We often hear people talk about how much of an effect the trails + wilderness have on their lives. Whether it’s a more literal form of trail therapy or the ability to bring hordes of unlikely friends together; trails can be magical. Over the past few years, the trails have changed my life. Every step of life hasn’t been the happiest, but the trails have always been there. A consistent I can count out. For that, I am thankful.

I am thankful for the people of the trails.

Trails have introduced me to incredible people. Trail runners, thru-hikers, ultra crazies, backpackers + weekend warriors. Every one of those people spends time in the wilderness doing epic things that have changed their own lives. While the lives we lead in urban jungles may have never crossed, we’re able to connect on the trails. Sometimes we meet on purpose, courtesy of outdoor training courses, Facebook groups or mutual friends. Other times we just happen to strike up a conversation while hiking or running at similar paces. If we’re lucky we’ll end up making our common trail connection an excuse to stay friends once we return to civilization. Although sometimes the memories of Mother Nature we hold most dear are with fellow explorers we never catch another glimpse of after leaving the trailhead.

Even more exciting than stumbling upon new friends while adventuring along the trails is convincing a not-so-trail-experienced friend to come out with you. There are few things in the world as rewarding as watching someone else find their peace on the trails. Not all trail friends are found, some of them are made…with lots of bribery of stunning scenery + promises of hot chocolate or breakfast burritos! I’m immensely thankful for all the experiences that have been amplified because of who I get to share them with!

Katie’s first snowshoeing adventure — made possible by pristine snow + hot chocolate.

I am thankful for the mindset of trail lovers.

Occasionally I’ll identify as a ‘trail runner’ due to my inclination to run along the single track you’ll find zigging + zagging through my backyard woods. This wasn’t always the case. My first venture into trail running was terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing + I had carelessly agreed to my first trail run with a rather legit, competitive trail runner at my side. With years of road running under my belt, I was prepared for every split to matter + our distance to be calculated down to 0.05 miles on our GPS. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My first spin around single track trails started out with ‘we’ll run 4 miles’, ended with ‘looks like that was 8 miles’ + involved cinnamon rolls at an overlook.

Trails weren’t made for the monotony of roads + sidewalks. They were there to be whatever we needed them to be. We just needed to get out of our heads, ditch our preconceived notions + let the trails…be. The mindset I’ve found on trails have led me to a litany of more laidback life choices, something I’m very thankful for.

Holly’s biggest trail adventure ever — a 238 mile footrace through the Utah desert!

I am thankful for the tenacity the trails require.

My time on trails started when I was a kid running around in the woods of Wisconsin. Sometimes we were decked out in blaze orange for hunting season, other times we were just taking the shortcut to Grandma’s house + her fresh baked cookies. Since then I’ve managed to get out onto the trails with mountain bikes, tattered trail running shoes + overloaded backpacks. My trail-ventures have taken me through foreign countries, along stunning riverbeds, to the top of windy peaks + so many other incredible places. These adventures have not always been part of perfectly executed plans. Many times [most times?] something has gone wrong. If I’m lucky, it’s a mild snafu that is easy to laugh off. If I’m not-so-lucky, it’s a big mistake that leads to big consequences.

Regardless of what happens in the wilderness…giving up is NOT an option. You can’t just throw up your arms + walk away from a problem on the trails. Where will you go?! No where. The only way back to the comfort of home is thru the dilemma you’ve stumbled into. You cannot quit. Because of this brutal fact of life in the wilderness, I’ve learned to endure more discomfort than I thought imaginable. I’ve also become very creative in how I take on problems + learned a lot about how to avoid these problems by paying attention to the details [hydration, nutrition, navigation, for basic examples]. Trails have forced me to find my stubborn streak, even when it isn’t much fun at all. They’ve given me an opportunity to find a more functional use of my stubborn way of thinking, which I think everyone is a little bit thankful for!

When the weather doesn’t cooperate — you add layers + head outside anyway!

I am thankful for the confidence found along trails.

The biggest things trails have offered me is a healthy dose of confidence, often served up with a main dish of humility dripping with a reality check. With years upon years of trail experience, I’ve gotten lost, ran out of food, neglected my hydration, encountered predatory critters + wound up in situations I’m not even remotely comfortable in. So far, I’ve managed to survive these debacles, generally unscathed, due to training, experience + basic creativity. Every time you overcome something in the wilderness you get a new burst of confidence.

My first ultra race was on a whim, maybe a month after that first venture onto the trails with running shoes. Apparently, I can be easily bribed with cinnamon rolls. At the time I doubted my ability to go beyond a 13 or so miles on the road, yet covering 32 miles on the trails seemed reasonable. It was. I was rather shocked by my bodies ability to happily survive the 50K race I had taken on. This was a huge confidence boost + the beginning of something awesome. Since then I’ve run a handful of trail ultras, but not all have gone as well as my first. With each race, I learned a little something new about myself + my abilities. This has all been helpful on the trails, but more importantly, it’s transferred over to my daily life. Things that used to have me toss papers + walking away now seem to be challenged worth taking one.

It sounds rather cliche, but I’ve found myself in the office staring at an impossible task thinking ‘if I can run 50 miles in sand + heat, I can sit here + stare at this spreadsheet for a few more hours’. Trails have made me more self-sufficient. This has led to a boost in confidence in my ability to do…pretty much anything. I am incredibly thankful for this, as it has shaped who I am today, as kitchy as that sounds!

A solo trek into the Swiss Alps, at the beginning of a 3-month stint of travel.

Overall, trails + everything they offer up are pretty amazing. Whatever you’re chasing after or seeking out, there is a very good chance you’ll find it on the trails. They may not have all the answers, but they are capable of putting you in a position to fight through your anger or open up to your life options. For me, it’s worth every blister, sunburn + hour of chilly cold.

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