While in Colorado, I hiked an incredible trail in Arapaho National Forest. Rather than writing a trail guide, though, this post is about the experience. Something I myself often forget. I did something different, and I encourage you to follow suite on your next adventure.
I woke up with the sun (and the Border Collies) and basked in the early morning hush that draped the campground. The air was crisp and the day full of possibilities. I had one thing on the agenda, though, and that was hiking. We had just traversed Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park and spent days in the car. It was time to stretch our legs and get the full Colorado outdoors experience.
Just down the gravel road was a trail (thank you All Trails app!). I had no idea what condition it would be in or what we would find. Hiking in early morning, I fully expected to see some wildlife. The gentle kind and maybe the dangerous kind. Thankfully we encountered none. I parked at the trailhead, geared up, and then stopped to make a choice.
I took my phone with me, but just for emergencies, not for photos. I decided that this hike was going to be mine and mine alone. I've never tried this before, but it was incredible. Just knowing that I was not going to take any pictures made me so much more present. I was in the moment and immersed in the experience. It was incredible! I actually downloaded "images" into my brain during the hike. I was capturing memories the old fashioned way - by stopping to absorb them.
I can still remember the sun shining through dewdrops on the branches of the trees. The magical (and I mean downright magical) meadow clearing where the dogs got to run through the puddles like spritely faery beings. The pure solitude, stillness, and reverence of that mountain clearing. I sat in the cold, wet grass and just drank it all in. Here's a tip: don't be so concerned about staying warm and dry and clean all the time. Sit on the ground. Get your boots wet (socks too). Go places you wouldn't normally go. You can always dry off and get warm later. But you can't always get that moment back.
I've never experienced peace like I did sitting in the middle of that meadow, watching the sun come up, and seeing the pure glee on my dogs' faces as they finally got unrestricted room to be themselves. It's about stopping. It's about being present. It's about absorbing the memories instead of just snapping pictures to be digested later.
Find your solitude. Find your moments. And don't let go. Do some old-fashioned memory making - without the phone, without the camera, without the crowds, without the stress, without the distractions. Forget Instagram and Facebook and what your friends will think or the profound urge to share. Take some moments just for yourself. They're much more valuable - just ask your soul.