A hike out in nature can inspire us to take in the beauty of the moment. Our everyday lives can be stressful, but I find nature to be calming and rejuvenating. Whether you’re interested in relieving stress, benefiting from some exercise, filling time, or learning something new; a hike out in the earth’s complexities can add a whole lot to your life.
Now that I’ve sold you on the idea of a hike, shall we talk game plan? Here are a few, “hacks to hiking” that might make you enjoy the trek a little more. I’ll give you my idea and then provide an example as to how you can apply it. Each example can be found at West Creek Reservation, so if you’re up for the adventure, I challenge you to use these tips in our park and tell us what you think!
1. Stimulate your senses. Usually it’s our eyes that welcome the surrounding environment into our minds, but I dare you to take in nature through all FIVE of your senses! Smell the wildflowers. Taste the rain. Feel the tree bark. Hear the birds.
White oak tree species can be distinguished from other oak species by their round - lobed leaves. The undersides to the leaves on this swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) are soft and fuzzy to touch. This tip helps you identify the tree and also make you wonder why they are so furry!
2. Give wildlife a chance to discover you. Set your watch and quietly stand or sit in the same place for a long period of time. Instead of watching a reality T.V show, go watch a reality nature show! Being patient can pay off and you may see something unfold in the wild that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
Grab a good seat and pick a spot where wildlife may be hiding.
3. Build a relationship with nature. Try the same hike in a variety of different weather conditions and seasons. Get to know how your patch of nature acts in the rain as well as on a hot and sunny day. You will most likely experience something new, and building this kind of relationship with nature will help you connect and feel closure to it.
During the summer months, our front wetlands provide lots of excitement for guests. On rainy days, you may see an influx of tiny toadlets that hop onto our boardwalk to explore. On a dry and sunny days it’s likely you’ll see fewer toadlets and more turtle hatchlings.
4. Try journaling. Take notes about what you experience. This way you can get your thoughts out of your mind and onto your paper. This allows you to look back at what you saw and analyze or reminisce about it clearly.
5. Investigate Closely. Bring a pair of binoculars and investigate your park from a new perspective. Not only can you see the birds clearly through binoculars, you can also look at insects and trees more closely!
Binoculars are available to borrow inside the Watershed Stewardship Center.
6. Be a mentor. Bring someone who doesn’t normally hike and try to inspire them. Teaching or showing someone something new is not only exciting, but it allows you to solidify what you already know.
7. Ask a naturalist. Before you get out and go, stop into your local nature center and ask a naturalist what exciting things are happening in the area. Maybe a new pair of nesting birds has successfully fledged, or a favorite wildflower has begun to bloom.
At the Watershed Stewardship Center, native wildflowers are blooming in our restored prairies. Try to locate these species on a walk around our center!
Gray-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
“If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good!”