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Newsletter - Contemplative Hiking MeetUp

From: Margaret
Sent on: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 11:24 AM
Summer Newsletter

Hello contemplative hikers and nature lovers!

We?ve had quite a few adventures since July, when I started the Contemplative Hiking MeetUp group. It?s heartening to see that this group has quickly grown to 90 members in a very short period of time. That means there are a lot of people out there who not only want to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise, they appreciate the value of silence and contemplation in the midst of nature.

Our very first meetup was a sunset hike to the summit of little Sugarloaf Mountain in Boulder. The view from the top was incredible because it was a dry, warm and clear day. We sat for a little while and took in the vastness laid out on the horizon. One could almost see the detail of rock formations on Long?s Peak that evening, and eerily, I found out the next day after our hike that a man fell to his death while summiting Long?s at about the time we were enjoying viewing its south-facing slope. Strange and creepy.

We did a little contemplative exercise that brought us to the immediate moment and piqued our curiosity about the textures of rocks and plants along the trail, then headed down at our own pace. Someone said they felt more peaceful than before starting the hike, which is always a good thing on a weekday evening!

We also had a couple of hiking adventures in the rain. The very first ?nature, art and the subconscious? hike at White Ranch Open Space Park was postponed because of foreboding storm clouds over Golden, but I decided to go anyway (because I don?t mind hiking in the rain). It?s a good thing I did because two members had the same idea. We walked under churning clouds for about 45 minutes before the rain started coming down. My husband brought a tarp, so we huddled under it doing the fun art activity and waited out the worst of it. Then we continued on the loop trail in a light drizzle, enjoying the smells, colors and solitude of late afternoon after a storm. This hike and location is repeating on September 12, in the morning this time so there?s less chance of rainy weather. Rain isn?t bad, but it isn?t practical when you?re trying to write or draw, and that will be part of the hike at the mid-way point.

A group of us experienced another dramatic storm at dusk on the Bear Canyon Trail a few weeks ago. While we hiked to the turn-around point in the canyon, the air was still and the clouds were deceptively flat white. But once we stopped and got still to do a short sitting meditation, the canyon exploded in fierce wind, then a while later in rain. It came in sheets?sideways?and a few of us laughed as we ran back down the trail. It felt exciting!

Chief Mountain is a 12,000 foot hill between Mt. Evans and Evergreen, where we hiked to the summit last weekend and enjoyed a feeling of spaciousness. Along the way, we saw interesting mushrooms ? they are nicknamed ?toadstools? and they?re orange to dark red with white dots. They?re actually called ?fly amanitas? and are considered toxic hallucinogens. Eating one won?t necessarily kill you, but you?ll feel pretty sick. I personally have never seen this type of mushroom in Colorado before this year. Maybe I haven?t been aware of them, or maybe the conditions are perfect for them this year for some reason. In any case, they?re beautiful. They like growing under conifers in cooler, wetter conditions.

I will be researching a nice trail to go for fall colors at the end of September this week. One possibility is called the ?Burning Bear? trail and it?s near Grant, Colo. Off Hwy. 285. If anyone is interested in coming with me this Thursday morning to scope it out, message me and let me know. I think you can reply to this email. When I determine the length and details of the fall colors hike, I will be posting the MeetUp. Look for that soon.

Almost everyone I?ve met from this group has said they enjoy and appreciate the silent aspect. Some have said that it?s perfect for introverts, and some have said it?s nice to get some quiet time but feel safe with a group. I always leave space for some discussion either after an activity on the trail or during the last 20 minutes or so of the hike, so it?s not completely UN-social. We all get so little time to ourselves and our own thoughts in our fast-paced, technology-filled culture, that it?s not only nice to have a few hours to enjoy the rustle of leaves and chirping of birds, it?s actually very good for mental health. Combine that with physical fitness and a better awareness of our environment, and you have the beginning of a pretty decent hobby ☺

I am striving to improve the experience for members with each MeetUp. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your next hike with the group:

LOCATING THE MEETUP: A group member suggested I bring along one of those little bicycle flags?the ones with the bright orange triangle flag at the end of a stick?to place on my car or on my backpack so that our group can easily be spotted by new members at the carpooling location or trail. Great idea! I?ll be sure to get one for the next MeetUp. Also, I drive either a dark blue VW Golf or a dark red Toyota FJ Cruiser (an SUV). If you are at the trailhead and don?t see either of those cars, that means I haven?t shown up yet and therefore the group has not embarked on the trail yet. I will ALWAYS take my car to the trailhead, even if we?re carpooling. If we?ve embarked, I?ll see if I can stick that flag on the back of my pack so I?m easy to spot on the trail.

CHANGE IN PLANS: Always check the website before you leave for the hike in case of last minute changes or cancellations. You can also reach me on my cellphone at 303/[masked] in case you have something to relay or are running late. I probably won?t cancel the hike due to rain unless it looks a little dangerous (lightning, flash flooding), but check the site anyway.

PREPAREDNESS: It?s safe to say that all of the hikes will involve some walking uphill and downhill. I won?t schedule a hike on a completely flat trail in the city. It?s hard to describe the exertion level of a hike because for some ?moderate? may mean ?excruciating? and for some it may mean ?too easy.? It depends on your fitness level. Know your limitations! Hiking can be risky for anyone and conditions can change quickly and make for dangerous situations. If you decide to turn around, that?s up to you. The activities of the MeetUp are optional at all times and you are hiking at your own will and risk. If possible, let someone know that you?re going back so we know what happened to you. Also, while everyone naturally hikes at their own pace, I would describe the pace of our hike to be ?average?. Not too slow, not too competitive.

EQUIPMENT: It?s always a good idea to pack a rain jacket and/or fleece, bring a water bottle and snack, a cell phone (just in case), a whistle (three blows means you?re in distress), and other basic safety items in your daypack. The more you hike, the more good stuff you?ll leave in your pack to take with you, and the more prepared you?ll be.

DONATIONS: Since being an organizer of a MeetUp has a monthly fee I will start asking for a $1 donation per hike from each member who shows up to cover my monthly fees and gas money.

CARPOOLING: I encourage carpooling when possible. Please use the message posting feature on the home page of the MeetUp to arrange carpooling.

SUGGESTIONS/FEEDBACK: Please make suggestions of hiking trails or offer feedback on the ?ideas? tab of the MeetUp site for this group.

Thank you for reading and see you on the trail!

Margaret Emerson

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