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Hiking for Soul Care—Better Health Through Connecting With Nature

Hiking for Soul Care—Better Health Through Connecting With Nature

A hiking trail at the Ramakrishna Monastery of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Anne Mount
Anne Mount

6/28/2024

Updated: 7/1/2024

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When Bill Furey was in sixth grade, his father died from cancer, leaving his mother to care for eight children. Noticing the poor kid’s broken heart, a middle school science teacher invited him to go on the adventure of a lifetime. It changed his life.
“I was in seventh grade at the time, when our science teacher invited me to go to the Grand Canyon during spring break,” said Mr. Furey. “I was surprised because he only took eighth graders, but he asked my mother if I could go and she said, ‘Yes.’ So, she drove me to REI [a store for outdoor equipment], and we got everything on his list that I would need, like a backpack, hiking shoes, [and] a first aid kit.”
Mr. Furey, the science teacher, and three other boys spent the night at a hotel, and the next day, they hiked 12 miles to the Havasupai Reservation campground in the Grand Canyon. For three days, they hiked, played around Havasu Falls, and made new friends.
“We were down there swimming and having a good time, and at one point, I was by myself for a few minutes, and I felt an overwhelming sense that I was going to be taking people into the outdoors for years to come,” he said.
Bill Furey on a hike. (Courtesy of Bill Furey)

Bill Furey on a hike. (Courtesy of Bill Furey)

Many years later, Mr. Furey has led hundreds of people on hikes as a former staff member of the YMCA, a junior high school science teacher, vice principal, and now principal of Covenant Christian School and president of the Heritage Hiking Club. He leads beginner, moderate, and advanced hikes locally in Orange County, and throughout California, with longer hiking trips to Yosemite, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and a future Alaska trip in 2025.
“We lead beginner hikes early in the week to such places as Peters Canyon, Chino Hills-Gilman San Juan Peak Hills, a saunter through the Red Woods in Yorba Linda, and longer hikes on the weekends on the Powder Canyon hike, or to San Diego or Santa Barbara,” he said.
An avid teacher on nature and safety, Mr. Furey emphasized that no hiker is left behind.
“We have a lead hiker who has a radio, a mid-sweep hiker, and a sweeper in the back of the line of hikers to watch over everyone. If someone is having trouble, we stop the group and give attention to any hiker who might be struggling with a loose backpack strap or in need of a little water.”
Generally, Heritage hikers take a 10-minute water break after each hour of hiking on the trails.
Bill Furey leads a group of hikers. (Courtesy of Bill Furey)

Bill Furey leads a group of hikers. (Courtesy of Bill Furey)

To get the most enjoyment out of nature, Mr. Furey is adamant that hikers learn trail safety and etiquette.
“You want to make sure you are prepared and have enough water,” he says. “You need to be hydrating the day before the hike, the day of the hike, and after hiking. You want to make sure you bring enough trail snacks, a hearty lunch if we are going to be stopping for lunch, a layer or two of clothing in your backpack, a first aid kit, sunscreen, a hat, all the essentials.”
Interested hikers can learn more information at the group’s website or join the Heritage Hiking Club on Facebook to find out about future hiking events.
A group of hikers at Yosemite National Park. (Courtesy of Bill Furey)

A group of hikers at Yosemite National Park. (Courtesy of Bill Furey)

“The biggest mistake hikers make is they don’t break in their boots, which can cause blisters on a hike, and they underestimate their hiking ability or the length of the trail,” said Mr. Furey.
In terms of trail etiquette, it’s a must that you stay on the designated trail, learn to share the trail when there are horseback riders or bikers, and always hike out trash and never litter.
As for great exercise, hiking is one of the most impactful and fun ways for anyone to stay healthy.
“We can take any hiker no matter what level they’re at, and advance them to the next level while they are hiking,” Mr. Furey said. “A non-hiker can become a beginner hiker. From a beginner hiker, you can become a moderate hiker, from a moderate hiker, you are able to tackle the hard hikes, and from the hard hike, you are able to move toward the strenuous hikes.”
A group of hikers on top of San Bernardino Peak. (Courtesy of Bill Furey)

A group of hikers on top of San Bernardino Peak. (Courtesy of Bill Furey)

By strenuous, Mr. Furey means hiking Mt. San Antonio in the San Gabriel Mountains, or San Jacinto peak in Palm Springs.
Walking around your own neighborhood is a wonderful way to begin or to condition yourself for a hike, he said. For the bigger hikes, Heritage Hiking Club offers conditioning hikes as more advanced hikers plan months ahead for trips to places such as Zion or Yosemite.
“I actually would suggest that you map out miles with your car, park your car, and walk,” said Mr. Furey. “You can start with a two-mile route, then move to a four-mile route, then to a six-mile route, and so on.”
However and wherever you begin, just get moving. You could discover your own adventure of a lifetime!
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Anne Mount is an award-winning journalist, author, and screenwriter. Her articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Marin Independent Journal, Reader's Digest, Harper's Bazaar, Ladies' Home Journal, and other publications. Her column, "Life As Is," appears in the Sunday Lifestyle section of The Dayton Daily News. She has lived in California since 2006.

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