Plinky prompt: Describe your first memorable experience exploring and spending time in nature. Were you in awe? Or were you not impressed? Would you rather spend time in the forest or the city?
If this prompt had said “the beach” or “the mountains” or “the wide open prairie,” it wouldn’t have had the impact on me that it did. But the forest. Yes, the forest. I would rather spend time in a forest than in a city or really anywhere else that I can think of. I am at peace among the trees.
My first memories of being is a forest is hiking with my dad when I was 12 years old. We were getting my new hiking boots prepped (and preparing myself in general) for Outdoor Lab – a week-long trip into the mountains for Colorado sixth-graders. We hiked an easy trail through a forest of lodgepole pines. It was my first real taste of being “in nature.” I love the heady smell of fresh pine trees to this day.
Lucky us, our week for Outdoor Lab was right before Christmas. Yes, above 10,000 feet in mid-December. It remains my only experience with thermal underwear. But amid the cold and the snow were night walks with a crystal clear sky above us. So far from city lights, the sky was filled – literally filled – with stars. It almost seemed like the lights outnumbered the dark places. The Milky Way stretched across the sky. Awe-inspiring to say the least. I’ve never seen the like in twenty years since then.
While I keep searching for an opportunity to spy the Milky Way again, I haven’t been far enough removed from light pollution to recreate that majesty. However, I’ve spent a lot of time in forests. Redwoods and pines and oaks, heights of branches and depths of undergrowth, old-growth and fire-charred, the trees are what I love most.