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Why we seek nature

Giant Mountain from Owl Head lookout near Elizabethtown.

Giant Mountain from Owl Head lookout near Elizabethtown. Photo by Shaun Kittle.

It only took 10 minutes for the view to disappear, 10 minutes for the bright autumn leaves decorating Giant Mountain to be enveloped in a cloud of mist. I witnessed the spectacle from the rocks of Owl Head lookout, and eagerly watched as the sunlight became a filtered haze of its former self and the wind picked up, causing glistening, mote-sized droplets of water to dance before me.

“This is why I do this,” I thought as the mist continued along the range, consuming Rocky Peak Ridge. “This is something worth beholding.”

For me, a nice view is simply a destination, a milestone along a trip through the woods. The 2.5 mile trail to Owl Head lookout is interesting in its own right. With its little waterfalls, wooden bridges, open hemlock-dominated forests and mossy ravine, it is about as scenic as anyone could ask for. But, as much as I enjoyed the journey, it is that one moment, when everything changed, that stands out to me the most.

I have been asked what it is about nature that appeals to me, why I would rather take to a trail than a shopping mall, especially on a rainy day, and the answer is never a simple one. It is a fair question, for sure, but an honest response is multi-tiered—I go into the forest to learn, to challenge myself, to gain perspective and to relax. But there was something that came before all of that, something the mist-shrouded mountains reminded me of—a sense of discovery.

From my first memories of the outdoors to my latest outing, I have found that there is always a feeling of exploration and adventure in the forest, even on some of our most well-worn paths. It is why, I think, so many people are drawn to nature, and why some of us feel the need to return to it as often as possible.

Shaun Kittle can be reached at shaun@denpubs.com.

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