Thankful for the Experiences of Starting the Day in the Woods

Day 2,047

Instead of our normal run I opted for waking up a little earlier than usual and went for a hike. The woods were dark when I entered but quickly started to lighten up. The weather was just about perfect and there was no one else on the trail when I started.

Just a little ways into the hike I encountered something I have never experienced. An owl started hooting loudly and almost immediately there was a response from another owl. The hooting then got more intense, more rapid, and higher pitched. There was just enough light that I could make out the shape of one owl flying towards another on a branch. Both owls spread their wings to increase the size and they were so close together I could not make out where one stopped and the other started. Within a second the one on the branch took off like a shot and the other took its place. The one that had flown was easily trackable against the dark blue pre-dawn sky and I watched as it settled into a new location. It was awesome!!! I could not believe the luck I had to see such an event.

I then walked up and down the valleys while listening to both the bird songs and their echoes. The sound bounced and resonated through the coulees and added a little extra beauty to the music. I was surprised to hear the changes in the types of birds as the minutes ticked by, it was almost like each species had their own alarms set.

Along the path I scared up a deer. He was well off the trail by the time I saw him. I slowed my pace and was rewarded with an encounter with two more deer, neither or which were startled. It seems as if they know there was no threat to them from me and we spent a few seconds just enjoying the sight of each other before I got back to my trail and they slowly walked and ate.

The woodpeckers all kicked in at about 5:35 and were going hardcore for a good 10-15 minutes. There were at least three different types based on what I saw and observed with their pecking patterns and sounds. A few times I just paused and watched them go to town on top of a dead tree, so entranced by watching them do what woodpeckers were made to do. I was lost in a state of awe watching their heads pile drive into the tree over and over again in rapid succession while also remembering that their tongues wrap around their brains to provide extra cushion. That’s legit, look it up 🙂

By the time I’d reached the top of the bluff and started heading down the sun was up and the woods were as light as ever. Thinking I had enjoyed pretty much all I would see I was left in quite the state of shock when I came across three different deer. They were also not at all spooked by me and took their time crossing the trail. We slowly watched each other as we went our separate ways, me descending, they heading up the bluff. In many ways it felt like going to church, seeing and acknowledging the people you know by sight and haven’t had a conversation with, but you’ve always both smiled at each other. We shared what seemed to be an acknowledgement of each others company, four beings enjoying the wonder of the woods.

My morning was so enriched by the time in the woods. The sights, the sounds, the smells, all of my senses except taste enjoyed the journey. Throughout the day there was a different level of calm I carried with me, a peace which can only be found by spending time in the woods.

I was so struck by it that I used my lunch time as an opportunity to hike a very short distance into the bluffs near my office, put up my hammock, relax and eat lunch, enjoy more of the woods, and then head back to the office in almost exactly 60 minutes. That extra dose of the outdoors time only enhanced my day further.

Late in the morning some friends were texting about current affairs and all I could do was laugh. I responded with a text sharing that I feel like I’m living in a different world and shared all I had seen in my morning hike. I can only imagine so many of the ills of our world would be slowly solved over generations if we all paused to get outside and experience a sense of awe in the outdoors. I know, I’m totally biased on this one, but there are so many wonderful benefits to being outside more often. This was proven to me multiple times today.

So many incredible experiences seemingly in my own backyard on an early morning hike. What a perfect way to start the day!

Thanks!!!

Day 1,873 – Thankful for Walking Meditation and Stillness in the Woods

Rather than boarding a flight to an ocean beach I was wandering the woods in the snow. Quite the contrast, right? I was exactly where I should be.

Becky and I spent most of our morning at Pike’s Peak outside of MacGregor, Iowa. Due to the cold weather and snowfall we were amongst the few in the entire park. Once we were more than 100 yards from the observation area we never saw another soul.

I drew in breaths of fresh autumn air through my nose and concentrated on soaking in each exquisite little detail of the sights and sensations around me. The bright red leaves and even more scarlet berries of one type of plant. The drops of water resting on the waxy underside of oak leaves. Each little “brick” in the elaborate lattice work of the limestone rock outcroppings. The sensation of the cool winter-ish breeze and snow rushing against my face and tickling the hairs of my beard. The lighting of the woods shifting and transforming as the sun danced amongst the clouds. The music of Becky’s voice as we shared our joys of the wilderness. Each step. Each breath. Each individual second. Pure magic, pure joy.

Our morning was spent in a walking meditation in the stillness of the woods. Exactly where I was called to be in those moments.

If this were my last day I would go peacefully, full of joy, fully satisfied, and with a heart full of love. Today I have lived.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,861 – Thankful for a New Trail to an Old Lookout

Day 1,861 – Thankful for a New Trail to an Old Lookout

After church and lunch Becky and I headed out for a hike. The weather was perfect and we both felt compelled to get both fresh air and a little exercise. Becky had noticed that there was a new trail opening this past week in Hixon so that was our destination.

The trail itself was certainly brand new. They had just knocked it our not too long ago and the smell of soil was fresh in the air. The path itself was nice and soft as it hadn’t been packed down by many travelers yet. Most of the trails in that area have been traveled many times by us, it was awesome being in an area we were unfamiliar with. Each new twist and turn showed us sights we hadn’t seen before. The autumn colors were fantastic and the rock formations we had not seen prior were very interesting. All in all, it was great taking a new path.

As it worked its way up to the top we re-connected with a trail that leads to a scenic overlook. We’ve been up there before, but it was a long time ago. The views of La Crosse may be amongst the best from anywhere in the city. We were able to see the power plant in Genoa a little less than 20 miles away. All along the valley we saw the various colors of leaves in the trees. Throw in the perfectly picturesque clouds and it was nothing short of beautiful.

Ahh… time in nature. There’s not much else in life I’d rather be doing, especially with my family and friends.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,833 – Thankful for the Simplicity of Nature and Hiking the Ridges

Day 1,833 – Thankful for the Simplicity of Nature and Hiking the Ridges

I have a tendency to make life so much more complex than it needs to be. Busy schedules, technology, financial management, business, and so on. There is so much I pack into life that is unnecessary and self imposed.

In the woods everything fades away. The noise of daily life is muted by the simplicity of existing in nature. Trees who’ve stood before I was born demand my attention. The rocks and hills I observe have existed long before man walked the Earth will remain long after I’m gone. The sounds of the streams provide a more beautiful music than any I would play on my iPhone. Everything I need is there in the woods, in the simplicity, and in that exact moment.

In that moment all of the busyness of life fades from existence. There are no deadlines and tasks, only serenity and wonder. My ego is replaced with the reminder of how small and temporary my life is compared to so much of what exists around me. I am lost in the moment at the very time I find my true self in the woods.

The simplicity of nature surrounding me is deafening.

Today that simplicity was shared with Becky and Gavin (Dominic was refereeing soccer games). The ridges we hiked were so amazing. I could bring a hammock and backpack and stay up there for days. The peacefulness provides a profound state of chill and introspection while my wonder and curiosity often lead me off the trail to observe interesting plants, rocks, and tree roots. Those heavily canopied maple and oak forests are some of the most magical places in the Driftless.

My soul is full.

Thanks!!!