On any given Sunday we can usually be found hiking in one of our four or five favorite state parks or hiking areas. Even though there are so many trails to choose from we seem to have hiked them all several times. As luck would have it, we’ve obviously missed a trail or two along the way!
Today the parking lot for our normal hike in Twin Bluffs State Park was full so we figured we’d drive to the end of the road and take a different route. At the end of the road our jaws kind of dropped a bit as we realized that there were more trails back here than we knew, and most of them had some spectacular views of the Mississippi River Valley much of the way.
We spent the next couple of hours making our way through trails we’d never been on before and enjoyed some epic driftless area scenery we hadn’t seen before. It was like we had found a whole new park to hike in – and we didn’t even get through all of it! Now we’ve got a good 10+ miles of future hiking and running trails to enjoy only 10 minutes or so from our house. Not too shabby!
Throw in some sun and extra warm weather and we had an awesome time hiking as a family – minus one Dominic who was attending a Scout function. Gotta love getting these hikes in when it is almost 50 in the winter, they remind me that Spring is just around the corner!
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.
Wow!!! How awesome is this weather??? Comfortably hiking in a t-shirt and shorts at the end of the first week of November? This is amazing!
Throughout the day we’ve been working on maximizing our time outside. As I blog I’m sitting on our deck and enjoying the smells of fall leaves. Earlier we took the dogs for a walk in the sun. Lunch was grilled and eaten outside. We hit Perrot State Park to enjoy the perfect hiking weather. This has been AMAZING!!!
One of my biggest goals this year was to maximize my time spent outdoors. Unseasonably warm weather like this makes it all the easier to follow through on that goal.
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.
Becky had a brilliant idea for our trip to Madison this morning. She grabbed her Wisconsin State Parks map and found a couple parks we’ve never explored just off the beaten path we were traveling.
Talk about enjoying the journey and not just the destination!
Nothing like almost empty state parks early on a fall morning shortly after the sunrise. Fresh and crisp autumn air, a cool breeze, and the smell of forests and leaves were all around us as we saw beautiful vistas and fantastic rock formations.
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 drive to Eau Claire was crazy foggy this morning! There were times when I would go from driving through a cloud to rising above the clouds and seeing islands of bluffs peeking out to back down into the clouds. Crazy!
After listening to my audiobook for a while I paused and listened to The Woods by Hollow Coves. While the song played my mind went to our backpacking trip to the Porcupine Mountains this past Spring. I remembered the last day of our hike specifically.
The cold river crossing early in the morning.
The rocky, gray, and quiet forest transforming into a lush green forest seemingly out of nowhere.