My husband and I celebrated our 21st anniversary this past weekend with a trip to Decorah, a small college town in northeast Iowa. I am truly in my element when hiking in the woods is part of the agenda. The quiet and the solitude, the sounds and smells of the woods, the views from the bluffs, that In The Moment tranquility – well, there’s just nothing like it. And whenever I’m in this special place of mine, I always wonder why I don’t do this more often.


Bathed in the glow of a brilliant sunset, with our minds calm and serene after a brisk hike through the park, serenaded along the way by the low-pitch croaks of what sounded like a thousand bullfrogs, this was a perfect way to end the day.

Nature is like that. She soothes and delights, amazes and inspires. And precisely why we should embrace more of her every chance we get.

Inspired by recent conversations with family as well as posts that I’ve read here in The Land of Blog, I’ve compiled my own Bucket List of adventures, goals and achievements to strive for before the days, weeks, months and years really start to slip away from me…

The point of creating a Bucket List, to my way of thinking, isn’t (or shouldn’t be) another means of self-flagellation for things not done or opportunities frittered away but rather as a vehicle for self-exploration, for contemplating your inner wants and needs, passions and desires and in the process of enumerating goals and perhaps unattainable ideals, learning something about what really means the most to you.

I’ve created my Bucket List – the beginnings of one anyway – fresh off the heels of a life-changing trip to Estes Park where my husband and I reveled in the joy and beauty of hiking in the Rocky Mountains.  This analysis of what I’d like to do and achieve prior to kicking the proverbial bucket, in part, reinforced (as did our hiking adventures this fall) the great satisfaction I found in participating in outdoor activities in my 20s and 30s – camping, hiking, spelunking, rappelling, exploring – gloriously fun times spent both with friends and with my son as well as solitary forays into the woods to hike or photograph or just spend time alone to think.

And so, what I’ve inscribed onto my Bucket List thus far is as follows:

  1. Master our new Canon 70D SLR
  2. Get myself published on Freshly Pressed
  3. Hike the Grand Canyon
  4. Relearn to crochet
  5. Bag me a 14er in Colorado
  6. Visit and explore New England
  7. Visit and explore Alaska
  8. Visit and explore Scotland, England and Ireland
  9. Experience Niagara Falls
  10. Drive up along Michigan’s North Shore Drive
  11. Travel to Instanbul
  12. Learn to kayak

Working towards one’s goals can serve, also, as a motivator like none other.  I know exercise and eating well is something I need to and should do for good health.  It’s a gnawing concern and one I strive to manage.  But yearning to hike to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain – and I ain’t getting any younger! – is going to require more than just sheer will and determination.  I need to prepare my body for this particular goal.  Visualizing myself standing at the top one of those magnificent peaks is more than adequate motivation to get myself in shape to accomplish my objective.

Travel and photography, well, I already know I love these pursuits so including them on my list with the goal of learning more and expanding what I already know, what I’ve already seen and done, is exciting and enticing.  I learned to crochet in my early 20s and have never returned to it.  I believe it’s time now to do so.  And what WordPress blogger doesn’t dream of being featured on Freshly Pressed?

This list may not stand, it may (and should!) change over time and hopefully, by the end of 2015, I’ll have #5 crossed off, and perhaps replaced with the goal of bagging yet another.  We’re already researching options and making plans.  For me, planning an adventure is half the fun!

So.  What’s on YOUR bucket list?


The winding, hilly path from the main, north entrance of the park to the back entrance to the south and east covers almost three miles and as such, is the perfect course to train for 10k runs or, if one is a little less ambitious, overall fitness goals like improved stamina and a slimmer waistline.

While I’d actually once run entrance to entrance (and back again) with a girlfriend, I normally preferred to simply walk this somewhat challenging route instead. Either way, it provided me with an effective workout and besides, I always loved the peaceful, quiet setting surrounded by thick woods, native flora, birds, squirrels and other wildlife that called this place home. I recall once seeing a doe resting in the shadows along a hiking path and being surprised by a garter snake underfoot at the bottom of a steep trail as well as wild turkeys that quietly emerged from the deep woods totally unaware of my presence as I hiked. My son and I enjoyed stumbling across puffball mushrooms and the occasional morel and we also took great delight in small discoveries such as the three small stone bridges built along one of the trails. And every trip to Pilot Knob State Park required we make the steep climb to the tower with its stellar view of the surrounding countryside.


Some thirty years later I’m struck by the realization that if only I had continued with those daily treks, where my hour long hikes led me up and down a variety of paths and horse trails throughout the park, I might be in pretty fantastic physical shape right now. Our recent trip to Colorado (where my husband and I experienced true elevation!) reminded me of those tranquil moments that my son and I both enjoyed with so much satisfaction. When my legs were weary and my spirit even more so, I would utter the mantra I’ve used my entire adult life: one foot in front of the other, keep moving forward. And so too, I must look toward possibilities of what I can and might and WILL do rather than nurturing regrets and grievances over what I have failed to accomplish or to dwell on mistakes that I’ve made.

Nature is like that. Beautiful, serene and thought provoking. A wondrous cocoon, a place that offers both comfort and protection as well as a harsh landscape that demands respect and must be navigated with care, Mother Earth tugs at something deep within us as nothing else can or does. Sadly, there are too many who have allowed material, superficial ‘realities’ – wants, needs and desires driven by marketing ploys and a 24×7 culture – to negate and minimize and essentially diminish (if not destroy) any recognition of what our planet has to offer.

But for those of us who see and appreciate the beauty all around us, we are forever changed by the possibilities and opportunities to live a pretty heady life of wonder, adventure, peace and joy!