We may not hibernate like bears during the cold winter months, but the harsh winter chill and snow often find us in our modern dens, preoccupied with indoor activities.
But come Spring, we have a chance to re-connect with nature, and let it invigorate our spirit and body. Orange County in upstate New York has awe-inspiring scenery and, for nature lovers, staying indoors is not an option when there’s so much to experience.
Fred Harding runs The Hub Hikers hiking club. An administrator for the public computer center of the Port Jervis Library by day, he cannot imagine life without exploring the outdoors. He has been doing it with his three brothers since he was 7 years old, at a time before computers or video games.
“Our parents would give us sandwiches and water and send us into the woods to run around and play. We would leave in the morning and have our lunch in the woods, and we would be back in the afternoon,” he told Epoch Times.
“It was a totally different era,” he said explaining that he grew up in the country, surrounded by dairy farms, “so that’s what little boys did.”
And his parents weren’t unique. Harding mentioned that it was in the early 1950’s and most people didn’t even have a television so the kids played sports and spent their time outdoors.
Four Young Boys Make a Lot of Noise
He speaks with an air of calmness that turns to amusement at the mere suggestion that it might have been dangerous considering the wild animals that inhabit the Orange County forests. Black bears, coyotes, and even mountain lions come to mind.
Harding has always been around wildlife and, even as a young boy, there was no fear associated with wild animals. Unsurprisingly, he also emphasized what most nature-lovers know—that animals are more afraid of us than we are of them.
But as a young boy, Harding and his brothers were blissfully following their instincts, and since four young boys make a lot of noise as they walk through the forest, he said that animals would mostly run away from them.
If during those times he and his brothers ever had a harrowing experience, he didn’t say, but the fact that he remains an avid hiker is testimony to the fact that nature is a good and safe place to explore.
He mentions that nowadays people go on hikes for two reasons: to get some physical exercise, or to observe nature. The hikes that aim at exercise are based on distance and speed. They are usually on flat terrain, on paved or landscaped paths. He is almost reluctant to call that type of activity a “hike” since it’s more of an outdoor form of exercise.
Along the Un-Groomed Path
Harding prefers to undertake what he calls nature walks. This entails walking along un-groomed, and much rougher paths.
“We look at various types of plants and animal life, terrain, and frequently history is involved,” he said mentioning that the next walk will be following the Lenope-Ridge Minisink trail. Even though it will be slower-paced, Harding pointed out that it will still be physically challenging, but with the added bonus of also exercising the brain. He will be talking about the cave where Major Decker hid after he was wounded during the French and Indian war, and other historical information.
The hike will be in partnership with Basha Kill Area Association (BKAA) and their outdoor educator Mike Medley will be talking about the plant and wildlife.
A nature walk does more then exercise the mind and body. It might not be easy to describe the wonder and peace that one experiences while being out among the trees and animals on nature’s own terms—meaning as a person on foot.
“You’re walking under the forest canopy, the voles and the chipmunks scurry across our path, the occasional squirrel or rabbit hops off, the porcupine in a notch in a tree, and so you’re seeing all of that and when the hike ends you realize how fortunate you are to have been born on this planet and to experience this but also we realize the tremendous responsibility we have to protect this,” said Harding.
The people who go on nature hikes are any age and any fitness level. “The only thing we want people to understand is that it’s not a race. We’re doing it to exercise both the mind and the body.”
The nature walks are limited to 15 and Harding mentioned that he has guided people of various ages from 30-year-olds to 70- and even 80-year-olds (the 70s are the new 50s).
“If you’re physically able, then you’re welcome,” he said.
Hiking the Huckleberry Ridge hike trail with Mike Medley from Basha Kill Area Association will take place on June 7.
Contact: 845-772-7586. Free of charge.
WHAT TO BRING ON A 2-3 HOUR HIKE
water will suffice but can also bring food of choice
hiking boots as opposed to sneakers (boots are best on rough terrain)