As we are heading into spring, I can say it comes with a little bit of sadness. I know, spring! Crazy, right!? Don’t get me wrong, I like spring. In fact, I like all seasons.

The sadness comes from how much I enjoyed winter hiking this year. I have always enjoyed being active outdoors. In the past, my outdoor activity in the winter mostly consisted of downhill skiing. But this year, a friend and neighbor pulled a hiking group together, consisting of neighbors, friends, and their friends and neighbors. Anyone and everyone was welcome.

This friend took on the task to plan which hikes we would go on and, in order to include as many people as possible, she organized hikes on one or two days each week. She would send out a group text a few days before and whoever could make it would come. I made new friends, got reacquainted with friends from when my children were younger, and got some great exercise.

I know hiking and outdoor activities are not everyone’s thing-and for some it’s not possible. But then there are people like me: the ones who are going to work out even if it is done on an old treadmill in the basement. In fact, I will confess, I am one of those people who is obsessed with step counts.

The size of the groups varied every week from 4 to 15 women of various ages and hiking levels. The average age was somewhere in the mid-40s with some woman in their 30s and most in their 40 and 50s. We had women with young children, teenagers, young adults, and grandchildren. Trust me, this was not your average “grandmothers” hiking group. These women were in great shape and operated on high speed with busy lives caring for their families, working hard at their careers, and serving in the community.

I not only made new friends, but I found myself edified as we challenged ourselves and interacted with one another. I learned so much from these women. I learned about great books, how to eat healthier, stories of family joys and challenges, and how to balance our lives, all while we coursed our way up mountains trails, over streams, and under snow-flocked trees. The scenery was spectacular and, at times, indescribable. While I have hiked a lot, before this winter, I had done it most often in summer and fall, but winter brought new challenges and a whole different perspective. Every week I came off our adventure and I hoped it would snow again so that next week’s hike could be blanketed in snow.

While getting outdoors and being active was a big part of the enjoyment, I believe I benefited even more from the social aspect of the hiking. It provided me with the balance I needed. I wonder if it isn’t so important what activity we engage in, but with whom we do it with. I learned so much more than I expected from my interaction with this amazing group of women. It took some planning to get myself out there, some personal sacrifice, and I was sometimes tired from the excursion. But I felt more balanced having taken some time to explore and, most importantly, to visit with others and play a little.

I am looking forward to hiking the entire year with these women, through all the seasons, and getting to see the beauty that surrounds us while forming priceless friendships. Life is hectic at times, but I know from personal experience that while exercising alone is good for the body, exercising with others is perfect for the body and soul.