To feel alive, find a way to be outside…

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”

Edward Abbey

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take the boys for a hike at Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National park. My goal was to get them outside for some good exercise and expose them to something new and different. I spoke to the park ranger, who suggested an easy trail that wouldn’t overwhelm short legs but would give plenty to see and experience along the way, and we set out on our adventure.  

We discovered remarkable rocks, amazing sticks, daddy long legs, turkey vultures, and weird bugs along the way. We discussed different plants and the challenges of walking on trails with lots of roots and rocks. Then, at the mid-point of our hike, we “discovered” a two-hundred-year-old cabin built entirely by hand that blew the boy’s minds. (Although the giant chocolate chip cookies I surprised them with might have been the discovery that genuinely excited them.)

A simple three-mile hike “for the boys” turned into a grand adventure and a reconnection with nature for me.  

Three things I learned or was reminded of yesterday.  

  1. There is incredible value to being “disconnected,” especially in today’s hyperconnected world. My mobile phone didn’t work for about four to five hours, and for that brief time, no distractions were pulling away from the incredible world around us. It amazed me how quickly I could put the phone aside when I knew it wasn’t going to work. There was no draw to check emails, texts, or other messages. This disconnection allowed me to be present in each moment without fear of “missing out.” Instead, I didn’t miss out on what was going on right there in the moment.  
  2. Being outside in nature is a constant exercise in “new” things. I have been in love with the outdoors my entire life. ‘Ranger Rick,’ ‘National Geographic,’ ‘Sports Afield,’ and ‘Outdoor Life’ were some of my favorite readings as a young boy. However, no matter how much you have read or seen, there is always something new to experience or do. Nature is wild and dynamic; it is never the same experience twice. I was reminded of this as I answered constant questions and explained different plants, scat signs, and other things you can only find when you get out in the woods. It was new for the boys and new for me.
  3. Being outside and seeing the grandness of the “wilderness” (as it were…) is a phenomenal way to recharge the batteries and reconnect with our heritage as a species. Humans are not built to live in concrete boxes, breathing sterile air in temperature-controlled environments with no discomforts other than self-imposed mental stressors. We are made to be part of nature, to be challenged by nature, and to feel alive because of nature.  

This was supposed to be a trip for the boys, but it ended up being for me. ‘Wilderness’ is essential for the soul, just as water and bread are vital for the body.

Cades Cove, Tennessee

Sometimes disconnecting is the best way to really connect…

“I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”


There is something special about being outside in nature. All the problems, challenges, and obstacles we face seem to take a different meaning when we get away and disconnect. Maybe that’s it—disconnection from the temporary things that cloud our judgment and reconnection to the eternal. Nature is a reminder of the enduring aspects of life. The mountains will be here in ten, twenty, fifty years. The ocean will still be rolling and surging and the creeks will still be flowing.

Find time to get away, disengage, unplug from all the distractions. Plug into nature and see what a wonderful world we are blessed to share. 

Peace and clarity live outside in nature…

“A walk in nature, walks the soul back home.”

Mary Davis

When the day is murky, and thoughts don’t come clearly, go outside.

When the world is overwhelming, and you need to find peace, go outside.

When clarity is what you seek, go outside.  

Sometimes the simplest thing is the very best solution. When in doubt, go outside; that is where clarity lives.

Nature is the cradle of creativity…

“Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.”

Lorraine Anderson

There are those days where the only thing that feels like it can nourish and restore the soul is the simple act of being outside. Personally I want to find the space where God feels the largest and I feel the smallest. Truly this can happen anywhere in nature but for me, it is in the grandeur of the mountains or the vastness of the ocean. I love to take in a beautiful vista and wonder how many eyes have seen these same things and marveled over them as well.

I wonder how many ideas throughout all of time have been sparked in nature? How many of our great gifts and blessings have been inspired by someone out on a walk or a hike? I can only imagine that if you took all things in the world that could serve as inspiration, none of them would come close to the seeds of creativity that have been sown by the magnificence of our beautiful earth.

There is no way to measure this of course. But if you find yourself stuck in a creative rut, or caught in a place that lacks inspiration, just head outside. It doesn’t have to be in the mountains or along the shore. There is beauty and adventure to be found just about everywhere if you simply go searching for it…

‘“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. ‘ Job 12:7-10

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