Take a Hike

Just another lesson rural American taught me

By Diane Smith

When we lived in the city, weather was pretty irrelevant. Sure, a single snowflake could cancel school and screw up an already painful commute and who doesn’t love cherry blossoms? But, generally speaking, unless it was extreme and dangerous, weather tended to be toward the bottom of a list of the zillions of other things we had to pay attention to each day.

Our lives took place mostly indoors. We recreated mostly by going to the movies, mall, or inside the homes of our friends. Except on rare occasions, weather was something to be avoided. While I do recall some wonderful outside dining experiences, most days were like a scene from Goldilocks – too hot or too cold. Those “just right” days where we had the time, opportunity, and desire to be outside for a few hours were, sadly, pretty rare.

In case you find yourself thinking, “Oh, she must be exaggerating,” consider this. On work days, I’d go from the house to my car, then to the underground parking space in my office building where I’d take the elevator up to my office on the sixth floor. Maybe I’d take a cab to lunch or a meeting. Then after a long day with precious little fresh air, I’d head back to the parking garage before trudging home, often in the dark, always in grueling traffic, to our centrally heated/air conditioned house in the suburbs of Washington, DC. We kept the windows closed there most of the time because it was a busy (translate, noisy) neighborhood. On weekends, we’d wind up driving around doing errands that we hadn’t gotten to during the week.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining; mine was hardly a tough life. But these days, after living in Montana for so many years, I’ve become a huge fan of being outside and enjoying the weather and I no longer care if the weather’s “just right.”

Recently, on one of those days when the clouds were low and the temperature hovered somewhere between rain and snow, David and I headed to Glacier National Park. We parked at Lake McDonald Lodge, clamped on our snowshoes and headed up the trail toward Sperry. We hiked about 2 miles to the footbridge crossing before turning around and heading back. It rained a little, snowed a little, and glistened a lot. It was awesome.

Often on those hikes I contemplate the contrast between my city years and my small town life today. Being outside regularly, taking a weekend hike, these are pleasures we’ve come to relish. We were meant to connect to nature all year long. I know that now but suspect I might never have figured it out in the city. It’s just another lesson rural American taught me and I’m grateful for the insight. Think I’ll go take a hike now.

Diane Smith is the founder and CEO of American Rural where she works to create greater awareness of the growing opportunities for those who choose to live, work and prosper in rural and small town America. Learn more about Diane by following her column here or visit American Rural at AmericanRural.org.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.