Healing In Nature


I woke at five o'clock to the rustling of sleeping bags and a brisk unzip of the tent walls. I could hear their dog sniffing at my tent and a quiet call from the man to the dog to return. I lay still for about 10 minutes and then got out of the tent. I walked over, still dark out, and told him I had lost my pens and asked if they had a pen or pencil I could take with me. He told me he did not think they did and then asked his wife, who did not either. The man offered, "I think I have a pen in my truck." He then asked if I was going northbound and offered to give me a pen if I wanted to walk out with them. They just had to make coffee and pack up camp. I stayed in the tent while they boiled water for coffee and sat drinking it in the dim morning light. As we walked out together, they told me they make overnight camping trips often but had never been to the overlook we slept at the night before, although they had always wanted to. The woman, Julia, stopped us and pointed out a plant, picking a leaf off and holding it out in front of me. She told me, but I forgot the name, "If you are ever lacking water, chew on these leaves, they will hydrate you." Nature is healing in many ways; her elements can help both body and mind. Time with them was brief, as we found ourselves at an intersection of the skyline drive. Across the road was a parking area with a beautiful view of the mountains. Michael found three pens in his truck and gave them to me, wishing me luck on the trail. Out here, the simplest things are the most valuable.

Meaningful Connections

Today was a powerful day in many ways. After Julia and Michael drove away, I made coffee sitting on the brick wall on the skyline drive. While I enjoyed my coffee, I saw a young woman about my age backpacking toward me. I recognized her from the two hikers I saw at the spring earlier on. Little did I know the impact she would have on my experience. She was a graduate student in an architecture program, section hiking the AT for a week as part of her thesis, in which she intended to survey park rangers along the way. She asked me why I was out there, and I started by explaining the Experiential and Outdoor Education program I was in and what I originally wanted to do for my graduate thesis but switched to project after the first year in consideration of the sensitive nature of my topic, potential IRB obstacles and upon professors' recommendations. I explained how I wanted to

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