3 great ways to enjoy Nature in Summer

A beautiful pond in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Visit a park and soak in the serene beauty of the natural landscape all around you.

Now that Summer is upon us, don’t just turn on the air conditioning and crank up the video games. Get outside and connect with Nature!

That doesn’t mean mowing the yard. Take the family or nudge a friend off the couch and go do something fun. Going outside is good for your physical and mental health. Getting immersed in Nature is also soothing to the spirit, and it is a sure way to dissipate stress. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking, and hopefully moving to your door.

Visit a Park

We in Ohio are blessed with a plethora of parks to choose from…Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland Metroparks, Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Hamilton County Park District, and the Columbus and Franklin County Metroparks are just a few of the great places to choose for your next outdoor adventure.

Take a hike to a waterfall

My favorite summertime activity is to check out places with waterfalls. Yes, the flow is sometimes less during the less rainy parts of summer. However, the feeling of coolness and the sounds and sights of rushing water in summer is just soothing and refreshing to me. If waterfalls might tickle your fancy, here are a few trails you might explore to see small waterfalls.

Go Geocaching

Maybe you want some fun and games thrown into your outdoor time. You could try geocaching. All you need is a handheld GPS (Global Postioning System), and the coordinates to a geocache, which you can find on multiple websites, including Geocaching.com.

Any of these will get your blood pumping, allow you to feel the breeze in your hair, and let you feel the sunshine on your skin. The most important thing is to get started. Go out the door and enjoy some Nature today!

 

6 reasons to hike daily

A small waterfall in Sand Run MetroPark, Summit County, Ohio

Lots of little surprises await you along the trail.

Who doesn’t love a good hike? Fresh air, singing birds, sunshine. What’s not to love? But are you a fair weather hiker? What about the dreary overcast days? What about drizzle and snow and cold? Mud? What fun is that?

There are lots of good reasons to hike in Nature every single day. If you take on the habit of hiking, whether the weather is sun or rain, here’s what you might stand to gain:

 

 

  1. Deepening connection to Nature
  2. People are part of Nature.   We don’t always remember that, but it is undeniably true. Putting your feet on a trail and immersing yourself in your local wilderness will automatically put you into a place of innate comfort.   The more often you visit natural settings, the more you will feel the connection to Nature. Daily hiking will give you a much more holistic view of the world and yourself.  Try it.  Feel it.   You’ll love it. You’ll love you more than you already do.

  3. Friends you’ve never met
  4. When you casually hike, it is most likely to be on a nice day when the benefits are obvious. The people around are more likely to be causal hikers as well. There may be many hikers crowding a popular trail like the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They are probably mostly very nice people you would love to meet and talk with. However, when you hike regardless of weather, rain, snow, cold, warm, you are more likely to meet other people who are devoted to Nature. Beyond this sort of “natural selection,” the trails are less crowded and more relaxed on less attractive days. That provides an easier opportunity for conversation with friends you haven’t met yet.

  5. Better Physical Health
  6. We always hear statistics about how cardiovascular health is improved though exercises such as walking or hiking. It just makes too much sense to ignore this fact. Get outside and get healthy. You’ll lose weight and have more energy.  Your heart will thank you.  Your loved ones will thank you.

  7. More Brainpower
  8. It is impossible to be surrounded by nature for any length of time and not learn something about your environment or yourself. Usually you learn about both on a hike. You might see a wildflower you’ve never seen before. Maybe you will be curious about what trees are around and you will develop an interest in tree identification. Maybe you will see an insect like a walking stick or leaf litter beetle and you will observe it and learn why it happens to be in that particular spot. Maybe you will reflect on Nature and realize why you are in the particular spot you are in life. Over time these reflections will add up and will influence your thinking in other areas of life. A walk in the woods is a serious education.

  9. A regular chance to Recharge and Unwind
  10. Life is always moving at a faster pace in human society. Smart phones, PDA’s, the internet, and other technology keeps us “always on.” There seems to be a prevailing attitude that we must do things better, faster, and in more volume to get ahead in the world. Let me tell you, nothing that is not in accordance with Nature can last long. The Tao Te Ching points out that high winds do not last all day, yet it seems like our society requires us to run faster and faster with fewer and fewer breaks not just all day, but day in and day out. Take a close look at Nature. It keeps going at its own pace regardless of our disdain for all things slow.

    The pace of ants climbing on tree trunks has not increased. The number of wingbeats per minute for a ruby throated hummingbird has not increased. They go on living as Nature or God intended.

    Water flows no faster in a natural stream than it did a century ago. A leaf falling from the top of an oak does not reach the ground any faster in these hectic times. Why would people be any different?

    We aren’t. An unnatural pace cannot be sustained. Whatever is contrary to Nature will not endure. That is a universal law that we cannot ignore. Use some of your finite time each day to observe the infinite Nature while hiking and maybe, just maybe, it will allow you to unwind, relax, and attune your body and mind to the natural pace of life once more.

  11. Unpredictable Fun!
  12. If you go to a gym or walk on a track, or swim in a pool, you will get plenty of exercise. Walk on a treadmill, ride your stationary bike. Good exercise, certainly. Nothing wrong with that. Except there is no real excitement to it. Get outside and Hike! You never know what is around each bend in the trail. You might have to straddle a mud hole, dodge a falling branch or evade a snake on the trail. On the more pleasant side, you might see a vibrant bird, hear the haunting tune of the woodthrush in the woods, be entertained by the chattering chipmunks, stumble upon a sleeping fawn, or be dazzled with the intricate flower of an orchid along the trail. Every trail is different every day. There is always something new to see. Animal tracks, scat, newly pecked holes of a yellow-bellied sapsucker in a straight line across a tree trunk.

There is no better way to know yourself and Nature than by hiking every day through all the seasons. I know of no better way to improve your life and your health. Make the time and your life will shine. Now Get Outside and Enjoy! Here are some ideas for great hikes in Ohio.

 

Hike like Thoreau and Muir

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. Henry David Thoreau

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. John Muir

Kendall Lake in Winter

A brisk winter morning at Kendall Lake in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

You might not be lucky enough or adventurous enough to be able to trek around in Yosemite every day like Muir. You might never set foot in Concord to be able to travel around Walden Pond like Thoreau. Or maybe you do get to those things.

Doesn’t matter. I’ve been to Yosemite and many of our greatest and oldest National Parks. Had some great transcendental moments, including a really enlivening one at the Mariposa Grove. But I have also enjoyed Nature at its finest in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one of the newest national parks in an urban area of northern Ohio. No mountains. No fabled ponds. Just near and dear Nature at its finest.

It doesn’t matter where you experience Nature. It only matters that you do. My best days start out with a short hike around my own suburban yard where I might encounter wild turkeys, a herd of deer, six different species of woodpeckers, barred owls, or an occasional screeching red-tailed hawk. No Half dome, El Capitan or Yosemite Falls in sight.

Getting outdoors and hiking in your own backyard, a nearby local, state, or national Park, or any other natural area is essential to good health. Sure, you can get increase your stamina, decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, and lose weight by exercising on an elliptical trainer. Sure, you can reduce your blood pressure, increase your concentration and reduce the impacts of stress in your life by mediating in your bedroom or in the office. These activities might help keep you physically fit and mentally calm. But, they are like looking at photos of the beach instead of feeling the sand between your toes and the surf on your skin. No comparison.

Hiking not only encompasses all of the health benefits of regular physical exercise and meditation. Walking in Nature strengthens the body and mind while also connecting the spirit to the world around you. Feet on the ground allow you to feel and connect with the energy of the earth. Your eyes are soothed by the blue sky and the green leaves or the white snow. Your nose picks up subtle scents of the season. Your ears can hear the music of Nature: rustling leaves, melodious birdsong, the whisper of a stream or roar of a waterfall. You can almost taste the energy in Nature on a hike. Your subconscious and your spiritual side need connection to Nature.

You may go out into Nature for diversion or exercise, but you will go back home with more than you bargained for. In every bit of nature you encounter, there is potential for a memory of a deep and abiding connection to God. Within that falling leaf or that flake of snow, the spirit of Nature is embodied as much as it is in the Bald Eagle I saw yesterday.

Start out today with a good dose of Nature by hiking. Make it a deliberate hike. Purposely look for your connection to Nature. It is there, just waiting for you to open your eyes and step outside.

 

Why should Thoreau get all the Marrow?

Are you the water, the trees or the sky? Or, are you the reflections upon the water?

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau (Walden).

To me, living deliberately means to live life with your mind wide open. Understand life, Nature, and where you fit in. Too many times people live on autopilot. They awaken to the sound of an alarm clock because they must be at their workplace at an arbitrarily set standard time. They drink coffee (or my favorite, Mountain Dew) to give them the strength to meet their day. They eat lunch at noon because that is when everyone else does it. They work 40 or 60 hours per week because it is expected and because they need the money to live. They arrive home overwhelmed and exhausted. They watch TV until going to sleep when they start their cycle over again.

In a deliberate life, one in tune with reality, we would awaken to the sound of birds singing after just the right amount of sleep. We would be ready to do our thing without caffeine or the electronic coaxing of an alarm. We would rise early in the summer and sleep later in winter. Humans are to some extent keyed in to light cycles and the seasons. We would eat when we were hungry. If we think it out, we would be much better off to acknowledge that fact and then live that way.


Think about the way we eat. I can get berries at just about any time of the year. In the spring, the strawberries are the best. They are locally grown, fresh and in season. I can get them the rest of the year. But, they have been picked too early in order to keep them “fresh” through a long shipment. They don’t taste quite the same. Something is not quite right. A life lived by default is the same way.

You may be able to show up at work the same time day in and day out. You may be able to go thorough the motions. Wouldn’t you rather do things in their proper season and savor them all the more because of that? A Winter strawberries just aren’t that good.

Understanding how we fit into Nature, how our natural inclinations interact with and fit into the cycle of things, allows us to live more deliberately. Don’t accept someone else’s version of reality just because it is there. Do some hard work of your own. Explore a ravine. Hike a trail. Sit in a cold stream. Feel how these experiences change you. Think about why. What do you learn? A Where do you fit into it all? A We each have our own path through Nature. We either know it and live it, or we are lost.

What is your path?

Once you know. Live from that place of knowledge. Live a life consistent with your internal compass. Don’t listen to what others say you should do. Do what you know to be right. That is the way of Nature, and humans are an integral part of Nature. By virtue of being you, you have the right to reach your full potential.

Now get outside and get to know yourself and your own Nature. Then, live it deliberately.
 

Putting the brakes on "The Acceleration of Addictiveness"

I recently read a blog post on The Acceleration of Addictiveness. Being interested in hiking and the outdoors in general, one particular passage caught my eye:

“Most people I know have problems with Internet addiction. Were all trying to figure out our own customs for getting free of it. Thats why I dont have an iPhone, for example; the last thing I want is for the Internet to follow me out into the world. My latest trick is taking long hikes. I used to think running was a better form of exercise than hiking because it took less time. Now the slowness of hiking seems an advantage, because the longer I spend on the trail, the longer I have to think without interruption.”

What better reason to get off the internet and out into Nature?  Not only is it good for your health, and good for your spirit, but it is a good place to escape the pressure of our ever-increasing pace of life.

Hiking is such a contrast to everyday life that it does provide an immediate and deep sense of relaxation, at least to me. My favorite place to hike this week is the Ledges Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Where is your favorite place to unwind in Nature?

 

Winter Hiking at its best

Cleveland Metroparks’ North Chagrin Reservation is one of my favorite places. The big, old woods of the park beckon us to explore their secrets, even in the dead of winter. From a wide variety of trees to deep cold ravines, to rock outcroppings above frozen streams, this park is truly a winter wonderland.

I took this photo of a black-capped chickadee on my hand at the overlook shelter at the end of the Overlook Trail in A.B. Williams Memorial Woods, a National Natural Landmark located in North Chagrin Reservation. People have fed them there for years, so they are very tame. It is a great place to take kids for a surreal natural experience they will never forget.

Check out a few of the trails at North Chagrin: