Last Wednesday I did another hike into the northern “wilds” of Cantwell Cliffs. It wasn’t a particularly long hike, only about 2 miles, but it is pure bushwhacking through a trailless area. I also did it (as I do in this area) doing what I call “abo hiking”, that is, not wearing much at all, similar to the Australian aboriginals.
In many ways it is barefooting writ larger.
With abo hiking one feels a resonance with nature. Oh, I don’t mean a real “resonance” as a term in science and physics—I’m talking metaphorically. What I think happens is that the body is responding to the environment around it, and this is the kind of environment that our bodies are physiologically adapted to. They fit the environment and are sensitized to respond to it much more innately than to an office-like or industrialized urban environment.
As an analogy, our elbow joints are tuned to articulating in one particular one. If you restrict that with some sort of girdle, your body is continuously fighting against the girdle. It engenders stress on the joint, and there is accompanying mental stress. But when you are out in nature nearly naked, you’ve removed the girdles and all of your joints and senses and mental processes can operate ungirdled. Seriously, you really haven’t interacted fully with nature unless you’ve felt the wind (or even just unencumbered air) on your whole body, not just your face, arms, and legs. (Of course, shoes are just another sort of girdle, and badly designed ones, at that.)
[I have to note that, even though it may not look like it, that tree is suspended between its root ball on the left and where it hits the slope on the right, so I’m about 6 feet in the air in that picture.]
It is more than just physiological; it also has psychological effects. Your mind ungirdles too. It’s in an environment that resonates with it and it knows how it should “articulate”. Your mind is shaped to see trees and nature and brambles and paths and the places for our bare feet to land. When it is doing so, it has that chance to resonate without resistance.
Part of being ungirdled also includes the fact that our minds are geared towards looking for hazards.
One of those hazards at Cantwell Cliffs are green briars.
So while walking along our minds are plotting to do what they are shaped to do: get us through it safely. We are alert to where we are putting our feet, and our minds feel “in the groove”. We are even alert to where all the rest of the parts of our bodies are, because we need them to fit between nearly overlapping branches between two trees, or to avoid the briars on one side, or even to carefully step through a patch of briars.
We need our proprioception, the sense of knowing exactly where our body parts are located and how they are positioned, so that we fit a bare foot and leg through a small briar opening without getting our nakedness scratched.
In a trail-free area we sometimes spot and follow deer paths. But deer are a lot shorter than we are, so we also use our proprioception to bend over, or to lean to one side or the other, to continue along the path.
It is living. It is resonating with nature. It is being one with the intrinsics of our bodies. It is a renewal from our daily lives.
On with the hike.
Of course, there are also the specialties of nature out there. Shortly after starting I came across what must have been a large buried oak tree root, because there was this huge patch of squaw root.
These are regular angiosperm plants, not fungi or even gymnosperms like many ferns, but they don’t have chlorophyll. [Correction, as per the comments: I got confused about the difference between angiosperms and gymnosperms, which is the difference between seed-bearing and cone-bearing plants. The distinction I was trying to make was that these were not pteridophytes, which is the term for spore-bearing plants like ferns and club-mosses.] Instead they are parasites on the roots of oak trees. That’s how they resonate.
Further along you could tell fall is arriving, because fall is when it seems that the spiders are really out, building up for winter.
What I did on my hike was turn the opposite direction from my usual. Usually I head off nearly due north from where I park and head down the nose of a ridge right into the main valley. This time I went the other way, clockwise. (Click on it for the larger, more viewable version.)
That map is a bit of a change from my usual topo map. This time I decided to overlay the topo lines on top of the overhead view of the area. It’s a bit of a different perspective.
The red dots mark spots that I discuss later in this post.
In Hocking Hills it can sometimes get a bit tricky getting up or down along the cliff faces. There are many places without the cliffs, but when there is one, it can sometimes be a challenge.
But then there are also slump rocks. These are places where faults or week spots in the sandstone has allowed large chunks to slide away from the main face. That sometimes leads to opportunites, though, as the crack fills with debris, as I talk about in this video I shot at the first red dot.
As you can tell, in the end, I stayed at the upper level and continued around the top of the rim.
Farther along (second red dot), I came across this feature, looking straight down from above.
If I were a rockclimber, I could probably get up and down that pretty easily.
Even from above, I was easily able to identify it from when I’d gone past it from below in Slump Rock Gorge. Here’s the picture from then.
I next came to a water fall (dry that day) that it one of my favorite places in this part of Cantwell Cliffs. Here’s a view back from about halfway up the waterfall area. (3rd red dot; I’d gone past the spot to descend and had to backtrack.)
In the past, I’d always ascended back out, but this time I stayed down below, and got to see for the first time this interesting feature (the 4th red dot). This is a stitched, panoramic shot. Click on it for the full effect.
From there I (slowly) headed back through the valley, where I came across yet another neat marvel of nature, this fungus.
Finally at the end, I decided to ascend up the nose of the ridge back to my car. I always have a bit of trouble with not being exactly sure where I am down there (no, I don’t carry a compass, or if I do I never look at it—that’s for real emergencies) because of the thick vegetation and various unidentifiable small streams that come in from all direction. This visit was no exception, but I continued on until things looked “right”, and as you can see from the map, I hit the ridge right on the nose. It’s the little things in life . . .
Anyways, I love going back to this area. I’ve never met another person there and I get the chance for a spiritual and full-body renewal.
It really is a case of going barefoot all over.