Spring is here and it’s the perfect time to dust off your hiking boots and get outside! Spring is my favorite time of year to roam in nature; the environment is awakening and new growth is bursting forth. It also tends to be a little less busy on the trails than the hectic Seattle summer that’s just around the corner.
An important, and often overlooked, aspect of naturopathic medicine is the recommendation to spend time in nature. One of the early influencers of the medicine, Adolf Just, had this to say about human health and nature:
“In all cases, and in all diseases, man can recover again and become happy only by a true return to nature; a man must today strenuously endeavor, in his mode of living, to heed again the voice of nature, and thus choose the food that nature has laid before him from the beginning, and to bring himself again into the relation with water, light and air, earth, etc., that nature originally designed for him.” (Return to Nature, Just 1903).
Getting outside is more than just burning calories and breaking a sweat — which are important, too! Especially the sweating, but more on that in a later post. Being outdoors takes you out of the modern world; it quiets the constant buzz of overloaded schedules and connects us with what our ancestors were surrounded by daily for millennia. That hardwiring is still present in us, however far removed from it we have become. Spending time in nature is grounding, calming, and nourishing to our minds and bodies. Shake off the stillness and seclusion of winter and usher in the new vibrancy of spring by experiencing it first hand in the beautiful mountains, foothills, seashores, lakes, rivers, forests, and islands we have at our fingertips in the Puget Sound.
My favorite outdoor activity in the spring is waterfall hiking. It’s a bit early to really get up into the mountains, as the snow hasn’t receded enough. But, what has melted turns lazy and frozen winter waterfalls into gushing, vertical rapids. The sound can be deafening and the feeling of being next to so much force and beauty is both overwhelming and awe-inspiring. The waterfall is spring embodied: raw energy pushing toward growth and nourishment, laying the foundation for the abundance of summer.
I’m waxing a bit poetic about waterfalls and nature, but they really are amazing to experience from a few feet away. So, on to the practicalities getting out into nature! Where do you start? Washington has a great many resources for nature lovers, and one of my favorites is the Washington Trails Association, or WTA. They have a fantastic website, www.wta.org, which catalogs hundreds of hikes throughout Washington. You can see miles, elevation, reviews and pictures from other nature enthusiasts. It’s also very helpful for assessing trail conditions. They even have a summary of 10 stunning waterfall hikes here!
Twin Falls is a great choice for beginners; short and sweet and not too far away along the I-90 corridor. It can be busy, as it is suitable for all ages, but worth the trip. Wallace Falls is another perennial favorite of mine, as it’s a three-for-one deal! Three sets of falls await you, and the trail is well maintained and along a beautiful river. The third set of falls is small and far away, but a good option if you are looking to get in some extra miles. Past the third set of falls there’s a lake as well. Wallace Falls is also very popular, but the crowds decrease significantly once you pass the second set of falls. And again, less busy in the spring! Teneriffe Falls, located in the North Bend area, is a less traveled though rewarding trail. Otter Falls is a long, flat walk through the forest until you reach a rock slab with a calm water flow passing over it.
My personal favorite is Lake Serene. Arguably, this hike is better done late in the season if you want to go all the way up to the lake (the trail is typically partially snow covered until July/August depending on the year). However, there is a beautiful set of falls (Bridal Veil Falls) located off an accessory trail about one mile into the hike. The best part about this hike is that you get views and a waterfall! It’s not often those are combined. If you are able, doing the full mileage up to the lake is worth every step. The name is apt, as the lake is socked in between mountains, its unbroken surface reflecting the tranquility of the area. There are plenty of places to sit and eat. Climb a little farther, and you’ve got views of the whole valley. This hike packs some much northwest flavor it’s hard to top!
A waterfall hike is a sure bet in the spring. Unpredictable weather will not ruin your view, and the falls are truly breathtaking. Spending time in nature, surrounded by forces and natural structures that are larger than yourself, can be a reset button for your entire system. Breathe the fresh air, linger in the woods, soak in the beauty, and feel your anxiety, tension, and stress melt away. Allow yourself to be present and receive the experience. Spring is a time for new beginnings; begin a connection with the rhythm of the natural world.