By Gretchen Hofing
It’s October. Fall is here, and the mountains are calling. I headed out for a weekend of hiking and fall colors in Western North Carolina the first weekend in October. September had been very busy, and I was really looking forward to this short get-away and escape from the every day. I had high hopes the colors would be underway or at least obviously starting in the trees and envisioned hiking to gorgeous overlooks with the bright blue fall sky in the background. Then on Saturday morning, I was greeted by gray fog everywhere with the possibility of rain. I could feel the disappointment settle in.
As we started out on the Blue Ridge Parkway I began to look around and admire the landscape for what it was and appreciate the mystery of the cloud cover and fog. When we got out onto the trail and my body started working, I was reminded of how much I enjoy simply being outside and the energy and satisfaction that activity brings me. I took note of how hard I was working. I was pleased to observe that my ankle was feeling much better than the last hiking outing. I marveled at all of the colors of mushrooms that wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been so damp out.
We got to the overlook that had been the goal of the last 90 minutes, and there were people there ecstatic that they had made it. Wishing perhaps there was more of a view, but celebrating their accomplishment all the same. I reminded myself of what it felt like to make that climb the first time. I recalled what the landscape looks like when the sky is clear and decided I could also appreciate the misty setting, and its own unique beauty.
We continued on with our hiking in a different area of the “high country”, including pushing through some rain. At the end of the day, we were rewarded with a glimpse of fall colors and that bright blue autumn sky I so love. The wildlife were out taking it all in too – deer, butterflies, trout, squirrels, and ducks. The drive back to the cabin included unplanned stops to explore sites never seen before, even though we’d been down the twisting road many a time. The evening brought a relaxing time of cooking and eating together and settling in for a movie – something I never make time for at home.
Sunday showed up with warmer temperatures and clearer skies full with puffy, white clouds. All around me I was constantly mindful of the surrounding beauty and, while I knew chances were good my legs and feet would be reminding me of this hike for a few days more, in the moment, I was so appreciative of them carrying me up and down the mountains.
It’s October. It’s a beautiful time of year. Take a few moments for yourself outside. Perhaps this is a space and time for being mindful or meditation. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for reflection, a reset, or planning and preparing for what the rest of 2018 holds for you.
If you would like to learn more about the Duke Integrative Medicine Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, visit the Duke Integrative Medicine website. Register before December 21, 2018 to receive a 10% early registration discount.
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