Out the door, into beauty
Spending time outdoors improves health and reminds humanity of its place in God’s creation. | Photo courtesy of Justin Yun
A cool summer breeze gently brushes over my head as it whistled its way through the coniferous forests below. Lying flat on my back on the cliffs of Moro Rock, I gaze up at the clear night sky in the hopes of catching a forecasted meteor shower that night. After spending almost an hour watching meteors from the Perseid Meteor Shower burn brightly like Roman candles in the night sky, I carefully hiked down with a feeling of euphoria as bright as my headlamp.
Like the pioneers and adventurers before me, I remembered what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime.”
As a hiker and self-professed lover of nature, I cannot emphasize the importance of spending time outdoors. According to the National Wildlife Federation, “The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.” The lack of exercise and time spent outdoors is one of the factors for the doubling of childhood obesity rates in the last 20 years. The simple act of walking can lower one’s chances of contracting heart disease, hypertension and diabetes according to the American Hiking Society. Spending a day hiking with friends for example, is a fun way to improve muscular fitness, increase metabolism and burn calories.
Hiking is also a great way to improve mental health. According to a research report published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, walking increases creative thinking Exercise is a healthy inhibitor for brain function and can also boost self-esteem. Spending time outdoors can decrease stress, increase brain function and lower anxiety and depression, reports a Huffington Post article.
SEEING THE JOY
My personal hiking experience has taught me the joy of seeing and learning new things, and nature is never too small to provide one with a myriad of special experiences and valuable life lessons. Whether exploring the slot canyons in southeastern Utah where mountaineer Aron Ralston infamously amputated his right forearm after being trapped under a boulder for 127 hours, I have learned to fear and respect nature for what it is. Fear and respect can also be applied to the time I encountered a black bear and its cub while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Learn from others, be aware of your surroundings and always be prepared for any situation.
To love, respect and admire nature is to profess our love for the beauty of God’s creation. No words can profess how tiny a person feels when standing before the colossal trunks of giant Sequoia trees or watching a stampede of mountain rams descend down a steep mountain pass. To allow our eyes to drink the purple hue of the Sierra Nevada or feel the smooth sandstone walls of Antelope Canyon allows us to briefly travel through time and relish in the shared experiences of our human ancestors.