Take a Hike

When the pressures of life start smooshing your head like a vise, when outside forces conspire to turn your stomach into an ulcer factory, hold your head high, take a deep breath and run like hell. That’s what Amadeus and I do, and I swear, it works like a Harry Potter spell.

Where you run is important– obviously, a crack house is not a good destination for stress-relief. Bars are smoky and can be quite expensive. Retail therapy is good if you have money, but if bills are a cause of your distress, it’s not a realistic solution. This is true of Caribbean cruises as well. And hookers.

Our cure for the blues, and our escape from the daily grind is hiking. We literally head for the hills. We throw on our jeans, pack a few sammiches, grab some bottled water and take off.

When the weather’s warm, we fish and camp out. When a chill hits the air, when the leaves turn to fire and start pirouetting  from trees, we hit the trails.

I love doing this. I love the fact that my husband grew up here and knows these hills and valleys like he knows his phone number. We discover new places, and revisit ones that he’s seen and wants to share with me. Seeing the world with him– even these small patches of the world– is one of my greatest pleasures.

Yesterday, we traveled about two hours away, to a fantastic trail head along the Buffalo River, deep in the Ozark Mountains. We took our cameras and clicked over 500 shots between us. What’s funny to me is that, when we get home and unload our SD cards, we discover that a lot of the same things have caught our eye– we often take the same shots at identical angles, at different times. A million things to see on the trail, but the same stuff grabs us. We’re spooky that way.

I wish I’d done this with my children. I wish I could have instilled in them a love of the Great Outdoors, but I never did. I was too busy trying to keep us afloat at the time, and a big backyard or football practice field was as close as we got to nature. I take comfort in the fact that I was raised a big city girl. When I first arrived in the Ozarks, twenty-something years ago, I had to inquire as to whether sheep bit. I couldn’t identify a robin and I thought eggs grew in styrofoam boxes. I was a new bride, and my new groom moved us to a God-forsaken trailer in a God-forsaken pasture, where goats frolicked on the hood of my Volvo, chickens laid eggs in our living room and snakes occasionally greeted me on the porch. For some reason, the marriage didn’t last, and those years didn’t attune me to nature. That came later, when my son and daughter grew up and I had time to consider the things that made me happy. I fell in love with bicycling and bike trails, which led to walking trails which led to hiking and camping and fishing and tree-kissing.  When I met Amadeus, I found someone who loved being outdoors as much as I do, and it’s an integral part of our lives. Maybe there’s hope for my kids yet. Maybe one day, they’ll find solace in nature. I know that at their ages, I’d rather have listened to the Sex Pistols and chugged tequila. As my daughter points out, at this stage of the game, packing a bunch of crap into a car, wrestling with fish and sleeping on the hard ground is not her idea of relaxation.

The beauty of the woods is overwhelming. The shapes and textures of the trees tell us stories. There are boulders as big as A-frames and plants so stubborn they could grow through steel. Every leaf is a masterpiece. Animals are standing around, peeking at us through the brush, though we seldom see them.* Water bubbles up from deep inside the Earth and trickles over silk smooth rocks.  Emerald green moss clings, fungi sprout like lace. Below is the river, as ancient as the world, winding like ribbon around bends and turns. I stop often as we walk the path, breathing the pure air, listening to the sounds of the rushing water and the wind pushing through the leaves. I’m in the moment. I can’t think about anything but the woods. At the same time, my ADD does double time, because everywhere I turn, there are a million treasures– it’s impossible to take it all in.

It’s the most glorious art form. We joke about taking so many photos, but really, I understand why we do it. We’re attempting to capture the thing that’s making our hearts sing. We’re trying to preserve it and take it home with us. Though it’s impossible to recreate through a lens, we try. We sit in our living room and transfer the mementos of the day to our computers. We’re tired and happy, our legs ache in a nice way. As we study each shot, we talk about what we were thinking when we took it– why a particular tree spoke to us, what a cutie the little snail-shell was, how impossible it was to capture the altitude of the trail or the gargantuan size of a rock.

When we hike, we’re enveloped in a soft cloud of serenity and beauty. It rides home with us at the end of the day, and we float on it as we fall asleep at night. We wake up Monday morning, and our worries are greeting us at the door again, but somehow, they just don’t seem as bad.

*One bear sighting and I’ll be simultaneously crying, running, screaming and peeing in my pants.

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10 thoughts on “Take a Hike

  1. ryoko861 says:

    So true! Hiking is a fantastic stress reliever! We all love nature and the outdoors in my house and both my husband and I were brought up with the great outdoors. So I do my best to instill that into my kids. My oldest would be a great forest ranger. I’m trying to aim him in that direction. He’s amazing with survival techniques and hiking. My youngest likes animals and other aspects of nature. Doesn’t like mowing the lawn or shoveling snow (I don’t anyone that does) but does like vegetable gardening.
    Your hike looked very soothing. This is such a great time of year for it. With all the colors and smells, it’s refreshing!

    I think it’s wonderful that you and your hubby were raised that way (and that you’re passing it on to your kids)– I wish I had been, but maybe it’s my sissy pants upbringing that makes me love it so much now. The hike was SOOOO soothing, in a walk-a-bunch-of-miles-get-lost-turn-around kind of way. Even with the mile-and-a-half long detour, it was fantastic.

  2. linniew says:

    Excellent green-life therapy! I wonder how any humans get by without it… I get mine outdoors gardening, which is sort of like hiking only the couch and beer are closer when you get tired. ;)

    Exactly, Linnie! I call it “hiking therapy.” Gardening would be great, but I need the movement of hiking. As I told Amadeus on the way home yesterday, “My ass thanks you…my hips thank you…my legs thank you.” Writing all day does not do a whole lot for the lower extremities. But wow– a couch and a beer sound swell.

  3. Lynnette Struble says:

    My daughter (Lorena Streeter) turned me on to your blog (don’t often have time to read blogs, however). Loved this post. Great photos, great words. We live in the Ozarks, too. Matthew and I live in Sulphur Springs, in the NW corner north of Gravette, AR. Enjoy the outdoors, although his back gives him pause, so we don’t do much hiking lately.

    Welcome, Lynnette! I’m glad you like the post, neighbor. Amadeus has back issues too– my plan is to cram all of this hiking in while I can (he actually says it makes his feel better). I may end up pushing him around the trails in a wheelchair one day, but for now, we’re having a blast.

    I’m so glad you stopped by!

  4. David says:

    Yes, to what Linniew says, and YES to the great outdoors. What lovely photos you’ve posted. I’m so glad that you have this outlet. I too was raised in cities, but now I can not imagine living that way again.

    This post made me smile real hard. :D

    Yay for the hard smilin’! I’m glad you liked the photos, too.

    I probably could live in a big city again, but I’d prefer not to. No matter what though, I hope to always be a car ride away from mountains or forests or something watery. It doesn’t just feel like a want- it’s a need.

  5. aubrey says:

    What joy there is in the green air, in a wander throughout a season on the brink of change. I seem to see the face from Munch’s ‘The Scream’ in the tree trunk in the final photo. Is that odd?

    Okay, Aubrey, so we walked up to this gorgeously weird old tree and I said to Amadeus– “I see Munch’s ‘The Scream.’” He immediately saw it too. It’s definitely there!

    I loved the first line of your comment. Poetry.

  6. Pat . says:

    Great photos, thanks for sharing this.
    I am trapped in an almost-hotel in Noumea, battling cockroaches, intermittent internet, universal AC remote which started at code 20 but needed code 92 to make the AC work (increment 1 at a time with thumb). However, it does have a good view and I have roamed briefly and taken some photos – whether I can get them posted is another matter.
    And my French is very limited – and they may or may not stop for pedestrians on pedestrian crossings. And it was very windy. And I am whining – see you later!

    Oh no, (((Pat)))! I’d never heard of Noumea– I thought maybe it was some suburb of Hell or something, but I looked it up. You poor guy! Please don’t get hit in a crosswalk– and wear a windbreaker! Hope to see your photos soon!

    P.S. As you know, this is a whine zone. Feel free to vent, anytime.

  7. Pat . says:

    Thanks for the hugs. It’s too damn hot to wear a windbreaker!!!

  8. Kendall says:

    I love your pictures and your words! It took me a couple of days to get here because of migraines, but what a joy. All my life I wanted to go hiking, and my kids wouldn’t have any part of it. “Ewwwww, bugs!” or “No music? I’m not going!” And my favorite: “But there aren’t any sidewalks! So where am I going to skateboard?” So that didn’t work. Now I live in one of the best hiking places in the world, and I’m not well enough to do any but the gentlest hikes. I’m delighted that you found Amadeus and you’re hiking while you still can. Keep it up, girl! It’s true what you say: “a million treasures.” Thanks for the gorgeous photographs for those of us who can’t make it up those hills now.

    You’re making me feel better about not exposing my children to the Wonderful World of Nature. Maybe they would have kicked and screamed if I’d tried to take them camping or hiking.

    I’m so, so sorry about your migraines, and your health (I worry about you a lot). I want you to be feeling great at all times. There are sooooo many pictures I wish I could share here. It IS as though you’re all climbing the hills and walking the trails with us.

  9. randomyriad says:

    Give music and the glorious woods and a place to come home to, that is a good life. Oh yeah, and words to put on a screen.

    The perfect life, RM (I’d throw a river in there too)!

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