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Merry Christmas, everybody!
What Does “Easy” Mean?
Buy a guidebook of “easy hikes,” and you’ll find walks that cover two miles or more. I don’t know about you, but when my knees are acting up, or Matt’s back is out of whack, even stepping over a rock can feel like climbing Everest.
I figure these books (usually titled something like “Easy Waterfall Hikes,” “Easy Tidepool Hikes,” uh huh, sure) must’ve been written by athletes who were gauging “easy” by their own physical prowess.
Yep, “easy” means something entirely different to those who’ve never had any problem getting around.
But with my creaky knees, I want flat paths with no obstacles. No logs to step over, no rocks to trip on, no long steep hills to huff and puff up, or try to brake my shaky legs against when I’m going down. A short walk, not a two-mile trek. And some days, I just want to stay in the car and look out the window, not climb the trail to the top of the mountain.
And that's why we wrote ACCESSIBLE NATURE.
In our travels, we've found lots and lots of great places, all over the country, where we've enjoyed great nature things.
And lots of those places are easy. Truly easy.
“Let’s Go for a Hike!”
Boy, it sure took me a long time to realize what the problem is with those “easy hikes” books: It’s not a hike we’re after.
Hiking means striding along, covering ground at a good pace to get to that view at the end of the trail, and lots of people do just that. We love hearing the pleasure in our friends’ voices when they say, “Hiked up Signal Mountain yesterday!”
Sure, they notice things along the way. But it’s the hiking itself that’s a big part of the joy. The physical exertion, the distance covered, the reward of a view or a waterfall at the end of the trail. The sense of accomplishment.
All those things are wonderful, for sure!
But Matt and I aren’t hikers. We’re strollers. Amblers. Mosey-ers. Stopper-a-lotters. Not hikers.
"Let's go for a walk," is what we say instead.
And whether we’re at home or on a road trip, our walks bear no resemblance to hiking, other than being outside. A bit of birdsong catches our ear. “Listen! Who’s that?” Waterdrops on a leaf glint with rainbows, a backlit puff of a fuzzy seedhead is too pretty not to take a picture of, and oh, look—here’s a yellow crab spider on this aster! And a wild turkey track! And a neat mushroom!
We would drive our hiking friends nuts.
How many miles did we cover? Not even one, but, boy, did we see cool things!
Right from the Car!
We do a lot of our exploring—and see wonderful wild things!—from the comfort of our own car. But it’s not comfort that makes us not want to leave the vehicle. It’s because we see a lot more cool nature stuff that way!
Why? Birds and wildlife are afraid of people.
Stay in the car, and you have a way better chance of watching, to your heart’s content, a foraging flock of sandill cranes, or a wild horse and her foal, or a pileated woodpecker working on an old stump, or any other of a zillion natural wonders.
Step out, and all you’ll see is the flock of cranes or those wild horses or that big Woody Woodpecker bird fleeing as fast as they can.
Your car is a “blind”—a hiding place where you, the scary human, can remain out of sight. Wildlife isn’t afraid of cars.
I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize this simple fact, that a car is a blind. But I have at least 10 years’ worth of snapshots (yep, long before digital cameras) of great blue herons and wood ducks flying away (“Oh, look! I got his leg in the picture!”), and of logs in ponds that held a row of turtles until I stepped out of the car.
On the other hand, butterflies and hummingbirds and insects don’t usually care about our presence at all, and a blind isn’t necessary. So when we want to see those sorts of things, we get out of the car. They’re not afraid, and they’re way easier to see and admire when they’re up close.
Yep, wildlife is what we all love to see. Animals and birds living their fascinating natural lives, even though we’re watching.
We’re not being “lazy” by staying in the car. We’re being smart.