I’m going through a few hundred photos I’ve taken of the Baldy Bowl trail over several different hikes for a future post. Looking through them I started thinking about why I love hiking so much. Essentially, I love hiking because it is a multi-dimensional undertaking. Unlike working out in a gym where exercise is essentially the whole story, the exercise component to make it from one point to the next in hiking is just the beginning. Weather plays an important role and can change significantly—even on a day hike. Topography is seldom uniform for long and often provides mini-challenges in order to traverse. Trail conditions may vary with the trail becoming more or less easy to follow. Along the trail, changing views constantly provide differing perspectives from one point to the next. Personal exploration and discovery can become inherent aspects of hiking simply by going on different trails. Creatures come and go making it important to at least learn about the ones that are dangerous to humans. Most any long trek will pass through different vegetation that similarly requires some minimal knowledge of in order to avoid things like itchy rashes. Fortunately however, most creatures and vegetation are harmless to humans and can simply be enjoyed. With so many aspects to hiking, there are a seemingly endless number of opportunities to learn about the natural world that is available to hike through as well as the skills and gear required to do so.
Timing and the relationships between the different aspects of hiking offer another level of enjoyment. Often, something catches my eye and I invest some time taking it in. For example, last year while hiking down the Baldy Bowl Trail, I spotted a tree I liked and decided to photograph it. It stood relatively alone in the landscape and offered an opportunity to photograph it in it’s entirely unobstructed as an object with a distant view beyond.
Trying to photograph it, I couldn’t get the exact view that caused me to notice it as the sun was getting in the way (polarized sun glasses making the glare significantly less than what the camera would deal with). So, I got interested in the relationship between the sun and the tree. I walked to a spot where the tree provided shade allowing me to take a photo with the tree “eclipsing” the view of the sun generating a dark silhouette against the bright blue sky. Luckily small patches of clouds also happened to be in the sky adding some content to the view. This is clearly a photo of the moment. While the tree will most likely still be there for the rest of my life, it’s doubtful I’ll ever show up again at the right time to have this scene appear the same way. Hiking always has delicious moments like this where nature is aligned in special ways waiting to be noticed.
After focusing on “eclipsing” the sun and capturing the tree in silhouette, I decided to pay attention to the color and height of the tree and how it looked when more colorfully set against the sky.
Later, I admired the weathering of the tree as well as its colors, texture, and imperfections (including what appear to be woodpecker holes).
Finally, I found myself leaning against the tree looking at the shadow it cast in the landscape.
While I certainly got some great exercise hiking to Mt. Baldy that day (losing some blubber in the process), it was the numerous delicious moments and overall spectacular beauty of nature that I remember. It is being able to interact with nature viewing it at different scales from the smallest details to the grandest views that I truly cherish. I find the multifaceted aspects of hiking to be wonderfully indulgent. Nature beckons me to return to it in exciting ways that the “nose to the grindstone” gym experience never could.