Saturday’s GetHiking! Winter Wild hike at the R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Lands near Yancyville was cold, really cold. But the brilliant blue sky more than made up for the 28-degree temperature. If I had a nickel for every time someone on the hike said, “What a beautiful day!”, I’d have a dollar thirty-five. A little sun can make up for a lot of cold.
Now’s typically the time we start thinking about goals for the year ahead. We all do it. By and large, it’s a good thing. By and large, because we get locked into a way of thinking that doesn’t always reflect what our true goals are.
For instance, when we think of goals we tend to think in terms of physical goals. New Years goals over the years have come to be associated with our health, specifically with weight loss. So while our stated goal may not be to lose 35 pounds by swimsuit season by hiking, that may well be our underlying motivator. “I’m going to hike twice a week,” or I’m going to hike 20 miles a week,” may not be overtly about weight loss, but that might well be the underlying factor. The problem? Having such a metric-driven goal may diminish the joy you get out of hiking. Rather than looking for 5-mile hike with lots of scenic stops for a given Saturday, you may opt instead for a longer hike where you’ll burn more calories. Eventually, it becomes like going to the gym. And we all know how successful that New Year’s goal generally is.
Thanksgiving is behind us, the end of the year is bearing down: it’s the time we start thinking about next year, the new year and what promise it might hold. About the opportunity to, if not reinvent ourselves, to work toward the version of ourselves we want to become, the image of us we’d like to see looking back in the mirror every morning.
Today’s Friday Nudge offers takes from last weekend to encourage you to get out this weekend. If you’re interested in the places mentioned, click appropriately for more information: Little River Regional Park, Harris Lake County Park, Horton Grove Nature Preserve. For additional hiking opportunities, visit our GetHiking! page.
Enjoy an adventurous weekend!
After two or three more turns onto roads of diminishing passabiity, the road narrowed into a path. I got out and started to walk. And then I stopped, transfixed, transported.
The scene was notable for its simple beauty. To the right of the path ran a mountain creek, its volume diminished by the dry fall, yet its soft gurgle was audible in the still air. Aspen dominated, their brilliant yellow leaves shimmered by the periodic breeze slipping down the front range. A stentorian cottonwood loomed 30 yards ahead, the understory and ground cover a mix of greens, even this deep into fall. For a moment, I had no clue where on Earth I was. I had no clue of anything, my mind washed, cleared, blank. It was, I would later realize, bliss.
It’s a place I frequently revisit, this vacuum at the foot of Colorado’s front range somewhere just west of Fort Collins. It’s the place I often go when I need to go somewhere, but can’t.
In “Desert Solitaire,” Edward Abbey talks about “the ideal place, the right place, the one true home.” For Abbey, his one true home was the desert Southwest, the Moab area in particular. For Abbey, the discovery of his “right place” came the first morning of his six-month stint as a seasonal park ranger “when I stepped out of my trailer — my caravan — to watch for the first time in my life the sun come up over the hoodoo stone of Arches National Monument. It was the plan that would mold Abbey and guide him as an environmental activist and anarchist for the rest of his life.
These places, these moments, can have a profound and lasting impact on our lives. Profound not in a “save-the-planet” way necessarily, but in a grounding way. The place you can retreat when you need to regroup. In reality when you can, in spirit when you can’t.
Owning such a place is one reason we explore. We explore to escape, and when we’re lucky, we stumble into these prolonged escapes. Escapes, because you needn’t be limited to one. Sometimes at my desk I slip off to the winter mountaintop meadows of Doughton Park, sometimes to remote Celo Knob, sometimes to the Bertram Trail and its scrambling ascent up Ledbetter Creek up to Cheoah Bald.
I know these right places immediately. I stop as I did that fall day nearly 40 years ago outside Fort Collins and am, for a moment, nowhere else — the ultimate destination.