Time in nature is at least restorative, at best transformative. This notion has been part of me from the start. Like my nose, my toes and my bones, it was part of the original package. Scientific research has confirmed the benefits of time in nature, but I don’t know why we need this confirmation. We all know it’s true. When you return from a day hike, you feel energized, refreshed, cleansed. If you have ventured into the wilderness for days or weeks, you returned a different person.
Ten years and 350 columns ago, I began writing “Getting Out” with a purpose as simple as its name. The pace of life is hectic, and the Bay Area grows more and more congested. But the remedy is all around us. No major urban area in the United States has more open space than the San Francisco Bay Area. The quantity is all the more dazzling for its variety and beauty. From a bayside marsh or by the pounding surf, we can climb through silent forests and oak woodlands to windswept peaks. Where else is such a variety of natural landscape so accessible? Countless miles of trails trace these open spaces awaiting the imprint of our boots.
We have traveled far and wide together in these pages. But writing about magnificent places is senseless unless you go. And we did. Beginning with the Clouds Rest Challenge in 2013, we walked to seven alpine summits, one each summer. Not to mention all the local hikes we did each winter and spring to prepare. It was extremely gratifying that despite the time, expense and effort it took, you came in big numbers. Amazing.
The love of my life and I couldn’t navigate past 35 years, and that has changed everything. In April, I will move to McCall, Idaho and start a new life. So, this will be my last column. I have loved discovering the trails and doing my best to tell you about them in a way that might entice you to go see for yourself. And to those of you who have joined me on the trail, it has been one of the greatest gifts of my life to have walked among your bright faces and your sweet souls.
If this column has done nothing else, I hope it has marked you with a perpetual itch to go into nature’s heart and walk. Strap on the trail shoes, grab a day pack and find a lonely spot where the silence is deafening. Leave the earbuds behind. Feel your heart pound and your chest heave. Soak up the peace. There is no greater tonic for body and soul. As always, John Muir, the master wordsmith, said it so well:
“I used to envy the father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in ‘creation’s dawn.’ The morning stars still sing together, and the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day.”