“Break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” — John Muir
San Diego-based fitness enthusiast Sara Hamala leads biweekly cannabis and hiking excursions. Her group, @TeamCannababes, meets at a designated natural spot and starts with a round of introductions to break the ice. “You have to feel comfortable and safe around the people you’re consuming with,” Hamala told Civilized. “After participants introduce themselves, we have a communal smoke. It helps bring us onto the same page — we’re all human, and we have this beautiful plant that connects us.”
Cannabis brings a lot to the outdoors experience, and to fitness, says Hamala, who’s studying for a certification in personal training. “A lot of people, whether they admit to it or not—have some anxiety about working out," she said. "And cannabis helps alleviate the fear, it gets them into the moment, and into their bodies.”
Post-enhancement, Hamala leads the group in a warm-up to prepare them physically for the hike. Because THC is stored in fat cells, some of the cannabinoid is released during exercise, which can boost the euphoric feeling often associated with exercise. “You’re doing cardio and feeling great,” said Hamala. “It’s the perfect combination.”
Tips for bringing cannabis to the great outdoors…
Choose your strain thoughtfully
Hamala favors sativa-dominant hybrids for a hike, such as Flow Kana’s Rising Sun and Lemon Larry by Hawgsbreath. Those with a particular affinity for hiking tend to gush about Blue Dream for its chill euphoria and tendency to bring natural beauty front and center. Sour Diesel, the “coffee of cannabis,” can get you going with an energetic kick, and is a great mood-booster. Alaskan Thunder Fuck (ATF) is a sociable strain that boosts energy and motivation for those long, chatty days on the trail. As always, you'll likely need to experiment in order to find the specific effect you’re seeking, and of course, listen to your body in the process.
Despite the gradual liberalization of state laws, cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug federally. You don’t want to be caught consuming on federal lands, such as national parks. And because public consumption is technically illegal even in legal states, practice caution in state parks, too. If you live in a legal state, here’s a short list of private, cannabis-friendly trails and campsites worth traveling for. Be mindful of other hikers, too, as not everyone (gasp) enjoys the smell of weed.
Water, water, water
Take along extra (reusable, naturally!) bottles of water because chugging up hills and smoking weed is a risky combo for dehydration — particularly if you’re at elevation. Pack more than you think you’ll need so that you’re free to focus on the scenery, not your cottonmouth.
Also, because you’ll burn between 300 and 500 calories per hour while hiking, and simple math indicates that fuel is required. Pro-tip: Pack fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate along with a sandwich or other quick entrée. Unless you’re hiking in the 7-11 parking lot, you’ll only eat healthy snacks on the trail if you only have healthy snacks on the trail. They’ll taste amazing anyway, and will serve your fitness and eco-friendly goals much better than Cheetos and M&M’s will.
Don’t start a wildfire and don't litter
Mega-rain-and-snow storms across North America this winter notwithstanding, wildfires in summer and fall months are demonstrably on the rise. Don’t start a blaze by carelessly blazing while hiking. This means, refrain from tossing your roach trailside and be very careful with the fire power you bring to dry areas. You may even want to consider a small, enclosed roach pack carry along with you so that you don't litter. Have fun — yes! — but don’t get so high that you can’t keep yourself and the natural environment safe.
Go with a group or a friend...
...so that at least one of you will be able to keep the group from getting too stoned and then getting lost, like these guys. So you’ll have the safety of numbers in case you happen upon a bear (or a tiger). Also, so you can enjoy those wide-ranging, bonding conversations weed is known to facilitate.
Don’t take unnecessary risks
Choose a familiar spot and stick to the trail. Know your physical abilities and limits, as well as how cannabis affects you. Some people will experience enhanced athletic performance with the right strain, while others might feel a bit less coordinated. It’s better to start with a familiar smoke or vape and a breezy, non-technical trail so that you can hone your confidence and stay safe along the way.
Slow down and enjoy yourself
One of the most prized effects of recreational cannabis is its ability to mentally shift us from the realm of everyday thoughts, to-do’s, and logistics, to a more expansive and creative in-the-moment experience. Let yourself take it all in: the wide-open sky, the scent of earth, and the sounds of bird, insect, and animal life around you. Give yourself space to absorb sensate pleasures, like the crunch of gravel beneath your boots, or the visual poetry of fallen leaves swirling in a stream’s eddy. Observing a honey bee pollinate a wildflower can be a deeply engrossing, even moving, experience.
Keep it going post-hike
If you’re sore from an active day outside, try ACDC, a pain-relieving indica with a good amount of CBD, to help you recover. A super chill indica, like Afghan Kush or Querkle will encourage you to eat a hearty meal and get a full night’s sleep. Or, try CBD alone — either in oil, capsule, or topical form as an analgesic (pain reliever) and anti-inflammatory. There’s even CBD-only flower on the market now, if smoking is what you prefer.
Whether you’re seeking a break from the gym, or you’re hungry for a soul-cleansing day in nature, cannabis can absolutely enhance your experience of the outdoors. “Cannabis is wellness,” said Hamala. “It’s an important part of people’s lives, and so is being physically fit. I don’t think that people put the two fully together yet, and I’d love to see more of those connections happening.”