Thursday, December 4, 2008


Hiking is one of my favorite activities. I love exploring; seeking out plants and animals, observing the transformation brought on by seasonal changes. When I'm outdoors, whether on the beach or in the woods, listening to birds or critters scurrying in the duff, hearing the waves crash or the creek gurgle, my mind is freed.

Just as in meditation, thoughts drift in and out. Some I ponder further, others I release. Occasionally the trail demands attention because it's rocky or filled with the gnarled, bony protrusions of trees. Creek crossings can by fun and challenging. I once heard it said that hiking is just walking. This is not so. To me, hiking includes elevation change. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Whatever the case, it always offers a change of perspective.

During my most recent hike, I was seeking out signs of the season. Once the rains begin, fungi pops up everywhere in astounding variety. I don't know much about this life form. I've eaten a few types of mushrooms and have enjoyed them. In 2000 or 2001, I went to a conference during which Paul Stamets delivered a scintillating talk about the intelligence of fungi. If I remember correctly he said that fungi could be trained and that it can be used to eat uranium. Anyway, I found several specimens and am really happy with the macro feature on my camera.

My other objective was to find a banana slug. It wasn't hard. This guy was just off the trail, a lovely, bright yellow beacon amidst the duff. Slugs are everywhere, but there's something about a banana slug that makes them so likable. I will usually move them off a trail used by horses or bikes in hopes of saving them from a messy demise.

The rainy season is just beginning. As the winter equinox approaches and the temperatures drop, I look forward to hiking and seeing the changes winter brings.

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