Love of Nature
Thinking back when I was a child, fond memories of clean air, pine scented forests, and sparkling, bubbling brooks were branded into my mind in such a fashion that a love for nature and a fascination with the great outdoors followed me throughout my adulthood.
First Experiences in Nature:
Acres of Woods
My first moment truly experiencing nature was when my family moved to the outer suburbs away from the bustling city. Our new home was adjacent to a golf course that was encompassed by hundreds of acres of woods in Western Massachusetts not far from the Vermont border and the Appalachian Trail. As a young child, my older brothers were earning money delivering local newspapers on their bicycles, while I opted to walk along the edges of the manicured green fairways of the golf course. I would then head into the woods to collect poorly hit lost and forgotten golf balls. I would search for hours behind old fallen logs while slopping through warm mud and wading in shallow pools of water hoping to find these hidden gems to peddle onto the amateur golfers. I could easily make 10-20 dollars on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The worse the golfer, the more revenue I would accumulate. The further the shot inaccurately sliced, the deeper into the woods I would venture.
The Underground Fort
In the summer, a friend of mine and I would explore the woods to find that perfect spot to dig out an underground fort. It was quite an adventure shoveling into the rich dark soil and chopping through large roots with a rusty old axe. Once hefty logs were rolled onto the top of the deep pit and secured with twine, branches with dense leaves were evenly placed to camouflage our dwelling. Many late afternoons were spent inside our hidden abode telling stories and inviting other friends in with a bonding pledge to keep this special place a secret. Building an underground fort was very hard work but well worth the effort. I remember the smell of the cool dirt and fragrant pinecones and needles all around.
The Tree House
It wasn’t long after this point when we decided to build an actual tree house made from rudimentary materials scattered near the area. As long as our tree house was hidden beyond the dirt road, had a strong floor base, and a plank ladder to climb up into it, we were satisfied. In the late afternoon, the sun would shine its rays through the slits of the cracked plywood walls and a slight breeze would blow large russet maple leaves onto the uneven floor beneath us. Examining the leaf closely while holding it up to the light, I could see the veins and tremendous detail from within the semi transparent design. I thought to myself how content I was and just how beautiful and perfectly designed nature could be.
White Mountains New Hampshire
One spring day, a close friend of my parents organized a hiking trip with his trekking club, and I fortunately got permission to tag along for a couple of days. I didn’t really know what to expect, but remembered it took forever to drive to the cabin at the base of some huge mountain way up north in the middle of nowhere. Early the following morning, our group set out hiking along the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. The views were stunning; the trail was beautiful and green. Not only was the air the cleanest I’d ever experienced, but also I found myself mesmerized… walking as if I could go on forever. I was intrigued by the spectacular views all around me, yet baffled by the lack of foliage and trees at the higher elevations on the summits. Reaching the high rocky peaks, cloud formations surrounded me like a cool ocean, and when I descended a few hundred feet, the warmth entered back into my body. I never experienced such a dramatic temperature change before, but soon, I was becoming a learned hiker mile after mile. That day, our group hiked along trails that traversed Mt. Adams, Mount Madison, and Mt. Pierce.
I was exhausted after that first day. It wasn’t until the next morning I could barely get off of my nylon cot. My calves had been cramping up in the middle of the night and I wasn’t sure if I could go on another whole day of hiking the trails. My adult friends whipped up an excellent breakfast of apple wheat pancakes and eggs smothered in real butter and Vermont maple syrup. It was the best food I’d ever tasted, and I devoured it within minutes.
Eventually, I got into my hiking clothes and tightened the laces of my boots. I then stepped outside the cabin into the early mountain air. This is when I realized how much I loved the great outdoors. The mountains, the trees, the wild flowers and everything as far as I could see was welcoming me back. The soreness in my aching legs vanished the moment I tossed on my backpack and as soon as I viewed the morning sun creeping up from behind the tall distant trees, I felt an inner peace and enduring strength luring me back into the wilderness.
The Appalachian Trail
After years of trekking state park trails and trying my hand at rock climbing, I decided to hike several portions of the Appalachian Trail. Since I couldn’t commit to becoming a 2,090-mile through-hiker due to job constraints, I attempted to hike all of the highest peaks in each state that the trail meandered through. Although I only hiked the highest peaks in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Georgia, I always had in the back of my mind that I would someday finish my challenge.
The fondest memory from my hiking experiences within the Appalachian Trail was the cleanliness I encountered along the way. I was very impressed by the care of preservation and conservancy each diligent hiker vowed before entering the trail… by leaving no trace behind. I would walk for miles being drawn to the scented green forests, listening to babbling streams, and viewing wildlife in its natural habitat.
Today I reside in the great state of Arizona. Although my roots had grown attached to the lush green mountain trails of New England, my love for nature had adapted to a strange and new, but beautiful environment. High desert trekking is amazing with its incredible color and green desert terrain. Flowering cactus with canyon foliage of rich reds and yellows blazon the trails. The Red Rock region of Sedona is spectacular any time of year, and the discovery of hidden cliff dwellings and caves are always around the corner. I’ve written several blogs about the trails I’ve hiked because of my love for nature and in aiding future fellow hikers as to my experiences. My passion for the wilderness will be instilled within me for the rest of my life.