It's the time of year in the PNW where we fill the long days drinking in the sun and heat, smelling of tomato plants and squash, flocking to beaches, lakes and mountains. This summer Josh and I were lucky enough to be out backpacking every other weekend, culminating our summer trips with a 5-day section of the Pacific Crest Trail. My 68-year old trail-crushing mom came along and my sister and brother-in-law joined us for the first 3 days.
For a loooong time, I've been compelled to spend time in nature (Walden Pond, anyone?)... beyond the obvious benefits of getting away from society's tedium, I find that nature vacations are the most comprehensive getaway- boosting healthy thoughts and behaviors, resetting our brains, challenging ourselves physically and mentally, experiencing beauty, and immersing in the quiet. I even read that 'Forest Bathing' is being prescribed as a mindfulness and stress-reduction tool in some societies (duh!)
Here's what I love about spending time in the woods:
"A blade of grass is the journeywork of the stars" - Walt Whitman
1) It's simple. I'm not paying bills, responding to texts or emails, checking notifications or dealing with any of the stresses of daily life. I am simply waking up and walking from here to there. I set up my home in the evening and take it down the next morning. I heat water, I make food, I check a map, I carry everything I need with me on my back. No news, no politics, no notifications. I am untethered.
2) It's beautiful. Every trail has a beauty to it, whether it's the macro: wildflowers, old growth trees, mosses, fungi, deer... or the broad: mountains, alpine lakes, glaciers, meadows... I am in awe of the landscapes around me.
3) It's physical. It's obvious, but hiking is great exercise. I can feel my legs working, my heart pumping- I'm sweating and exhausted when I reach the end of the day. Walking is the most natural form of exercise, and doing it for hours at a time for days in a row feels like I'm working out all of the kinks. Although it's not easy, I come back feeling strong, refreshed and alive. I am amazed at my body's capacity to carry me so far.
It's so simple, so beautiful, so challenging and peaceful. I put one foot in front of the other, I hear my poles clicking against the rocks, I breathe in and out, I laugh with my companions, I lay flat on the ground, I dip in cold water, I see the stars at night. Soon I'll put my pack away until next season, wrap up in scarves and Seahawks gear, and reminisce about the long, hot summer.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” - Henry David Thoreau