Some of the most fulfilling moments whist hiking occur when you actually stop moving. The beauty of an area can bring you to a halt. When it does, you no longer have the sound of your feet crunching the ground or your poles tapping away, you have only the sounds of the surrounds, the vista in your eyes and the pounding of your own heart within.
On the Great North Walk I remember entering a leafy glade wrapped by tall trees and being enchanted by the ringing songs of bell birds. I just stood there and listened. This was why I hike, I thought. I made a promise then to linger at the lovely spots.
Whilst exploring Berowra I made a point of stopping and listening whilst on my morning walks. The birds were always active at sunrise and I realised that each valley had a different mix of sounds from the different birds calling it home.
I remember stopping in a forest near Ourimbah and being confused by the mix of bird sounds I heard. I would hear one type of bird then another and another. It took me some time to realise that I was listening to a Lyrebird whose talent was mimicking others birds in an attempt to lure a mate.
I descended into a gully one day and was held captive by the sounds of trickling water over mossy rocks and beauty of a fallen tree across the river. I stayed for half an hour and moved on only reluctantly.
I was walking on a Firetrail in spring one day and stopped for a drink. I noticed a little white flower. Then I noticed a yellow one, then a purple one and all of a sudden I could see wildflowers everywhere. You don’t really get fields of flowers in Australia, the flowers are there but you need to look and give them your attention. Now I see the wildflowers everywhere and I look forward to my walks in spring.
Whilst walking to Pindar Cave I learned to turn around and look. A small climb took me up to some rocks and I decided to have a snack. Looking back along my path revealed a beautiful vista and was a highlight of the day. I now look behind after every climb. Looking back on my recent walk along Stockton Beach revealed an amazing sunset. It’s worth paying attention in all directions.
I learned to save my snacks for the views So I could linger longer. I began to plan my walks around that, though sometimes you can be brought to a halt by the view through a gap in the trees. I always take a moment to breathe in those views.
It’s worth pausing to look at the little things. Shells on a beach, tiny flowers, lichen on a rock. At Caruthers peak in Kosciusko National Park I saw a lovely little plant that looked like a bonsai clinging to a rock.
There is a poem by Mary Oliver that I have shared before but sums up hiking for me so well.
Instructions for living a life:
Tell About ItExcerpt from the poem “Sometimes,” from Red Bird, Boston: Beacon Press, 2009, page 37
Standing still enables one to pay attention. It can provide an astonishing experience whilst hiking that would otherwise be missed. It can provide the stories that you tell after the walk.
Thank you for indulging me. I was inspired to write this by a post written by the endless adventurers and current CDT hikers Hammer and Corky, where one of them had experienced that fulfilling moment of beauty whilst being still and I recognised it as being something I had felt too.