Navigating This Season {whatever it is} By Faith

My legs rebelled at the unfamiliar sensation of sand rearranging itself under my feet. For my family, a typical hike meant packed-dirt paths through deciduous woods in Iowa or evergreen forests out west, not shifting sand in a desert canyon. But here we were, tackling new terrain. We walked along, faces tilted toward the slim slice of sky. We were at Capitol Reef National Park, hiking the narrow passageway of the Capitol Gorge trail. At the turnaround point, we noticed a sign for a spur trail. We could turn around or we could continue two-tenths of a mile up a {Continue Reading}

Our Steps Matter

After clocking out from the early shift at the gift shop, I left the Inn for a long, leisurely stroll through the Upper Geyser Basin. Beginning at Old Faithful, I walked past lesser-known features and family favorites as I made my way to my destination: Morning Glory Pool. I didn’t need to invest any thought about how to get there. The boardwalk laid the course and I followed. Signs along the way were clear: STAY ON THE TRAIL. Geyser basins are dangerous places. In some areas, the thinnest of crusts separate our frail human frames from the seething intensity below. {Continue Reading}

Friday Field Notes | A Little Geography

One strange thing about the internet world is that I don’t actually know where many of you live. Oddly, though, because of this unfamiliar terrain we’re collectively navigating, I can probably pretty accurately guess that most of us are at home much more than usual. How’re you doing with that? Today I am meh, but so is the weather. Every day is different. I live in the midwest, where it’s generally flat. Part of our family lives a few hundred miles to the south of us and part lives a few hundred to the north. The ones in the south have consistently warmer weather and {Continue Reading}

Friday Field Notes | Good News When the News is Bad

My son is studying abroad this semester. In northern Italy. Until this week, I hadn’t heard much talk about northern Italy outside the context of his travel plans. Now it’s all over the news. He was supposed to start classes next Monday. On Monday of this week, his university closed because of the coronavirus. As of Thursday, the start of classes has been postponed a week. Am I worried about him contracting the coronavirus? Not especially. Do I wake up in the morning wondering if his city has been put on lockdown, if his university will be closed indefinitely, how he’s handling being a {Continue Reading}

Do You Need to Turn Around?

It was one of the first hikes we took together, my husband and I. It wasn’t long—only a few miles, but the one stretch was steep. The descent wasn’t bad. The destination—a steel suspension bridge spanning a canyon in the middle of wilderness—was worth the trip down and even back up. Still, that thigh-burning return trip reigns in my memory, especially when we consider taking any trail with the word “steep” in its description. Draped across the slope like twinkle lights on a Christmas tree, switchbacks supposedly moderated the mountain face into a more manageable grade. I trudged up one {Continue Reading}

Walking by Faith | Using the Right Muscles

We left our car at the pullout, walked past the bungalow-sized glacial boulder, and started down an easy path. Short, flat, and offering a good view, the Cascade Overlook Trail promised to be a good wakeup hike. Enveloped in a thick evergreen wood, we relished the rhythm of quiet conversation and companionable silence mingled with the crunching rock under our feet and the rustling trees above our heads. Before long, the trail emerged from the trees, and there was the Grand Canyon, not of Arizona but of the Yellowstone River. We took careful steps along the curving rim of the {Continue Reading}

Walking Together

There is more to setting off on a hike than hopping over the back fence with a loaf of bread and a pound of tea à la John Muir–turn-of-the-nineteenth-century naturalist, writer, and outdoorsman. While his shortlist encompassed food and nutrition, survival and sanity suggest we take more when we head into the woods. We need to know where we’re going and how to get there. We need protection from the elements. We need first aid supplies. Beyond that, it helps to know a little about hiking technique—how to take an incline, how often to rest, and how to travel in {Continue Reading}

One Question for When You’re Finding Your Way

The gradual slipping away of the pine-lined path went unnoticed—by me anyway. We’d set off that morning, wanting to spend just a little more time on the trail and in the park before heading home from our week in Yellowstone. Situated along the way, the Gneiss Creek Trail would do well, we thought. It was new. It was short. It sounded inviting. And it was, rising slowly through terrain that sang an unmistakable song of the west and stirred memories of Kevin Costner’s narrative segments from Dances with Wolves. Emerging from thick, head-high lodgepole pines into a sudden clearing, I {Continue Reading}

Waiting for Tomorrow

Dad and I were the last to check in. The arrival window for the nature writing class was from four to eight, and the sun hung low behind the distant mountains when we stepped out of the van and onto the gravel parking lot. We’d put it off as long as possible. We’d been busy for three days—revisiting beloved sites, taking favorite hikes, and discovering new ones. It wasn’t until we stopped for huckleberry ice cream on the last leg of our journey that the first-day-of-school jitters set it, stirring up worry that maybe the best part of the week {Continue Reading}