Although I’m sure that for some people there is one place that comes to mind when they think about where they would wish to spend their time, that statement simply isn’t true for me. There are far too many incredible sights to see even in our small corner of the world. For now I spend my vacation days, however few and far between, finding a new outdoor wilderness to explore. The United States is home to fifty-nine National Parks and over six thousand State Parks. The number of trails to hike feels endless, and yet ripe with possibility. I often wonder if I will ever have the time to see them all.
There is nothing quite like waking up to the sound of birds chirping while the cool morning air rustles the sides of my tent. The day simply inspires me to rise earlier and happier than I would at home. It is as though the wild beckons me to become a part of it, to take a deep breath and go exploring. Each campsite, trail, and mountain peak is unique and special in its own way, and each pulls me with a magnetic force I can’t resist. As someone who can’t stand to wake up before ten am, rising without an alarm at seven seems like a miracle all on its own. The smell of last night’s campfire lingers in the air and the early morning dew still clings lightly to everything the sun has yet to touch. The excitement at camp is palpable as one camp mate scurries to relight the fire and another begins preparing the morning meal. There is so much possibility born in each day, and I look forward to making memories as I explore the lands around me.
These places, whether nearby at Highlands Hammock State Park or far away in the Black Hills of South Dakota, erase feelings of pressure and deadlines from my mind, inspire creativity and curiosity, and leave me blissfully exhausted when I return to camp in the evening. There is so much to do and see, yet the typical feelings of being rushed and unable to relax are gone. Yet another miracle of the woods. Sometimes I bring my camera, the fancy one I never have time to play with at home, and take photo after photo in a desperate attempt to preserve the brilliance I see. Other times I rely on my eyes and memory alone to capture the beauty around me and relish the gentle hum of life within the trees.
Being away like this encourages me to rely on instinct, to try new things and push myself to new limits, and even to share a little more openly around the campfire. There is something pure and freeing about the wild that makes baring my soul and being honest with myself more bearable. Trips like this remind me how small I am in comparison to the world around me. It reminds me that there are bigger things in this world to concern myself with than whether I improved on my most recent performance evaluation or whether I’m driving the newest car. Walking these trails, exploring our country, makes me realize what living life is truly all about. How can anyone be filled with regret when remembering times shared with loved ones, hiking the beautiful trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains or stargazing in a field without a trace of light pollution? Life should be about balance and peace. For me, finding my balance and inner peace comes when I am able to quiet my mind in nature and just be.
About the Author:Jessica Van Eerde is a 30 year old attorney who spends far too much time in the office and not nearly enough time exploring the world. I love to hike, camp, take pictures, and write, and I’m constantly trying to find time for everything!
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