Dirt trails and the 52 Hike Challenge

“Have you heard of this?” my daughter asked. The link was to the 52 Hike Challenge. According to their website, it’s a movement to get people outdoors. (Not sure if that was an intended pun. Movement, get it?).


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

And so I took up the challenge to do 52 hikes in 2020. I even (nerdily) created a spreadsheet with columns that add up the mileage and ascent.

The website includes six different options. One of them involves 52 hikes in a year of at least one mile each with our four-legged furry friends.

Another is comprised of 52 outdoor activities with our kids in one year.

There’s even a challenge to hike in at least 52 nationally designated parks in our lifetimes. (I want to do this one!)

After taking up the challenge, a friend of mine, Dan—who is now my fiancé as well as an outdoor trail junkie—joined me on almost-daily hikes and snowshoe treks.

And the miles began adding up.

Turns out, it’s not just about the miles. It’s also about the mental health benefits of being outdoors in God’s soaring creation.

It’s about paying attention and noticing our surroundings—in our case, the majesty of the Cascade Range, the frozen-in-time lava ridges …


The Three Sisters — Faith, Hope and Charity — with a lava flow in the foreground

… and the wildlife, i.e., this osprey bringing lunch to her offspring.



Back when my husband, Gary, was diagnosed with late-stage cancer, hormone therapy was the treatment of choice. It causes osteoporosis, which is why we took up pounding the trails. Frequently.

Gary and I didn’t think hiking and snowshoeing would cure his cancer, but quality of life was one of our goals. And outdoor physical activity lends itself to QOL.

An article posted to the U.S. National Park Service website, titled “Benefits of Hiking,” cites a study done by researchers at Stanford University:

Spending quality time in the great outdoors reduces stress, calms anxiety, and can lead to a lower risk of depression.

All those accumulated miles of circumnavigating lakes and crossing streams and summiting mountains most certainly increased our quality of life.

After Gary left his cancer-ridden body for heaven, I continued outdoor activity. Which was part of my quality of life during the widow years.

I’m currently heading into a new season, getting ready to tie the knot with a good and kind man who loves getting outdoors as much as I do.

As of today—twenty-one weeks into the year—Dan and I have hiked a total of 39 snowy, dusty, and pine-needled trails since January 2020.

(On the route from Benham Falls to Dillon Falls, Dan decided to climb to the top of this tree to impress me. But with all that weight … well, you can see what happened.)


Hmmm … maybe he needs to diet?

John Muir said this:

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

What if?

One of the positive things about being in isolation these days is seeing so many people and families with young children taking advantage of the time to incorporate outdoor movement into their lifestyles.

What if we could take the challenge to get outdoors at least once a week—with our pets, our kids, our friends and fiancés and spouses?

And what if that could increase our mental, emotional, and physical health for the long run?

We could. It will.

Side note

Tiny houses tend to catch my eye. And my usual comment is something like, “I could live in that!”

Well, Dan and I noticed the tiniest of tiny homes across the Metolius River on a hike this week. It even had its very own solar panel and TV antennae.

Um … don’t think I could live in this one.


The tiniest of tiny houses


Making a difference, one bike at a time


What does it mean to ‘burn the ships’?


  1. Richard R Kelly

    Marlys – Very inspiring. I’ve been doing a lot of walking for years on the trails in & around Bend. Not sure that it qualifies as hiking though. I’ve been walking 8-10 miles a day since the Governor’s “stay home” order & St. Charles furloughed the volunteers. I’ve now walked the equivalent of Bend to Seattle (paying a virtual visit to our 4 nieces who live in the Seattle area).

    • Wow, Rich – the equivalent from Bend to Seattle! I’m properly impressed. Here’s hoping you can make it back to Bend from Seattle! 🙂

  2. Hidie Baker

    Congratulations Marlys! I’m so happy for your next chapter of life

  3. Marlys, your writing makes me smile. I enjoy the outdoors but haven’t been on too many wilderness trails. When I do walk one, it makes me want to do more. The 52 challenge is a good one.

  4. sally slick

    Such a wonderful posting Marlys! Makes me feel so good in so many ways! Thanks, as always!!!

  5. Eileen Chiechi

    Walking is my outlet in this time where I don’t go to stores etc. Walk around our area 3 to 5 miles a day. Dog loves it too and its so beautiful in Bend. Live South East so rural. Do walk with daughter keeping our distance. Enjoy your post. Love

  6. Peter

    Love the enterprise, the get up & go, the endeavour & the great photographs, thanks, as always. Over here,we’ve got a 2.6 challenge going (flexible.. meaning km’s, miles.. walking each day for charitable causes), or make the 2.6 into 26 miles ( I.e. a marathon distance… in a week, walking, running. Or cycling each day). Lots of folk have signed up.. so I’ll be cycling 26 miles a day… I think!!!!, plus the neighbourhood… I’ve been asked to get the guitar out & sing each Thursday @ 8pm… in the front garden… with neighbours joining in… (for our front line service personnel.. nurses, carers, police, fire etc etc during these trying time). We’re game.. for a laugh to support worthy cause. Good on you folk, God Bless. Bx P & family.

  7. Nasus

    Very refreshing article and pictures! Thank you! Seeing God’s workmanship in person or by photo definitely lightens the spirit. I am sure that you noticed, Marlys, that you can throw Dan a curve and he will hang on! Great picture! Love and God’s richest blessings to you both as you serve Him in so many ways!

  8. Barbara Winterfeld

    Haha, I recognize that tree, Marlys!
    My George and I joined American Volkssport Association in 1988 and we have pass books filled with our 10K walks all throughout Oregon and it looks like our last walk was in 2001. Prior to that we square danced our way through many pairs of shoes and boots in USA and Canada for at least 20 years. Moving to Central Oregon, we hit the hiking trails and our most challenging hike was to Green Lakes with friends and our Old English Sheepdog, who would lay down in the water each little stream along the trail. Hiking became too strenuous for my George as he was battling cancer. I rather suspect he has hit the trails in Heaven!
    I so agree that our outdoor walking/hiking is the best medicine, physically and mentally. My daily walks with my friend, Glenda are life sustaining for me.

    • Wow, Barbara, I wonder how many miles total you and George put in, including “miles” of square dancing. And you’re still walking!

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