In the last year, I have been reacquainted with an old flame: hiking. To thank for that I have the Wounded, Ill and Injured Warrior Clinic at NMSCD San Deigo, led by the spectacular Marla Knox. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in Western Michigan, where hiking was a daily occurrence. Whether it was to get to school, to get across a farm, to get to the deer you were hunting, or to get to the Big Lake, we hiked every day.
After being referred to the pain management clinic at Balboa Naval Hospital, part of my therapy was being evaluated by the WII Wellness Clinic. They gave me a lot of options from swimming, Tai Chi, Yoga and the one that truly caught my eye, hiking. I signed up for all of them, and soon every Wednesday at 7 a.m. I was standing outside in the cold, my trekking poles under one arm, my camelback slung across my shoulders and a protein bar for breakfast, ready to hike.
I went into this clinic with the idea that I was there to work on strengthening my back. I set myself to focusing on pushing myself, getting a vigorous workout of the 3-4 hours each week. As it continued, as it became a routine, a habit, I discovered something else. I wasn’t just working on my muscles; I was working on my mind as well. So many of those who were on the hikes each week, weren’t there because of a physical disability, they were there because they had experienced psychological trauma, and the Recreational Therapist to ran the clinic, Marla Knox, used the hikes as a way to integrate them into a group, a community and society.
I made a lot of friends during these weekly hikes. I met a lot of great people that have inspired me to continue not just my healing, but my hiking. Spending 20 years in the military, I’ve hiked around the world. From the mountains of the island of Crete, to jungles above Busan, South Korea. From Diamondhead on Oahu, Hawaii, to the mountains of Southern California. The one thing that I have learned, that the WII Wellness Clinic helped remind me of, is that when life gives me challenges there is only one response:
“Put one foot in front of the other, and just keep hiking!”