I can remember the first time that I went hiking as a child. I think Multnomah Falls was the first place.

I went with my mom and dad and my sister Megan. We got into our 1990 Subaru station wagon and took the hour long drive up the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. We got on I-205 heading East. We kept going past Gresham and then onto Troutdale and eventually ended up at the amazing view. I remember being in awe of how big the mountains around us were. They were mammoth and splendid. As we parked on the cool spring day we prepared our gear. We had a small NorthFace backpack and our shiny red aluminum Sigg water bottle… we were off.

We walked across the parking lot and down the ramp that took us under the freeway. We walked past a creek and if this would have been the destination I would have been fine with it. We insisted and begged our parents to let us dip our toes in the icy mountain runoff water and play with the other kids. Our parents humored us for about ten minutes and then told us to put our shoes back on and get ready for the real fun.

I know that at the time we couldn’t imagine that walking anywhere, particularly uphill, could be even remotely fun but we did it anyway. As we approached the falls we thought how cool it was and how fun it would be to stand under it while the water splashed on our heads. Little did we know that it would have killed us in an instant falling from that height. As we stopped and took a few pictures I thought that I could see myself enjoying this. I thought that until my mom informed us that we would be heading up that 20 percent grade, asphalt covered path to the top of the falls. I know that I wasn’t sure that I would be ok with the much of a walk.

I’m sure that my sister Megan and I must have complained the entire way up and I also quite sure that those complaints fell on deaf ears. As we continued to moan about “the pain” we neared the top and what we assumed would be the end of the trek. As we rounded the final switchback towards the end of the trail, the top of the falls came into view and we could see for miles. The beautiful landscape that is the Pacific Northwest Gorge from the Oregon side of the Columbia River engulfed us. That view changed my life and showed me that there was so much to explore, do and see right around my home. I immediately knew wanted to hike every trail in the Gorge and all of Oregon. I never complained again about the hikes that we went on every Sunday after church.

This was the start of my love of hiking anywhere and everywhere I could throughout Oregon and Washington during my youth. The Columbia River Gorge was only the start of what would become a life passion and my love of hiking has only gotten stronger over the years. No matter where I am, I’ll always head to nature to find a little peace and serenity, a chance to step away from the hustle and bustle and recapture a bit of the magic of that first after church Sunday hike with my parents and sister.

So here are a few tips to start exploring the joys hiking:

1. Get outside!

Wherever you are, take some time to connect with nature, even if it’s just a city park. Let the colors, sounds, outdoor air impart a little relaxation. We don’t all have Multnomah Falls a few miles away, but there’s always some bit of nature’s beauty nearby… don’t miss out on it.

2. Get a friend to go with you

Experiences are often best when shared. Find a friend who’s interested in getting out there and enjoying nature. If you don’t have a friend or friends interesting hiking, then….

3. Check online for a group or club

Sites like meetup.com are great ways to connect with new people with your interests, and to challenge you to try new things!

4. Check out your state and local parks departments

You’ll find lots of resources with your local parks department or state agencies like a Dept. of Nature Resources.

5. Google it

When all else fails, Google it. In this day and age practically everything you’d ever want to know is on the internet, so just Google “best hiking trails” or “beginner hiking trails” with your city, state, town, county or whatever. Once you start Googling, it won’t be long until you find what you’re looking for.

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