You’re traipsing down a trail this summer. Sunlight is dappled through the swaying leaves overhead, and shadows dance among the mosses and rocks underfoot. Somewhere, you hear water burbling, …
You’re traipsing down a trail this summer. Sunlight is dappled through the swaying leaves overhead, and shadows dance among the mosses and rocks underfoot. Somewhere, you hear water burbling, and chipmunks scamper to the side. You’re in a forest, and you can almost hear the trees breathe.
There’s nothing quite like a forested trail, and luckily we have an abundance of them in the Upper Delaware region.
What is it about the cool greenness of a forest that lifts our spirits? It’s a mix of science and spirituality, with some mystery mixed in. Referred to as “forest bathing,” the action of walking mindfully among the trees, “clears the mind of thoughts and opens your senses, allowing you to unplug in a deep and healing way,” said Nina Smiley, Ph.D, director of mindfulness programming at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, and co-author of the 2017 book “Mindfulness in Nature” with David Harp.
The name is a translation from shinrin-yoku in Japanese, and the practice came about in Japan in the 1980s. “Forest bathing is not a walk to get in the miles for exercise,” Smiley said. “It’s an experience that invites you to refresh and renew, to see both outer and inner worlds with new eyes. I like to say it’s an outdoor experience that creates inner space.”
Studies have been done on how being outdoors affects blood pressure, stress, mood and the immune system, Smiley said, and how “antimicrobial oils emitted by trees and plants appear to bolster immunity.”
Where else can you unplug around here? There are tons of places. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has a comprehensive website (www.dec.ny.gov) with an interactive DECinfo Locator map to peruse. The National Park Service (www.nps.gov/upde/planyourvisit/take-a-hike.htm) is another good resource.
Here are just a few trails that will refresh you and renew your spirit:
Bouchoux Trail, Jensen’s Ledges, Hancock, NY—A two-mile hike with a steep climb at the start. But the exertion is worth it: Oaks, hickories and evergreens shade the trail until you reach the summit, where a stunning view of the Delaware River will greet you. Take advantage of the handmade rock chairs to relax before heading back down. Plus, a waterfall is just off the main trail.
Damascus Forest Trail, Beach Lake, PA—An easy, level, two-mile ramble, this loop trail takes you through old-growth hemlocks.
Tusten Mountain Trail, Narrowsburg, NY—A moderately difficult, three-mile hike is a history lesson, too, as you loop through the ruins of the Tusten Settlement. A climb to the summit earns you a beautiful Upper Delaware river valley view.
Minisink Battleground Park Trails, Barryville, NY—Another history hike, this super-easy half-mile walk lets you follow the footsteps of Revolutionary War soldiers. Tip: Read up on the battle before setting out, to fully appreciate where you are.
Wherever you amble, remember to breathe deeply and take note of the scents, the sights and the steps you take. Your body—and mind—will benefit.
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