Exploring the Wild, in myself.

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// photo: Clifton Loosier

 

Sometimes life just gets to you. Even when you take all the great opportunities that come your way, a lot of other, not-so-great things often come along for the ride too. At least for me, I know that even with all good stuff, I get quite stressed out balancing my schedule, bills, time with friends, dealing with people you’d rather not deal with at all, and many other things that come with a cosmopolitan, integrated lifestyle. As a designer, I split a lot of my time in front of the computer updating social medias, creating in Adobe, and then away from it, I print things; I have been engaging with many other creatives around town and doing photoshoots, and I come home heaving contented sighs of accomplishment, twinged with only a little bit of a deeper tiredness that prompted a spontaneous getaway. I needed to get away from it all for a while.

Turns out, a few other people I’d connected with recently were also feeling the same way, and we planned a quick day hiking trip to go visit some nearby parks with beautiful waterfalls. What a day it would turn out to be, and a lot more once I got home.

Our first stop was actually a spontaneous decision as we drove toward our original destination. On the way to Blackwater Falls in West Virginia, it was decided on the road that a detour of a few minutes to see Swallow Falls State Park. Why not? The more waterfalls and more hiking we can fit in a day, the better. My mind and body desperately needed to be as far away from the responsibilities on my computer back home.

It had been a long time since I’d stood at the base of a waterfall. Last summer I did get the chance to see a few falls in the Columbia River Gorge, but those were full of bustling tourists, and this was almost pure nature. It was ten o’clock in the morning, and the two of us were the only humans around for what felt like miles and miles. This is probably just because we’d gotten up earlier than anyone else, but I’m quite glad that we took the pre-sunrise departure from Pittsburgh.

 

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What is it about nature that pulls us away from our lives, and restores our soul? As I hiked, I felt no tiredness in my legs, and even by the end of the day I didn’t feel anything until I stepped foot into my own home again. I thought nothing of the people back at home, of the things I needed to do, or of the stress and pressure I felt to be a certain person, do certain things. I could say it a thousand times, it’s impossible to be stressed out as you’re hiking. Travel, walk in silence along the paths, even if you’re with someone. Conversation is of course necessary, but take the time to choose your words and weigh them against the sound of nature around you to decide if they are truly worth saying.

On the way to Blackwater Falls, we encountered a thick blanket of fog in Monongahela National Forest. It was impossible for us not to stop and take a few cool shots. We couldn’t see twenty feet in front of the car and had to rely on our ears to hear cars coming around the bend to get out of the way in time.  Here both of us were thankful that we had decided to go on this day trip, because originally there had been more of us, and two people had to cancel, so we contemplated saving the trip for another day. Had we done that, we wouldn’t have been blessed with these amazing fog-filled backgrounds.

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I remember a specific moment on the hike where I realized that this kind of temporary departure from populated civilization is not only good for me, but something I need to do more often. I remember also at that moment feeling cold and hungry, but in the most invigorating way possible. Not in a way that made me uncomfortable at all. In the fresh air of the parks and the mist of the waterfalls, I was experiencing sensations that tedious daily life had taught my mind to dull. The blunt takeaway I’m trying to get at here is that hiking is amazing, I want to do it more often, and you should too. If you don’t enjoy hiking, I’m convinced there’s something you’re not doing right. There’s something you’re not letting go of as you walk among nature.

Another thing I found interesting is that I went hiking with someone who I’d only met twice before. Not a close friend, but not a complete stranger, obviously.  I wondered beforehand briefly if this might be awkward, with a long drive both ways and a ton of time walking. It actually ended up being really cool that way because there was a lot of stuff to talk about. The small talk was very little, and that is awesome, because small talk is the bane of my existence; I don’t do it, and therefore a lot of people are intimidated talking to me, because I won’t sit there and talk to you about the weather. Meaningful conversations only, or I save my voice. To have people to do stuff with that don’t expect every moment to be filled with comfortable chatter is fantastic.  (Thanks Clifton. You the real MVP).

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Nothing quite like the colors you find out in the middle of nowhere. Because in nowhere, you have everything. Photo: Clifton Loosier

 

Sitting on edges, looking into your reflection in the water, or out from a cliff to see for miles along the landscape, that’s where you’re going to find yourself.

And that night, I came home and my bones and muscles ached from all the miles I had walked. But this ache was not one that compares to the ache of sitting in a chair all day or sleeping on the couch at school. This was an ache of the good kind, the kind that makes you feel amazing as you drop into bed for the night, and the next morning I was, well, a bit sore, but fully energized and rejuvenated by the sights and sounds of the hike, ready to get right back into the busy swing of things and to take on all of my current life quests.  I found that I had become wild again, wild for my own passions, and I was ready to take it all on again, at least until next time.

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Stepping over the dark. What could be down there?

All shots that I’m posed in were taken by the talented Clifton Loosier, who can be found on Instagram at @cliftonloosier . Be sure to give some of his work some looks and loves. And click through this little slideshow featuring more of his great shots that I didn’t have room to fully feature in-text.

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And here is a slideshow of some of the shots I took on the hike of Clifton and of the scenery! The places we visited were Swallow Falls State Park, Monongahela National Forest (at least driving through it) and Blackwater Falls State Park. It’s totally worth the trip, even on a clear day!

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Hope everyone enjoyed reading my muses on the benefits to myself of this hiking trip and looking at all the photos! Leave me some comments that you have about your favorite hiking spots or what you think of the photos!

 

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