Hiking Prompts Gratitude and Paying It Forward

Back in January, several classmates and I prompted one another to a #52HikeChallenge. Quite remarkably, we’ve all stuck with it and are on course to finish by the end of the year—each doing our own thing in our own areas of the country. It’s been super fun.

Twelve months of doing anything is cause for reflection, especially hiking God’s wondrous creation. Over the year I covered an array of terrains, from meticulously manicured boardwalks in urban Madison, to rocky tops of the Great Smoky Mountains. My ventures have been along shorelines, through woods, across prairies (I live in the Midwest, after all) and even fording a river. I’ve loved following the seasons—snowshoeing in winter, slogging through mud in spring, swatting bugs in summer (only one tick bite that I know of) and the crunch of fallen leaves in autumn. The flowers, oh, the beautiful flowers!

My husband and I are early risers, which rewarded us with beautiful trail sunrises. One month he had Fridays off and we knocked off the Ice Age Trails in the Southern Kettle Moraines. Some weeks we had an onsite picnic afterward, others we ate breakfast at the Hen House in Eagle. Hiking with my husband is the bomb, although I do lots of running to catch up whenever I pause for pictures. He stops for nothing.

Hiking with my kids and grandkids is also divine. An 11-year-old’s pace ramps my heart rate. A 3-year-old’s attention span reminds me to stop and smell the roses. A 1-year-old’s tolerance of cold is amazing.

Many of my hikes have been solo, which usually means “out and back,” or double the miles. It means I have to pay attention—I admit I’ve needed All-Trails more than once to find my way back to the car. It also means prayer time, thinking time, and time for detailed observation. Forest bathing, a.k.a forest therapy (no actual bathing required:-), comes to mind when I hike by myself. It’s good for the endorphins, that’s for sure.

Trail beauty of another kind

This year I became enchanted with the Ice Age Trail. Shall we say addicted? What fills my heart most is the sense of community behind it. The group camaraderie of hikers, the volunteers who care for the trail—there’s great beauty in this. When I have an online question, someone always has an answer (and usually with stunning photography). When we hiked the terminus in St. Croix Falls, trail angel Barb kindly transported us to our starting point so we didn’t need to take two cars. We often meet people along the way who are pulling invasive species or clearing brush. We’ve crossed beautiful boardwalks and rested on thoughtfully placed benches, all built by dedicated trail supporters.

When people come together with a shared passion, it’s as good for the soul as nature is itself. I’m so thankful for them.

Paying it forward

This week is #GivingTuesday and Ice Age Trail volunteers inspire me to pay it forward. Each year Adunate accepts two pro bono projects for greatly reduced or no cost. These are projects I strongly support and believe will positively impact God’s creation and the people living within it.

My areas of focus include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Agriculture & Animals
  • Architecture
  • Arts
  • Children
  • Environment
  • Faith
  • History
  • Humanity
  • Food & Drink
  • Sustainability

If your caring organization needs creative support in the coming year, click here for an application. Then, to guarantee your project’s success, be sure to click here.

My deadline for submissions is December 31, 2021. I will let applicants know of my decision in January.

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