After spending a week hiking in the Canadian Rockies, I feel primed to keep at it. So, last night I went hiking with my oldest son who is extending his break between his Master’s and PhD programs. He studied up until mid-July, took his test, and now is on hiatus for an additional week beyond our vacation. He’ll soon return to his research in a nearby state.
I had a purpose to our hike. As part of my job, I organize and help lead hikes on conserved properties – some are public lands and some are easements created on private properties. We have a hike tomorrow morning, on public lands, in which I am the co-leader. I had not yet been to the property. So, since my son who does a lot of hiking, and appreciates nature was home, I decided to take advantage of his presence and bring him along for the trip.
We hiked a mile in through the local forest which is densely wooded with oak, birch, and cedar as well as over grown with brush and fallen trees. The path that started out wide and wet, quickly became narrow and encroached upon by nearby plants- some of it looking suspiciously like poison ivy or poison oak. We meandered along a ridge for quite some time, unable to see a horizon or path over the top. Early in the hike, we saw a large deer. The deer was a welcome site! We had travelled all the way to Banff National Park and only saw a chipmunk! I am sure we saw the deer because we were alone in the woods, at dusk. We were still, watched and photographed, this was her home; we were the visitors. Later, I saw a giant swallowtail fly through the tree tops.
The trail finally led us to a restored prairie which included a field of Monarda, Queen Anne’s Lace, Compass Plant, and Purple Prairie Clover. Unfortunately, the prairie is scared by large power lines, carried on both older wooden poles and new iron structures. The view of our small city, accompanying wetlands, great river, and the neighboring western state are all visible from the ridge top prairie. However, part of the view is obscured by the power lines.
But, that is part of the conundrum isn’t it? We all need power. We all use electricity. The demand for this utility has increased to the extent that it now has to be carried across our lands to cities more distant. The situation reeks of “not in my backyard.” But, the deed is done. The lines were approved, and built, and now function to provide power, as well as an obstructed view. And, now we were provided a graveled drive which made our trail brochure become out of date as it was previously referred to as wide-mowed path.
The hike tomorrow is called Nature Bathing. Perhaps, you’ve heard of this practice. It is also referred to as Forest Bathing or shinrin-yoku. As I said, I just spent a week in the Canadian Rockies. My family of five did a 10.2 km, round trip hike, to a glacier fed lake. We passed few others along the trail. We were surrounded by large white pines, and Douglas Fir. There were also a number of native prairie plants I recognized but here they were on an alpine path! Brooks babbled, birds sang, rocks teetered under our steps. I am not sure I can properly forest bathe as well anywhere else now.
But, part of my job is being prepared. I now know the trail we will travel tomorrow. I now know the principal of forest bathing – not from my local experience but from my restorative vacation experience. I now know I need to try and connect people with nature as much as I am connected to it. Breathe in the cool forest air and relax. There is still a view between the power that all we crave so much!