texashillcountry.com put out a notice to bloggers that they are looking for posts about Texas, mainly chronicling the virtues of the beautiful hill country. I couldn’t find how to start a new blog, so I thought I might re-purpose this one instead since it was just lying around. I am not necessarily going to submit anything to them, but with our new commitment to hiking, mainly in Texas State Parks, I thought it would be fun to try to write about it. One title I thought of was “Zen and the Art of Mediocre Hiking”. That title right there is pretty much the reason I don’t think I am what thc.c is looking for. It’s not that I think the hill country is mediocre, it’s that my hiking is. The hill country helps me get my mind off of that, however. That’s the Zen part. The scenery and exertion are intense enough to crowd out distracting negative thoughts.

Williams Lake

photo from Trip Advisor

It all started about 5 years ago in August when my family, which includes my husband and six children, took a weekend trip to Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico to escape the Texas heat. There’s another thing to displease thc.c. I was very out of shape after wrongly thinking for the previous four years that the best remedy for back pain is to rest. The Williams Lake Trail is the one rated for novices. However, it is 2 miles up to the lake at a pretty steep incline and at a breathtaking (literally) altitude of 10,000 ft. It was very slow going with lots of oxygen breaks. But it was captivatingly beautiful with ferny forests, lush green meadows, fallen rocks, twists, turns, and bends, and views of other peaks when you get towards the top. The hiking seed was planted by two things: beauty, and the only enjoyable exercise I could think of. It was exercise with a purpose other than just grin and bear it work.

I didn’t hike again until one year later when my two daughters and I met my son at the same place on his way back from a California internship. I prepared for another grueling, arduous, trek. But this time it was much easier. My son and eldest daughter leapt up the trail like gazelles, but I and my youngest daughter weren’t as far behind. And it wasn’t as painful. I thought, wow, if doing this only once a year can make this much of a difference, maybe this is the sport for me.

For the next couple of years I took advantage of other road trips to hike little convenient trails like a short one along Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park, my husband’s old stomping grounds behind the Penn State satellite college in Erie, and other roadside excursions. I also revisited Enchanted Rock once a year to climb the almost mile up the unique geology of the pink granite dome. thc.c will like that. Again with noticeable improvement in cardiovascular capacity each time.

Then last spring we got a camper. That opened up the next level. With a camper you can start hiking in the cool of the morning instead of spending that time driving to the inevitably remote natural areas. If you spend two nights, you can also use that evening and the next morning as well.