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Deep Woods: Why I hike.

July 20, 2014

2014-06-29 12.49.30So I want to get a little deep here, and share some thoughts that have been brewing in my mind and my gut for some time now, probably the majority of my life, and I feel the inspiration to attempt to put it into words. Bear with me, if you are willing.

I love to hike. I love to walk. My mom tells a story of when I was probably five or six years old and having a bad day. Who knows what the reason was exactly, but I’m sure that it had something to do with at least one of my three sisters (it was usually THEIR fault!). She said that after some initial grumbling and pouting, that I got up and went out the front door of our house, telling her behind me that “I just need to take a walk.” I went around the block of our south St. Louis neighborhood, and I haven’t stopped doing it since. The need to walk has been in me a long time.

2014-06-08 11.37.57A friend of mine, who does the blog North American Educational Explorers shared a saying with me a while back that has stuck in my mind since. “Solvitur Ambulando” It is Latin, and it means “It is solved by walking”. In my own searching, it seems that it is usually translated to mean: in order to solve a problem you are facing you need to put in the leg work, the research and experimentation, to figure out the solution. I can agree with that because we all know that is true in life. That problems aren’t solved out of thin air, and that any conflict we face usually requires some work to get through it.

2014-06-21 16.12.14But I think in my own context, how I define it, is in a more literal sense. That negative energy, either from stresses with work or relationships or even my own inquisitiveness and passions, can be eliminated by the experience of walking or hiking. That any conflict I face and the bad things it brings into my life can be alleviated somewhat by walking. In the least, it puts me into a calmer sense and mental place, to be able to constructively approach whatever the problem is.

DSCF1767Health and fitness professionals for the most part unanimously agree that exercise has a lot of benefits, and what I have come to believe is that those benefits go beyond a person’s physical state of being. That it improves mental and emotional health as well, in ways we may not even notice directly. Walking through the forest, surrounded by the life that exists there, working the muscles that suffer too much from routines of inactivity, and giving ourselves the opportunity for clarity in our thoughts, is something that I believe to be a positive addiction we all need to have.

2014-07-04 15.54.56Hiking along the Eagle Valley Trail in Greensfelder County Park today, there is a spot that is probably halfway along the trail, just before it turns to the left and the Green Rock Trail splits off and heads toward Rockwoods Reservation. There is a picnic bench there that I usually stop to take a short break at, to enjoy the sounds of the forest surrounding me, maybe have a snack, give Max some water. This time I had been hiking with a couple dialogues going on in my head, and in a moment of clarity and inspiration, I typed this into the memo app on my phone:

2014-07-04 16.03.56“The only stress that I experience are the stresses of physical strain. All other faculties are in a heightened state of peaceful awareness. Ultimately, if I choose to deeply enough, I can be stronger than my fatigue and overuse. It can be ignored and overcome by a focus on the movement through the forest. With that victory, compounded upon my current perception and mental calm, the satisfaction of the experience as a whole is magnified to a level of spiritual and real connection with my physical self and the environment I am immersed in. Thank God for the forest.”

DSCF2181From my own experience, I truly feel like hiking, walking through the forest, is a meditation for me. That it is something I do to center myself. A way for me to find an internal peace. To step away from the stresses that may be plaguing me lately. To give my mind a chance to breathe and get heading back in a productive direction of thought. The distraction of the natural beauty there is also a part of the whole process. To be witness to the variety of the natural world helps me to bring things into an authentic perspective. Like looking up at the stars on a camping trip, it helps me to see the actual size, how small and unimportant it really is, of whatever negativity I am dealing with.

2014-07-19 11.16.01Hiking is also something I do to connect with the life force of this universe and the environment we are a part of. There is an energy in the forest and waterways. Sure, we see it in the animals, the living breathing creatures that sometimes cross our path. But I am talking about beyond these things that run and jump and live and die in the woods. There is an energy in the trees and the rocks. The hills and valleys. The wind and the blades of grass and the streams of water flowing down the subtle hills along the trail. It is an experience that I have difficulty describing, especially to people who may not be receptive to it, but I know for sure that it exists there and that I can feel it when I am in the forest. Part of my experience, the real reason that I am drawn to these places, is to absorb that energy and really connect with it as I move through it. To attempt to match the vibration of what exists there, with the vibration that resonates from within myself. I would even go as far to theorize that it is along the lines of communing with what I personally believe created all of this.

2014-07-19 11.40.06Whatever the reason for doing it, you like to exercise, you enjoy being in nature, you have a spiritual connection, it is a beneficial activity that I think can be good for just about anyone. Because it has been on my mind, I just felt that I needed to take the time here to share these thoughts and why I like to hike. I know I’m hooked, and maybe a little nuts, and I will continue to find myself out on a trail somewhere just about any chance I get. Maybe one day I will see you out there too. Thanks for reading.




  1. Jan B permalink

    Hi Gabriel, so nice to “meet you” 🙂 I just discovered your blog while reading on Shaw Nature Reserve FB page. I look forward to exploring your posts and reading much more as time allows.
    I just finished reading this delightful post about hiking and I had to tell you how perfectly you captured the true magic of being in the woods/nature. I found myself smiling and shaking my head in agreement as you described the energy, peace & spirituality found when walking with the trees.
    I have spent many hours in Castlewood and Shaw, as well as Rockwoods Reservation since i live close by. Also wanted to send kudos and thanks to all of you for the Stream Teams efforts…I saw the article about Shaws floodplain clean up. It never ceased to amaze me the things left behind and I know the hard work involved. All of you deserve a hard earned thanks from all of us who enjoy these parks. Looking forward to learning more. Have a great day.
    Jan B

    • Jan, it is certainly nice to meet you too! Thank you for checking out the blog. I get a lot of enjoyment out of doing it, and it is responses like yours here that make it even that much better. There is certainly something special about nurturing our own personal relationships to the life around us in the natural world, and it is encouraging to hear the stories of other people.
      And the Stream Team volunteering has a lot of rewards too, but thank you for the gratitude. I would very much suggest following the link at the end of the Shaw Nature Reserve story to the Missouri Stream Team calendar to see when and where cleanup events will be happening. Definitely something worth getting involved in.
      Until next time, thank you again, and take care!

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