I am amazed at the number of magazines, retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses dedicated to promoting an outdoor lifestyle. People are paying good money for hiking sticks made of a variety of materials. Weather specific clothing is available in all sizes and colors. Hiking footwear is just as, if not more, elaborate as basketball sneakers. Eco-tourist resorts aren’t the cheapest places to stay. Who knows, golf might become a less expensive option to a day of back packing (and let’s not even talk about outdoor photography gear).
My introduction to the outdoors came in my childhood. My father took my brother and I out in the woods of my grandfather’s property to find Christmas trees in the winter. He would also take us on little adventures through out the year. During the summer, we liked to play in the “swimming hole” with my cousins. It was a stretch of Jack’s Creek that would stay ice-cold even in August. The woods were always there for me whenever I felt down in high school and needed time to think. My hiking staff was from a fallen beech limb. My boots were the sneakers my mom brought for me from the same supermarket aisle she brought the soap powder. And Gore-tex clothing was unheard of. As far as locations for my adventures, I just stayed with relatives and accepted whatever was offered to me.
My point is this, don’t rush out and spend a lot of money on hiking. For beginners who only want to walk a mile or two, what you already have is probably what you need. A good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing, a bottle of water, and a bag for a snack; that’s it. Nor do you necessarily need to visit the Appalachian Trail as a first destination. Even in Metropolitan D.C. or Baltimore, it is possible to take a city bus to a well wooded park. Good gear can enhance one’s enjoyment of the outdoors. And there are some places where we dream of enjoying nature at it’s finest. But, no one needs to break the bank to enjoy hiking day trips.
A water bottle and box of granola bars from the Dollar Tree, $2. Parking at a state park, $3. Parking at a municipal park, $0. Walking stick found along the trail, $0. Most money spent for an adventure, $5. Having time to enjoy the natural world, PRICELESS.