-time when hiking up the higher parts of the trail.
But there is one thing I did do that was extra, to prepare for the Blue Lakes Trail. I put a cinder block in my hiking backpack and hit a local trail.
Hiking a 14k peak soon!
To prepare I put a cinder block in my back pack and hit a local trail pic.twitter.com/9q91xlv5me
— KGB Agent Wolf (@DerekTheWolf) July 21, 2016
(The 14k peak is not Blue Lakes, but Mount Sneffels, accessible from Blue Lakes Pass or Yankee Boy Basin. Will be going there soon!)
But let’s get back to the cinder block.
On hikes like Blue Lakes Trail, you may need to carry 5 pounds or 40. This hike can be done (up and down) in a day or you can camp-out near one of the lakes.
So you need to at least bring water, snacks and lunch, if not camping gear, with more clothes, food and water. The first time I did Blue Lakes we camped out overnight and I brought a little too much gear. It was about 40 lbs. And that makes the multi-hour hike much more of challenge!
On the trail, every ounce counts.
This time was much less because we just day-hiked it. So around 15 lbs.
Putting something heavy like a cinder block in your backpack and hitting a local trail is a great way to get your body used to the weight.
I also spent a few hours mowing my property while wearing the cinder block backpack.
A quick note on weather and water:
- I like to bring 1 gallon of water per day when I hike because I drink a lot of it and like to have extra. But, if you have a water-filtration unit you can refill water from the stream that feeds into Lower Blue Lake.
- The weather and temperature can change rapidly on these high-altitude hikes. Sun may change to frigid rain and that’s when your cotton shirt will make you extra cold. At the least, stuff a moisture-resistant jacket in your backpack, just in case.
Hiking shoes vs boots vs Vibram FiveFinger Toe Shoes
What’s the best for hiking?
In my experience, boots offer too much protection for most hiking trails. Extra protection comes at the cost of added rigidity. You lose agility and may have a higher chance of blisters.
Hiking shoes (which can include “trail running” shoes) offer mobility with a nice amount of protection for the foot.
Vibram FiveFinger Toe Shoes have a lot of benefit, but at a serious cost. On the plus side, they keep your foot closer to the ground, because there’s no heavy bottom. It seems like a small amount (what’s an inch, right?) but being closer to the ground improves your “connection” to your feet and the earth. And with it, your agility and responsiveness improves too.
Unfortunately, on hikes like Blue Lakes Trail, you walk over hard rock and thick gravel for many stretches. The Vibrams felt great in the forest part of the trail, where the path is dirt and not rock. But it got rough on the rock.
Your foot will inevitably land smack dab on rock or big piece of gravel that’s sticking up. The shoes protect your feet from getting cut, but the foot takes a beating from landing on rocks over and over. Especially when coming down the mountain, which is more jarring on the feet.
After a long day of hiking, you may easily end up with bruised, sore feet. The Vibrams also add time to your hike, because you hurt your feet less when you go slower. With hiking shoes, these same hard patches could be jogged over without as much issue.
I’ve hiked Blue Lakes twice with Vibrams and have decided that I’ll be wearing hiking shoes on my next run. I will say that the Vibrams are great for softer trails, the gym, and watersports/boating.
You weren’t meant to be an office drone or a mindless worker bee, you were meant to live. So go live!
You don’t do it in front of the TV or computer. You do it out in nature. You do it on the hiking trail.
One of the best ways to reconnect with life, and enthusiasm, is to play outdoors! It’s an investment for your body and mind that pays dividends.
Depending on where you live, you may still be able to go on a few hikes before the winter sets in. Higher altitudes, like Blue Lakes, will be getting frigid rain and snow before too long. If not, spend the winter researching and planning out hikes for next spring and summer.
If possible, invite your best friends and family to join you on these trips! It’s safer to hike in groups and you’ll make fantastic memories with those you love.
And remember, you have more fun when you’re fit. Give your health and energy a boost by staying active. Lift weights, play sports, run, or whatever else challenges you in such a way. It gets easier as you go and simply becomes part of your lifestyle. Exercising becomes as easy and routine as brushing your teeth.
By staying fit you’ll feel better, look better, have more confidence, energy, and have more fun in life.
Now unplug and go play!
Happiness at 13,000 ft. Feelin’ alive at the top of Blue Lakes Pass. This was from our first trip, a couple years ago. For more detailed information on the Blue Lakes Trail, including driving directions, click here.