Nature offers a wider lens through which to see one’s own life. A broader external and internal vision becomes especially accessible at higher altitudes, where the majesty of the landscape splays out before you at almost every turn. These big views can assist in many ways for the purpose of healing and recovering from stresses and traumas in today’s fast paced world.
Some factors important to emotional, mental and physical healing that result from mountain walks include:
A sense of wonder and amazement about seeing a bigger picture face to face.
An increase in the number of vocalized “Wow!” moments in your life.
Higher levels of life force (prana) from breathing fresher, cleaner air.
Appreciation for the friendliness of other hikers.
Openness to giving and receiving help from others on rough terrain.
Acceptance of the changes and inconsistencies in life and in nature.
A Healing Power in the Mountains
In addition to all of these everyday benefits, gazing out over great landscapes, whether they contain mountains or oceans, can play a crucial role for those times when major life traumas have occurred. For instance, photographer John Bennett shared from his own personal history as he explored mountainous areas in the United Kingdom, where he could grieve and process the sudden loss of his spouse.
He describes camping out with his dog, Kelly. After gazing at changing sunset colors over the peaks, he experienced “a great feeling of spiritual warmth flowing through me as well, a happy feeling, the first for a long time, as things started to fall back into perspective inside my head… I know that as we returned to the tent, taking the path the long way this time, I was far happier and settled than I had been hours earlier.”
For this hiker and many others, an exploration of nature at higher elevations “…certainly did more to help me on the road to recovery than anything or anyone else. There is indeed a healing power in mountains, a power that too many people simply can’t imagine”.
Lay of the Land
In close proximity to the Art of Living Retreat Center, the Rough Ridge trail area offers such grand views. This amazing spot can be reached so easily, since it sits adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) of North Carolina about 30 minutes south of the Bamboo road exit (on the west side of the road.)
Only a short, rocky walk up from the road are spectacular vistas. At this point, a wooden boardwalk over part of the trail makes the hike less strenuous. Once you reach the boardwalk, large signs with added information about the unique ecosystem around the trail provides valuable insights into smaller, fragile life forms along the way.
At this location, as I walk over rocks, cross a footbridge over a rushing cascade, and climb to the high wooden boardwalk along the cliffs, I sense how valuable it is to recognize the collective power of human beings’ pathways. At the same time, I realize my responsibility for the smaller, endangered life forms, such as delicate plants called lichens, which grow profusely throughout the region on various outdoor objects.
Rough Ridge and Beyond
The Rough Ridge trail overlaps two other trails extending further south and north: The Mountains to Sea Trail (symbolized by a white circle) and the Tanawha Trail (symbolized by a white feather). Going south, these three trails together run through a rhododendron covered landscape from the Rough Ridge overlook, over high cliffs, then down to the Wilson Creek overlook on the east side of the parkway, and then on to the Linn Cove visitors’ center. Going north, they run through a “New England-type forest of hemlock, spruce, oak and birch”
If you continue towards the south from the Linn Cove visitors’ center, you will soon see the rocky peak of Grandfather Mountain on the right, to the west of the parkway. The Tanawha Trail and Mountains to Sea Trail continue along the east side of the road, and will take you past several other beautiful natural landmarks.
In my previous post, I talk more about the Mountain to Sea trail, one of my favorite mountain streams and my personal experience of the healing power of nature.