“A few months ago I went on my annual backpacking trip in California’s magnificent Sierra Nevada mountains… Though the trips are strenuous, I always come home recharged, physically and mentally. I get a lot out of exercising regularly year-round, at the gym or running in my neighborhood, but I get so much more out of this annual trek. It’s not just exercise, or a vacation, or quality time with a friend. What makes it especially restorative is being out in nature.
…Lately researchers have been looking at what happens to our brains and bodies when we’re walking in a forest, in the mountains, or by the sea. The study of such ‘green exercise’ usually falls under the umbrella of environmental psychology (or ecopsychology). The Japanese, in particular, have been studying what they call ‘forest bathing’ (Shinrin-yoku) -- that is, spending time in nature for therapeutic effects.
Studies have found, for instance, that people do better on tests involving memory or attention after trekking through the woods than after walking in a city. People have increased vitality (that is, physical and mental energy) and a greater sense of well-being after walking through a tree-lined river path than after walking indoors...
The proposed benefits of walking in nature include giving the brain a respite from the multi-tasking of everyday life. If you enjoy hiking, you know that you become more aware of your surroundings -- the sounds, smells, colors. Time slows down. Somehow this refreshes the brain and makes thinking clearer. Japanese researchers have found that walking through forests can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and improve various aspects of immune function for anywhere from a few hours to a few days afterwards -- while walking in a city does not. They suggest that various airborne chemicals emitted from plants may play a role.
All it takes is 5 to 20 minutes in nature to boost mood and energy levels somewhat, some research has found, though longer forays produce greater benefits. Other studies indicate that there’s a ‘third-day effect’ -- a special stage of relaxation and mindfulness that occurs after a couple days of hiking. I consistently experience that on my trips. Being out of the range of cell phones and email helps.”
-- John Swartzberg, MD, UC Berkely Wellness Letter, December 2010
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Yes, spring is still 2 months away, but our first camping trip of the year sometimes fills up extra early. In fact, as some of you know, last year it filled up in January!
Which means… if you’re interested in joining us on our annual Memorial Day weekend trip to spectacular Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia -- this year’s dates are May 25-28 -- reserving NOW or this month is recommended.
Since cancellations sometimes occur, we might have spaces available later in the spring, but that can’t be predicted. Last year a number of people were turned away.
Likewise our July 4th weekend camping trip filled much earlier than usual in 2017, so early reservations are advisable for that trip as well, which runs from June 30-July 4 this year. It’s a 5-day trip, since the 7/4 holiday falls on a Wednesday.
Some of you have been camping with us for many years, and we also welcome newcomers every year. You should have some hiking experience, but it’s fine if you’ve never camped before -- you can learn what you need to know on the trip.
On our camping trips everyone needs to bring major items of equipment, some of which can be easily rented or purchased from stores like REI. Feel free to call if you have questions about what’s required and how to prepare for such a trip.
Some of us who are enthusiasts can’t wait for the camping season to start, knowing how wonderful it feels to immerse ourselves in the wilderness for several days.
During the day we take invigorating hikes amid splendid mountain scenery, and at night enjoy the deeply peaceful relaxation of sleeping “in nature’s embrace.”
Can you imagine what a restorative and rejuvenating experience that can be? And fun, when you add the camaraderie of a group of congenial companions.
And add a taste of adventure, since “the unexpected” may materialize, although it’s almost never anything that’s dangerous. There’s little risk involved in a group trip.
The pleasures and memories of a wilderness camping trip are likely to last for a long time. For some of us, such a trip is the very best of all possible vacations.
Will you be joining us on one or more of this year’s overnight trips? Now wouldn’t be a bad time to think about it. Call (845)357-3380 if you have question.
Here’s our 2018 Overnight Trip Schedule.
For those of you who want to read more about camping in the wild, here’s our Wilderness Camping & Backpacking page.
…And if you should feel inclined to reserve, go to our Reserve for a Trip page.
-- Charlie Cook