Fall is by far my favorite time of year in North Carolina. The changing of the season and beautiful foliage is always inspiring. One of my absolute favorite things to do this time of year is to go tracking. Exploring the woods and wild fields throughout this area is fun…and, with most of the leaves off the trees it’s easy to see the lay of the land.

The Splender of Fall

The Splender of Fall

Animal trails and sign are much more visible now and become a major point of interest for me. I can spend hours interpreting their tracks and trails and never get bored. All the animals have such an intimate knowledge of their environment and seem to move through it so effortlessly. I’m always fascinated by what I discover on my hiking and nature excursions. Perhaps most importantly, I’m reminded that I need to explore more often…don’t we all?

“My experiences in nature always seem to ground me and smooth out any stress that I may have accumulated during the week”…

All of us love to spend time in the woods and hiking is a favorite weekend activity for many of us. This area has many hiking opportunities. The Palmetto Trail is close by and F.E.N.C.E has numerous trails to explore. Let’s face it – we all need to get outside more, and not just for the exercise. I believe that being in nature is important and helps promote a healthy…balance in our lives. In fact, I bet if we really thought about the most wonderful experiences we’ve ever had, most of them would have nothing to do with a television or a computer screen. Nature is awesome!

From time to time I receive emails from people asking how they can learn to be more aware in the woods. For all the outdoor recreating we do, there is much that we miss.

There is more to experience than you may realize. If I were to suggest one thing to help you notice more on your hikes and adventures, it would be to SLOW down…WAY down. Nature moves and a different pace than we do. We move too fast. We tend to focus on the path ahead and often walk right past animals and other interesting treasures. I make it a point to sit down several times during my excursions and just be. Generally, I’ll sit for 20-40 minutes at a time and remain as quiet and motionless as possible, just soaking it all in. This gives the wildlife time to relax and adjust to my presence. Try this and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll see and experience.

To better illustrate this, when most of us enter the woods we’re like a rock being dropped into a pond. After this initial disturbance…yes, I said disturbance…concentric rings, like ripples in a pond radiate outward. The sentries of the woods, the birds, are first to sound the alarm. Then, birds and animals further away from the initial splash react and this continues outward, sometimes covering a great distance. In short order, most of the animals in the area are informed of our presence and take evasive action long before we get near them. This is why we don’t see many animals when we hike. Personally, I think the birds take great delight in this. Reducing our disturbance by slowing down and relaxing is the key to seeing and experiencing more. In other words…be a pebble, not a rock.

So…try something a little different on this weekend’s hike, take it slow, be quiet and see what you’ve been missing. When in doubt, sit in silence and wait for the show to begin. Be patient and you won’t be disappointed. Nature is truly “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Wild Wanderings with Richard Cleveland, teacher of outdoor skills at Earth School in Tryon, NC – a self-trained Naturalist and local fishing and nature guide. For info about his programs visit www.LoveTheEarth.com .