by Rita Makhoul
When people think of Lebanon, they usually think of wars and battles or plastic surgeries and an extravagant nightlife.
When I think of Lebanon, I think of the great outdoors and the beautiful scenery it provides that is unique to the Middle East.
I used to get into the car and just drive up into the mountains exploring the areas and discovering every region’s unique nature. Every curve offered a different scenic view, every town and village I’d pass by would have its own identity. I always ended up feeling serene during these drives.
How I got into hiking:
Several years ago, a group of friends were going hiking and I tagged along. At first I was worried I would become shattered and not be able to complete the 6-hour hike. I rarely visit the gym or exercise. The thought of using a treadmill makes me feel like a gerbil running in a wheel inside a cage! To my surprise, not only did I complete the hike, I was so entranced by the views, the trails, the continuous change of the surrounding nature that even when exhausted I continued on, wanting to see more.
Ever since that day, whenever I visit Lebanon, I make sure that a hiking trip is included in my itinerary. You would think that it would eventually get boring and that the hikes would start to resemble each other but up to this date I have been to over 50 hiking trails and each and every trail has been an exceptional experience and because each area has its own distinctive landscape that it is impossible to get bored. Even when I’ve hiked the same trail, it has delivered pleasant surprises. It seriously is not possible to get bored.
While on a hike, nothing beats the feeling I get when I stop, stand, look around and appreciate the sensations I feel. For a moment, and just a mere moment, I sense what it truly means for my soul to be alive. My momentary existence in this ancient land is nothing but a measly instant for the land, but for me, that sensation will live with me for a lifetime.
I know, I know, I’m starting to sound like a spiritual nutcase but give me the chance to explain. You see, in our hectic modern day lives, it is so easy to get busy doing all sorts of things and get stressed and drained. Most of the time, we forget why we even live the way we do. We forget why we are so busy living this fast paced life, feeling so relentless. We have become so dependent on material possessions and technology that we tend to forget the essentials.
Hiking is great physical exercise but it also REALLY helps clear your head and reduces stress. Moreover, you feel it instantly! It’s real. It gets you to step away from your desk, away from your computer, television, texting, and everything else that consumes your daily lives… and gives you the chance to experience the wilderness without Instagram filters.
Can you hike?
When my friends see pictures from my hiking trips they want to join, but are always worried, as I was before I completed my first hike, whether they can conquer it or not. Let me put it this way, if you can walk, you can hike a medium level trail. Medium level trails consist of uphill and downhill treks, and you may encounter some small climbs or be required to jump from one rock to another on top of a stream. It really is not as challenging as it sounds but if you are not comfortable with that, you can start with an easy trail until you are comfortable. Best of all, hiking is suitable for all ages!
What do you need to hike?
Good hiking shoes. Don’t get overwhelmed when you walk into a store and see all the different kind of hiking shoes. Find a pair of shoes that are suitable for all weather and terrain. The first time you wear your new shoes, your feet could hurt so wear them in once or twice before you go on a major hike.
Wear clothing suitable for the season. During the summer season, a tank top or t-shirt with comfortable pants, sunglasses and a hat is suitable. During the colder months, I like to wear layers; a cotton top, a fleece sweatshirt, a windproof vest, earmuffs of something similar, and a pair of sunglasses.
Get a light backpack so you carry 2 liters of water, healthy snacks, and a sandwich.
How to get started?
Never ever hike alone. Have you watched 127 hours?! Don’t do it. My suggestion is to find a hiking group you are comfortable with. Qualified guides who have been on the trails before organize hiking groups. It is the safest way to go. It also gives you a chance to meet others, some of which will be first-timers just like you and others who have been hiking for years.
My favorite hiking group is Born2Hike:
Why hike in Lebanon?
Lebanon’s diverse nature consists of the Mediterranean sea, rugged mountain peaks, and green fertile valleys. An ancient land, Lebanon’s outdoors has a lot to offer. The pictures should speak for themselves.