Peeling yourself away from screens can seem so daunting at times. Especially if you are so far into that rabbit hole that there is no return.
There are days where I have found myself glued to my phone and TV for longer than I’d like to admit. I find my mind cluttered and my body feeling the effects of it. It is important that we keep ourselves moving and find a spiritual and physical outlet that can keep our heads clear and body fresh.
Every year for the past 11 years, my husband and I have gone camping at Allegany State Park near Salamanca, New York. It is a trip we look forward to for the time to unplug, unwind, and just take in what nature has to offer. Over those past 11 years, our family has grown by 4, and now we share what we love about that trip with our children. One of the activities we enjoy the most is hiking. You may hear the word hiking and have images of steep terrain, wild animals, heavy packs, and lots of planning. This can all be true, but there are many levels of hiking. Starting with something simple like a short nature walk that has low elevation levels and is kid friendly. Or a well paved path that can be utilized by cyclists, runners, or dog walkers. When we first began our camping adventures, our hikes were more difficult physically. However, the gorgeous scenery, fresh air, made it worth it every minute.
Two of my favorite trails at Allegany State Park are the Mt. Tuscarora Trail and Bear Caves for two completely different reasons. While it has been years since I have step foot on Mt. Tuscarora, my memories of it are fond. It is a 5 mile trail up one side of a mountain and down the other, connecting to other trails. Now, when I say up, I mean up to the point where the incline was so steep you felt like you might fall backwards. Once you got towards the top and started trekking across, the views are incredible. Doing this hike during a time where there were no leaves really allowed you to take in the beauty of the park.
The Bear Caves trail has become a favorite for my kids. This trail is 4 miles long and has large boulders and rocks near the east entrance of the trail that are climbable for ages 3 and up. If you want the quickest way to get to the “caves”, you will want to enter at the east end of the trail. It is a rather easy climb to the “caves” and you are mostly dodging tree roots on your way up. Years ago we began at the west entrance, and like the Mt. Tuscarora trail, it was very steep in the beginning.
I could carry on about the various trails and activities Allegany State Park has but there is more to Western New York than that park. We are lucky to live in an area where we have many levels of hiking and nature walks at our fingertips. These locations include Tifft Nature Preserve Trail, Ellicott Creek Trailway, Letchworth State Park, Hunters Creek County Park, and so much more. I highly recommend researching trails that fit what you are looking for. I have found the AllTrails app valuable as it provides details about various trails within the area and allows you to filter down to exactly what you are looking for. Especially for those avid hikers looking for the path less travelled.
Hiking can build stronger muscles and bones, improve your balance, and is overall a whole-body workout. Not only does your physical health improve, but your mental health as well. Spending time outdoors by yourself or with a friend can calm anxiety, reduce risk of depression, and reduce stress. I believe we could all use a good mental health cleanse these days. So go take a hike!