Hike like Thoreau and Muir

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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.

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