Wandering through nature, from sunrise to sundown, with no plan, no telephone and no watch. That, in short, is a Muir Trek. Journalist Caroline Buijs went on one, and shares her experience.
We take turns to determine which way to go on our ramble, and the best part is that during a Muir Trek you don’t have to stay on the path. You’re actually supposed to go off the beaten track. John Muir never walked on paths. So, all of a sudden, I am walking right through the woods. It takes some getting used to, and I’m constantly trampling on blueberries, but apparently, they are quite resilient. We hold on to branches for each other, the same way you hold a door open for someone in the civilized world, to prevent them from snapping back into their faces.
By leaving the paths, we get much closer to other living creatures; we even run into a family of wild boars before breakfast. We can see them sliding down a hillside from a little way off; they don’t seem to notice we’re there. During a Muir Trek, you can also stay put in one place if you like it. Suddenly I find myself, following the lead of the other group members, investigating a half-dead tree whose bark is loose, and when you look under it, huge numbers of insects are living there. Next I am studying in detail a yellow-flecked mushroom that I’ve never seen before.
I don’t look up its name, because we left our field guides at home, and I have to admit this helps me look at it more closely. We barely run into anyone on our walk, and now and then it feels like we are all alone in the forest. I’m not too keen to be the one who decides which way we walk next, but after lunch it’s my turn and it actually comes naturally.
It’s funny to realize how something as minor as taking the lead confronts me with myself, because halfway through my turn, I start feeling doubts: Do the others also enjoy walking on the heath? Shouldn’t I be going the other way? Shouldn’t we go back into the woods? I stop and stand still, but Femke encourages me: “You’re in charge now.” I decide that this is something I could do more of in my daily life, listening to what I want and not always worrying about what other people may think about my decisions.
- More about walking in nature can be found in Issue 14.
Text Caroline Buijs Photography ©Paul Gilmore/Unsplash