Connecting with the Outdoors -"Trail Math"
“So, if the average grade of this trail is 11% and we have 3 miles to go, we should be on top in about
2 hours and 15 minutes”.
That’s how many of my conversations go with my oldest son, Trevor. He loves math and is very
good at it. Forget the GPS or pedometers. He’s constantly figuring out how far we’ve hiked, how far
we have to go, what the incline in percentage is, when to leave, when to turn back (if necessary),
how many calories we’ve burned and so on. We call it “trail math”.
I admire that he can do these equations in his head and do them quickly. I like math. He loves it. And
he loves to share it when we hike. It’s a connection we have and it helps pass the time, especially
when you’re exhausted and the only other things you can think about is how hungry you are and
much your feet hurt.
People find lots of ways to connect in nature.
My youngest son, Ryan, has always had a great imagination and has put it to use in his art and
stories. He tends to be quiet on our hikes or in camp. That’s because he’s busy creating new
characters and new story lines in his head.
He imagines his characters hiding in a cave on a rock face he just saw or moving silently from
treetop to treetop or how they might live in a harsh desert landscape. Once he’s finished, he shares
them with the family around the campfire that evening. And those conversations can last through the
Our family builds connections by being in the outdoors and through conversations with each other. Everything from what to eat for dinner to politics, school, work and how each other’s lives are going. Connections with each other and the bonds that are created at these times are really important tome and my family. And those moments have created some of my fondest memories.
As human beings, we spend so many of our days and much of our time worrying about things, working and being distracted that we don’t really talk to one another and we certainly don’t let nature work its way into our lives.
We drive to work in a tin can, surrounded by others in tin cans that we choose to ignore unless they
cut you off. Then you probably have a few choice words for them.
We get to the office, do our job, get back in the tin can and drive home only to start the process all
over again the next day.
While some people truly enjoy their careers, most are simply going through the motions until the
weekend. And nature sometimes takes a back seat in our lives. We start to feel disconnected from
the world. Sometimes, we just feel lost and we begin to wonder if this is all there is.
Well, it’s not.
John Muir, the great poet laureate and conservationist, once said,
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
Hiking, camping and spending time in the outdoors are the times when people can reconnect again.
Study after study has shown that spending time in the outdoors and being in nature, is good for your
health, both physically and mentally. It relieves stress. It creates a place where you to connect with
the natural world, other people and, ultimately, yourself.
These outdoor places, be it a National Park, a local campground or even a local community park,
can begin to bring a peace back into your life, especially when you share it with a loved one. Many
times when I’m outdoors I just take a moment. A moment to breathe. Just a moment to be
surrounded by these beautiful places and to sit quietly beside my wife, on an old fallen tree, and take
it all in. That’s when I feel the connection. And it’s times like these that can create connections for
you, your family and friends too.
But that’s not the only time it happens.
It can happen when you’re sitting in a camp chair around a campfire with the smell of the pine trees
and the smoke from the fire pit surrounding you and laughing at a goofy joke your son just told you.
Or when you’re enjoying a cup of coffee in the chill of an early morning while a Blue Jay squawks
and complains loudly in the distance, listening to the sounds of the family stirring in the tent and
awakening to a new day.
But it also happens when a good friend starts a conversation.
When they share a bit of their world with you in the coolness of the forest or the magnificent expanse
of the desert.
That’s when it begins. The outdoors has that affect on you. It’s the chance to connect with another
person in places of peace and beauty.
And to me, that’s when it all adds up.
That’s when all the days spent working long hours, stressed out and fighting traffic just goes away,
even if it’s only for a little while. It’s when the beauty of these special outdoor places take hold of you
and you reconnect with your family, friends and the world. Because in the end, those are the only
things that really matter.
So, get outside and be a part of these places. Go for a hike or just a stroll. Marvel at the grace of an
eagle as it soars high above you or let yourself gaze for some time at a small fish in a pond as it
searches for food.
And take a friend or loved one. Ask them how their life is going. Find that connection again with
them and with the amazing natural spaces around you. You never know where you’ll end up.
Unless you ask my son. He’ll let you know to within the nearest 1/10 of a mile.