Tag Archives: Hiking

How Hiking Helps Me With My Depression

I have really allowed myself to be vulnerable and opening up about personal and private things that I’ve always, and typically kept to myself. But, it’s been easier to talk about depression and mental illness lately so, as I said before, I’m doing this for others, and I hope to learn from my own admissions as well.

So yes, I have depression. Situational Depression to be exact. It is exhausting and leaves me very susceptible to extreme cases of self-doubt, insecurity, instability, rage, sadness, despair and many other feelings that culminate with me blaming myself for just about everything.

Situational Depression is very different from Clinical Depression. Clinical Depression or CD, is medically diagnosed and treated with medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both. Situational Depression, can be self-managed, and can last for an hour or a few days, depending on the circumstances. (or situations)

Does Hiking Cure Depression?
I treat my depression by being active! I spend a lot of time in my garden, I hike, I bike, I write (as you can see) I dabble with a little Minecraft, and of course, spend time with my wonderful and amazing children, doing basically whatever it is they want to do. (LOL)

My favorite thing to do for myself is Hiking and spending time in the woods.

I consider myself a Nature-Man, a Survivalist and others call me HikeMasterJ, that is my alter-ego, who will not be speaking with you today. Next blog, maybe.

Hiking is therapeutic in many ways and can be used as a primary exercise activity or it can be added to any work out regimen. Hiking is great for your legs, your butt and your joints, not many specific exercises, target each of those at once.

In Japanese culture, spending time in the woods with nature is called, “Shinrin-Yoku” or Forest Bathing. Through this practice, you literally take in the natural atmosphere around you. The air, the sounds, the smells are all present to help me detach from whatever is troubling me and focus on being better to myself, for myself.

Before I go into the woods, I think of the Matrix. I feel like I am leaving the “system” behind, and I’m an unplugging and going into the real world. I detach from steel and stone, electricity, noise, and all the social atrocities’ that come with being connected to the grid. When I’m in nature, I’m off the grid and I like it that way. If I’m with a group, I know that I have a responsibility to them to make sure we all get out safely, however, when I’m alone, I free myself and my mind and allow the forest to envelop me and wrap me into a timeless and limitless euphoria that only nature can create.

I listen to the hundreds of birds, the thousands of insects, the wind through the trees, the crunching earth beneath my feet, it’s almost musical, rhythmic and cosmic, connecting to the Earth by touching leaves and tasting edible plants. Discovering new paths and remembering old ones.

There are times when it’s just me and the Sun, me and the trees and, I even accept the bugs too. This is all to say that being in nature, helps me with my form of depression, it always elevates my oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin levels. To me, it’s the best exercise, it cleanses your pores, and your soul at the same time.

When I leave the forest, I feel refreshed. I know that I left everything out on the trail. Blood, sweat, tears, it’s all a process. I’m sure there are forms of depression that can be managed by increasing your time in nature, Situational and Seasonal Affective Disorder, are a couple of them.

I am grateful to the hundreds of people who have spent time with me in nature, helping me heal myself and I hope that you have been able to heal yourselves as well.

I think I’ll make a conscious and deliberate effort to spend more and more time in the woods, it’s my therapy, it’s my church, it’s my safe space…it’s my Zion.


Spending time in nature appears to mitigate the effects of stressful life events on perceived stress, and negative affects while synergizing with physical activity to improve positive affect and mental well-being”.





Neponset Greenway Trail Groundbreaking

10382832_595691853866208_925651900494464244_nHike4Life joined in the groundbreaking for the extension of the Neponset River Greenway Trail from Central Avenue to Mattapan Station. So happy to share in the accomplishment and realization of the dream of our friend Vivian Morris (Mattapan Food & Fitness Coalition) as well as everyone that works with her to make this dream possible.

It’s been 20 years in the making; in 8 months, come out and see the new trails with your community in Mattapan!!!


DSCN3294Hike4Lifers walked and talked for a little over two miles this past weekend at beautiful Franklin Park, as part of a national movement to host Healing Hikes across the country to show our form of solidarity in light of the racial issues that have resurfaced in our society.

While America took to the streets, we took to paths that led us to silence. Nature welcomed us and granted us with Sunshine and warmth, beautiful birds and the right spirit energy needed to guide us through our late-autumn stroll through the woods.

We had a wonderful group of men, women and children (mine) that came out and joined us to walk and share our feelings and to have an open dialogue about what’s goin on. While none of us can singularly come up with solutions to the problems facing the nation, one thing that was evident, we need clear minds, unified strength and above all else resiliency.

A wound that is constantly and consistently picked at will never heal.

That wound is the cause of the uproar that is sweeping across America; the indiscriminate murder of Black men by police. While this abhorrent abuse of Black males is nothing new, what’s new is the amazing public outcry for demands of justice! With the recent pardoning of white officers in the murders of blacks; many blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians are all coming together in protest, to publicly and jointly say that this is ENOUGH.

When you unplug in nature, you recharge in spirit

Being a part of the outdoors culture, does not mean that we are blind or passive to the troubles of the world, our focus and our passion is found in nature. We find our peace of mind, physical peace and spiritual peace in the woods. We heal ourselves and our pain when we connect to the Earth and disconnect from society, even when it’s just a short while, it’s a much needed recharge.

Silence is a place of great power and healing and is also a source of great strength.

Thanks for reading

– H4L

Hike4Life: Out of the hoods and into the woods


After 2 successful hikes stuffed into our backpacks to kick off 2014, Hike4Life is getting ready for the rest of the year, with new opportunities, new partnerships, awesome sponsors and our themed events. Hiking and outdoor activities is on the rise in Urban communities all over the U.S. The collective consciousness of our people across the Diaspora is growing more towards nature, natural healing, historical awareness and social responsibility. Wrapped inside all of that is a deep-seeded desire to live healthier and active lives and caring for our Planet.

We are so excited to see that what we are doing is spreading across the community and across the country. It’s a big idea, a big movement and there are so many wonderful groups like ours that are embarking on this important mission.

In 2014, Hike4Life is fired up to introduce our Youth & Adult Swimming Program, which involves water related activities. That means, BEACH TRIPS! We will be putting events together that will help people get over their fear of water, water aerobics, aqua-Zumba, pool parties and more. We also have our Hike4Life Sustainable Living Project, which will involve educating ourselves on planting and growing our own foods and living off the land. We have great people that are close to our organization that will be a helpful resource for those that are interested in this project. Learning how to grow and harvest your own food, makes it even taste better when you eat it!

We are also looking for volunteers for leadership roles within the organization and on a smaller level to be group leaders on our hikes. Anyone that would be interested in having an active role in Hike4Life is highly encouraged to reach out to us and let us know. If you believe in us, be a part of us! No hiking experience is required, just a desire to be a part of something that is actively growing and making a difference in peoples’ lives.

We have a few events coming up, on April 27th we are having a Women’s Hike with Operation B Fit. On May 10th we will be celebrating National Women’s Health Week at Houghton’s Pond, details to follow on that and on May 24th we are having our Black Heritage Trail Hike in Boston. This year we are collaborating with P.H.I.C.S. which stands for “Photographers Hiking In the City Speaking.”

So as we get out of the hoods and head into the woods we hope that you will follow us and keep up with us on facebook, twitter and instagram. Head over to our website and sign up for our newsletter, register for future hikes or make a donation. We rely on help from the public and our friends for financial support.

Again, thank you all so much for your support and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events.

Peace & Blessings

Enjoying The Journey

I think that will be the theme for this year.  “Enjoy The Journey.”  Many of us worry about what’s at the end of the destination; talking about how much fun we are going to have when we get there.  Some of us unfortunately, don’t get there.  They never arrive at a preset destination or the destinations they are working so hard in their lives to reach.  We give everything of ourselves to the end goal and sometimes forget to “stop and smell the roses” or for many of us, forget to stop and have some fun along the way.   So, enjoy the journey.

Hike4Life had a great Hike this past Saturday with a great group of people.  We hit trails in the Blue Hills that we hadn’t traveled as a group before and everyone loved it.  We started with a meet and greet while we waited for a few of our friends to arrive.  Many of the faces were familiar to us but, not everyone knew each other so it was really cool to introduce everyone and create new connections.

261796_207176732815201_1094757838_nAfter everyone had finally gathered, we did a short group stretch and headed out on our adventure.

The scenery was beautiful; A winter scene, within an evergreen dream.  Under a partial blue sky, we strode on fresh untouched snow and stepped cautiously over rocks slicked with ice.  With each step we stepped further into the unknown, not knowing what the trail conditions were like ahead.

This group was very energetic, hyped up would be a better word to describe the energy that was felt throughout the hills.  Folks were asking about Deer and other animals, I told them maybe we’d see something if they couldn’t hear us coming from a mile away which drew more laughter.

Up and up we climbed; calves and thighs burned as it was our first crack at the trails since the Walk Off The Turkey Hike in November and by the way my heart was beating it was evident that some of us (me) were out of trail-shape.  After a few more inclines, my body “remembered” and I was huffing it with some of the guys as we ran from the ladies whose attempts at spirituals and songs that never end, echoed across the reservation.  It was so much fun.

As we neared the top of Chicatawbut Hill, we finessed our way through some low lying branches of Pitch Pine and Chestnut Oak and finally made our way to the second highest peak along the Skyline Trail.

We were blessed as the Sun poured over us and awarded us with warmth and much needed Vitamin D!

The scenery at this time year is beautiful.  We didn’t have the rich dark green that covers most of our state, so we could see hundreds of neighborhoods and homes that appeared tiny to us from high atop the hill.  Large urban areas normally hidden by thickly lavish landscapes, stood out partially nestled amongst the grey-brown trees that long for the coming of Spring.

As far as our eyes could see, this was Massachusetts.  No sirens, no noise, other than our breathing and conversation.  Fresh air filled our city-scarred lungs, as we inhaled deeply and exhaling our troubles to be carried away with the wind.

This was where we needed to be.

We left the comfort of our daily contrivances and the safety of the city, to explore the muddy paths of the Blue Hills Reservation.  Hike4Life is fortunate to have so many good people support us and allow us to present this beautiful area, that is natural, open and free to explore.   There’s no bar, no dance floors, no restrooms and no convenience.   There aren’t any halls or clubs and at times, the element of danger can and is real and so is the thrill of adventure.

Before the Hike everyone didn’t know each other but, by the end of the hike, everyone was the best of friends.  Hiking is great for team building and camaraderie, group encouragement and care for one another is developed as we trek and ramble through the woods.

In total 11 of us left our boot prints for over 3 miles of terrain, snow and ice.  There were a couple of slips but we made it out unharmed and unscathed.  Overall, we got a great workout, spent some time under a comfortable Winter Sun and everyone genuinely had a great time!

Our feet may have hurt from walking, but so did our faces from all of the smiling and laughing that we did as we Hiked for our lives!


Networking in Hiking Boots

huiijI just got home from a great event called, #ROXTWEET, which was a “Tweetup” meetup event where participants exchanged twitter handles, business cards, networked and mingled with like-minded movers and shakers in the community.
hipppThere were a lot of topics and questions and comments and every new connection was “tweeted” on the big screen.  Hike4Life got a shout out from City Councilor Tito Jackson, whom we’ve threatened to kidnap him if he doesn’t hike with us this year.hike4Bumped into a future candidate for State Representative, Eric Esteves.  I also met other great people that are working in education, health and politics.
popppWhen I first began attending networking events, I was told that, networking is “professional flirting”, not sure if I disagree or agree.

You see someone, you smile at them, if they smile back, you go over to introduce yourself, you exchange numbers or cards or emails and you ask if you can meet again sometime, possibly over coffee or lunch and 9 times out of 10 your successful.  Way better odds than regular flirting.
hike4This was our 2nd RoxTweet event and Hike4Life had a great time at the Haley House Bakery & Cafe, tweeting, socializing and putting our name out there to those that do not know that we exist or the service we offer to the community.

Looking forward to building and maintaining new relationships.

J.F. (follow us @hike4urlife)

An Unlikely Journey Into The Outdoors

20131016_143921 I AM, an outdoors enthusiast who likes to backpack and kayak, trail ride and zip-line. I love to camp, hike and climb mountains. I am also part of a very small percentage of African Americans that enjoys the miracle and the magnificence of the outdoors.

I recently realized that I started this blog last year without an introduction as to who I am and who we are.  My name is Jerel and I am the CEO of Hike4Life.  Our journey began a few years ago when 2 close friends decided to gather groups of our friends and take them out on hikes. Thus, Hike4UrLife was born. After a logo change and a name “adjustment” Hike4Life was reborn into the emergent community organization it’s known as today.  We continue to grow year after year and build up new followings and strong supporters.  The passion I have for our mission grows and grows, every day, it’s such an important opportunity for so many people to take advantage of.  We want to be the catalyst of change in our community and in our culture.  It’s a lot of work but, it’s worth it.
VLUU L200  / Samsung L200H4L (Hike4Life) began with a simple idea to hike with our friends and other people from the urban community.  Re-Introducing African-Americans to the outdoors was our main objective however, everyone and anyone were always welcomed to join us and support us. The Urban Community, as a whole suffers from Nature Deficit Disorder, we intend to change that condition.
dock2fel-page-001Our humble beginnings began with a Father’s Day hike at Houghton’s Pond, with about 6 people and a dog, Maxi.  It was a small event, that didn’t take long.  We got a good workout, had some laughs and afterwards, we were on our way home.  After the event, I started to read about trees and plants and took leadership courses to become a certified group leader that people could trust.  I became CPR certified and joined the Appalachian Mountain Club, becoming a certified youth hike leader.  One of our next hikes was our biggest hike with with over 40 people; I enlisted the help of two Group Leaders to help me manage everyone on that trip.

Every year, I look forward to the beginning and the end.

Our Season Opening Hike takes place in April.
H4LSIGNThis hike is a get the winter rust off of you kinda hike.  We usually reacquaint ourselves with our friends that we hadn’t seen over the winter, stretch out muscles that may not have been stretched and hit the trails.  We tend to get a big crowd when the season starts; everyone is very supportive and usually has a great time.   In the middle of the season, attendance tapers off a little bit; the heat, bugs and busy schedules play a factor in how often we get to go out.  We typically go out bi-weekly and it usually works out because everyone can do what they need to get done and if they’re available the following week, they come out with us.

During the season, we have several programs that we offer to the community. Family Fun Hikes, where we invite whole families to come out, bring the kids and have a nice relaxing walk in the woods.  Our Urban Hikes take place in the city, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the streets, the Boston Nature Center is the perfect spot this urban adventure. We also have Hiking 101 at Franklin Park, which introduces new Hike4Lifers to hiking.  We go over important dos and don’ts, the 10 essential items that are necessary for successful and safe hiking, what to wear, what to bring and what to expect in the wilderness.  We had one graduate in 2013, we hope to hand out at least five certificates this year.

Hike4Life is also a strong community partner for other groups and organizations that put on events locally and nationally.  We were proud to represent Massachusetts last year for the African American National Parks Day/Event that took place over two days this past June.  It was a wonderful event that stretched from Martinez, California to Boston.
The #AANPD is where we visit a National Park or Monument, learn about the history, spend time hiking or listening to stories, sharing our experiences and taking lots of pictures to share with other African Americans around the country.  Our presence in our National Parks is very low; we are trying to raise awareness by participation to let the Parks and the country know that nationally as a collective, we do care about our natural resources and our history that is forever preserved inside our National Parks.

One of our biggest events isn’t a Hike4Life event.  We partner with several organizations to bring the community our R.O.Y (Reclaim Our Youth) Kickball, Cookout & More Event.
We have a big draw for these Summer events that bring back the old days of kickball fun under the sun, grilled foods, water balloons, music, family and good times.  The adult kickball games are the best and watching the kids play around and get dirty and have fun is a total joy for me.  This year is going to be another stellar year for us.  We’ll be sure to have a R.O.Y. recap blog over the Summer.  (Follow us to make sure you get that update, wink, wink)

Our season ends in November with my second favorite event;
The Walk Off The Turkey Hike.
Thanksgiving TurkeyThis hike comes on the Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday.  What a better time to go out and walk off some of that guilt from the holiday.  Why is my favorite hike at the end of the season?  I think it’s because it’s a long spring/summer and when it comes to fall hiking, the weather is cooler, the colors of the trees are beautiful and we have hot chocolate and other treats for our Hike4Lifers.  The scenery alone makes this event a group favorite.  Ascending the top of the Great Blue Hill you can see red, orange and yellow for miles and miles.  I can’t wait but, I can.  Don’t want to rush November 2014 too much!
SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS-page-001I am a fan of this organization.  I am happy for what we stand for and who we stand with and who stands with us.  We have gotten love and support from New Jersey, Georgia, the Carolina’s, Austin, Texas and our great friends in California!

As many of you know, there is a small percentage of African Americans that visit our National and State Parks, Hike4Life along with others are in this effort together to bring Black people into the woods and let them see for themselves that it’s not as bad as they may have imagined or heard or have seen on TV.  The woods are for everyone and everybody.  We will continue to create programs and provide access to the outdoors by promoting discovery, adventure, nature, fitness, history and fun.

Join us as we; get Out of the Hoods and into the Woods!

Follow our adventures at: www.facebook.com/hike4life