Most of us spend part of our lives multitasking. We fold laundry while watching TV. We shop online while we’re in Zoom meetings. We talk on the phone while driving (hands-free, of course!).

So why not multitask while hiking?

Of course, stumbling around in the woods while you stare at your phone and answer emails is an absurd idea. Don’t do that.

Instead, leave your phone at home and find other ways to do two things at once. Let’s call it “multi-hiking.” Multi-hiking provides rewards that are just as immediate, but they will seep much deeper into your soul.

Below are some multi-hiking ideas to try the next time you hit the trails.

Enjoy a Natural Workout

What’s gym equipment but overengineered natural elements? Grab a few good-sized stones and tone your arms as you hike. Get a good stretch against a boulder or a sturdy tree. Try some pull-ups on a well-placed branch.

Or, pick up the pace a bit when hiking up an incline to raise your heart rate, and then mindfully control your pace on the way down. As you move, note how your muscles tense and relax, working together to keep you balanced and moving forward.

Make a Sundial

A simple sundial can help you experience the gentle passage of time. You probably won’t stay in one place long enough to keep actual time, but you just need two straight sticks, maybe 10 inches long, to see its passing.

Start by putting one stick into the ground. Then, use your compass to place the second stick due north of it, a foot or so away. In the morning, the first stick’s shadow will be left of the second stick’s shadow. If the shadows line up with each other, it’s noon. If you pass by later, the first stick’s shadow will have moved to the right of the second stick’s shadow.

Spread Native Seeds

Wind, water, and animals help to keep native plants thriving in Missouri and Southern Illinois — why can’t hikers join in? One simple way is to break open seed pods you come across on a hike and let gravity, wind, rain, or snow do the rest.

If you’re a more proactive type, you can imitate Johnny Appleseed on your next hike and sow seeds. First, consider the landscape you’ll be traversing on your hike. The website of Brightside St. Louis has a Natural Plants page that displays native plants by habitat. Hit your local garden store for some seed packets before you head out, and then spread them along the way.

Pick Up Trash

Scooping up litter is such a great thing to do on a run that it has its own name: plogging. The term comes from the Swedish words “plocka,” which means “to pick up,” and “jogga,”or “to jog.”

Pack a small trash bag and transform your hike into a trail cleanup.

However, you can just as easily “plog” while hiking! Just bring a small bag with you and use it to collect any litter you might come across. Naturally, you’ll want to keep hand sanitizer in your bag, dispose of your trash responsibly, and wash your hands at the end of your trek.

Look to the Skies

You may see all kinds of wildlife on your hike, but you’re almost guaranteed to see birds. Whether they’re swooping, soaring, singing, or just hanging out in a tree, it’s always fun to watch our fine feathered friends acting out the fascinating behaviors they’ve been doing for millennia.

Internationally renowned birder David Sibley has published many weighty volumes of his stunning and educational bird guides, and he also publishes nifty, fold-out, waterproof guides that will slip into any backpack and are as light as… well, a bird.

Don’t forget to pack your binoculars, which can come in handy for spotting flying and fluttering creatures of all kinds.

Find Hidden Treasure

Well, we almost made it to the end completely tech-free, but geocaching is a fun way to interact with others and mark your travels. Just download a geocache app to your phone or device. When you tap the app, you’ll see a map of your location. The map will also reveal the location of a geocache — a container creatively hidden near you.

Geocaching turns a simple hike into a treasure hunt.

Inside the geocache, you’ll find a log to record your visit, and you can see who has found the geocache before you. You can also log your discovery in your app. But don’t take the geocache with you; leave it for the next explorer to find. With more than 3 million geocaches hidden around the world, it’s likely to happen sooner or later.

Respect Wildlife

Remember that when you’re hiking, you’re the guest. Admire wildlife, listen to it, learn from it — but don’t hassle it. That goes double for potentially dangerous animals like bears, feral pigs, coyotes, and wildcats, all of which inhabit our region. Be the guest, not a chew toy.

Not only is respecting wildlife a safety precaution, but it’s also one of the main tenets of Leave No Trace.

As you can see, with a little imagination and an open mind, it’s easy to make the most of a multi-hiking experience. The digital world of private messages, curated photos, and manufactured drama will always welcome you back, though you’ll have more perspective to keep it in its place.


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Native Plants:




Leave No Trace:

Author: Tim Fox is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.