When I am flustered and frustrated, I am not always the best person to be around. I can be moody and sometimes downright grouchy. When that happens, Lainey always knows what to say…”Mort, take a hike”. Literally…She is not giving up on me, just sending me to woods to walk. She knows that when I do, I think more clearly.
That reality was validated recently by a study published in Proceedings, an online medical journal of the National Academy of Sciences. Among other things, it suggests that regular exercise like walking or hiking can improve the brain’s memory function and perhaps even lessen the risk of dementia. Another study from the University of Rochester noted a 20% increase in energy for people who spent a minimum of 20 minutes outdoors as opposed to individuals who exercised indoors.
I know getting out and walking works for me. First, it just calms me down. I blend in with the peaceful setting and enjoy the quiet. Then an interesting thing happens, my mind kicks into gear. My thought process clarifies and I have a better perspective on the tasks and challenges I am facing. I am able to mentally compose letters, plan activities and organize my thoughts.
It happened to me yesterday as I hiked the Loop Trail at Deep Creek. It is so close by that I should do it more often. I walked up Deep Creek trail following the creek, listening to it tumble over the rocks. I could hear the birds singing and even spotted a wild turkey in the brush. As I started up Sunkota Ridge, everything changed. The roar of the creek melted away, the breeze died down and suddenly I was in the most still setting I could remember in a long time. There was not a leaf moving, not a bird fluttering or squirrel scampering anywhere. It was the most peaceful, quiet surrounding imaginable. I was not thinking about anything but the wonder at the beauty of the woods and the stillness all around me. As I topped Sunkota Ridge and started back down, I first heard and then saw the first evidence of a small spring beginning to make its way down to Indian Creek. Some Rhododendron bushes began to rustle and the forest began to come back to life. Shortly, I could hear the roar of Indian Creek heading down to Indian Creek Falls. It was an auditory delight.
When I reached Indian Creek Falls, I was just a mile from the trailhead and my thinking was energized. By the time I was back at the car, I had mentally composed some correspondence I needed to do but had been putting off. That evening it was on paper…completed.
I will be leading hikes the week of September 12. Every morning we will be going out to some of my favorite trails, experiencing some beautiful scenery, having some wonderful conversation, and clearing our minds. Come join us.