Nature’s Infinite Variety

Before we started this trip, I worried that I would get bored of hiking day after day for months.  I worried that the hikes would all start to look the same to me.  After 7 months of hiking, this could not be farther from how I feel.  I love getting out on the trail and seeing what nature has in store for me today.  I look forward to experiencing each hike and letting all my senses explore the path. 

Rialto Beach on the Pacific Ocean in Olympic National Park.

My feet feel the surface of the trail, sometimes soft with pine needles, sometimes scrambling over boulders, sometimes slogging up a gravity defying incline and sometimes walking over cobblestones rounded smooth by an ocean surf.

Sometimes, the wind blows with a quiet whisper, while other times, it blows so hard it takes my breath away, makes my eyes water and my ears hurt.  The wind combines with the sun and clouds against my skin.  At times, I feel warm and cozy under the afternoon sun.  Other times, I feel sluggish from the blazing heat. While other times, I look up at the sky, willing the clouds to part so the sun will shine down on me and warm my chilly bones.

Even a single hike can vary greatly in what the eye can see.   A hike can start at the base of a mountain in a lush tropical rainforest, climb through thinning sub alpine tundra and end on a barren rocky outcrop overlooking an expansive valley or mountain range. A different hike might start in desert scrub, travers a cactus garden and end at the peak of an ancient volcano.  Each turn around a bend on each hike offers a unique and different perspective.

 

Pacific Banana Slug

The small creatures and plants on a hike also give the eyes and senses delight.  There is so much to see, experience and touch: mushrooms, butterflies, pine cones, centipedes, leaves, bark, berries, rocks, ferns, moss, grasses, snakes, spiders, ants, beetles and slugs. 

 

Marmot in Olympic National park

As a visitor in their home, it’s always a thrill to walk a trail and witness a wild animal in it’s natural setting.  Almost every hike has a number of wild animals to observe and admire such as mountain goats, big horn sheep, bears, buffalo, moose, picas, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelopes, seals, sea otters, sea lions, hump back wales, ground squirrels, chipmunks, eagles, hawks, falcons, herons, alligators and marmot. 

 

Chugach National Forest - Hope Point Trail

Each hike even smells different.  A forest can have many fragrant smells such as wintery pine, loamy soil and moist moss.  The same forest smells different depending on the weather.  The sun warms the bark of evergreen trees, releasing that wonderful pine smell.  Rain brings out the earthy smell of nutrient-rich soils.  Each wildflower field has a fragrance that ebbs and flows, ranging from subtly sweet to overwhelmingly poignant. 

 

A volcanic barrier in Garibaldi Provinical Park in British Columbia, Canada

All expansive views of mountain ranges, glaciers, valleys and oceans are uniquely beautiful and different.  The view continues to evolve and change as the trail climbs, traverses a curve, offering a different perspective like no other.  The same viewpoint changes at different times of the day and in different seasons. Standing on a precipice, no amount of looking can ever be enough to really see and understand the complexity and variety of the scene before me.  Often, I have to pull  myself away, wanting to linger just a little longer, so I can memorize every detail.

Like people, flowers and snowflakes, no two hikes are identical.  I wish I could remember every detail of every hike in all it’s glory so I can relive the sensations in my memory in years to come.  I am not bored with hiking, not for a single second.

Shadow and Darby watch a distant storm in Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in South Dakota.

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