“The mountains are calling, and I must go.” –John Muir
Last October we were blessed to spend a long weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’d never been there, and one of the first conversations I had with the cute boy who would become my husband was about national parks. We had a flight voucher, and my birthday seemed like a good enough excuse to run off to the mountains! It was truly brilliant.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Estes Park called the Golden Leaf Inn. Monica, the lovely innkeeper (who happens to share my birthday!) is absolutely lovely, and she made some delicious meals with which we began each day. Eggs, sausages, scones… It was all delicious, and she was good enough to make gluten- and dairy-free options for us and other guests.
Our very first day while we were still adjusting to the altitude we went on a short hike to Bear Lake. Both of us were huffing and puffing during our walk (one of the easier and more popular hikes in the park), but we were determined to have full days our entire time there! Not content just with the lake, we also went over Trail Ridge Road our first day and hiked up to the highest accessible point near the Alpine Visitor Center. It was spectacular to be completely surrounded by tundra and to be caught up in the sweeping winds that high up!
Over the next few days we hiked to various places in the park and were lucky enough to see loads of elk both in and outside the park in Estes Park’s city center. There’s something so amazing about being surrounded by nature and hearing little save some birds, the rustling of the leaves and needles, and the grasses brushing against each other.
There is a Japanese concept of shinrin yoku or “forest bathing”. Simply being in the forest, bathing in its quiet and green, acts to restore the mind and body. Being outside reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, increases focus, and helps the body recover from illness and injury. Of course, the lower stress level also help sleep during the night, and I know that after spending time in the wilderness my mind is sharper and I feel energized.
Before I ever read that there was an actual word for what I was experiencing, I loved being in national parks and being surrounded by trees and wildlife. My favorite vacations as a child were to Yellowstone (and a little bit of Teton or Glacier thrown in), and I’m determined to go with my husband later this year because of these memories. I’ve never felt drawn to beaches or flashy cruises or themeparks–my heart has always been among the trees. I doubt that because I’m related to John Muir I’ve felt this way my whole life, but it’s lovely to consider that it’s always been in my blood. While London felt like home in many ways with its museums, history, and amazing food, the mountains and forests call me home as often as I can return. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen the trail or the nearest city before or not, it’s always a part of me.
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” — John Muir