Walking Stick Adventures at Quechee State Park

Walking Stick Adventure at Quechee State Park
by Lisa Fisher

The morning is quiet along route 4 as a small group of people gather in front of the Quechee Gorge Visitor Center. They are all wearing walking shoes of some sort and carry a waterbottle. Some even carry walking sticks, "what are they doing out here at 6:30 on a Thursday morning?" You ask. They are here is begin a walking stick adventure. As they gather they are greeted by the Park Ranger who explains the purpose of this adventure.

“Welcome to our walking stick adventure. Today we will be rambling to the bottom of the Gorge and back This is a journey of discovery, we are on an adventure to connect or re-connect with nature. To see, hear, feel, and breathe the forest. This is known in Japan as Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”. The purpose of this journey is to breathe in the natural oils that the forest releases and de-stress and boost our immune systems. This ramble is a chance for us to re-connect with a less stressful and healthier self and will last approximately 60-90 minutes. If you have any questions please feel free to ask, or if at any point you need or want to stop, or turn back, just let me know. If everyone is ready… let us begin to walk… and to … breathe.”

So the journey starts down the stairs and below route 4, the sounds of traffic are muffled. As we reach the bottom of the trail and turn on to the main trail we can hear the traffic as it crosses the bridge; ”thump, thump; thump, thump.” As we progress further into the Gorge gradually the sounds of traffic melt away and the sounds of the forest take over. We can hear the birds calling in the trees and a chickadee flits by. A squirrel chatters his displeasure over something, perhaps that we are disturbing his peace. Below and to the right you can hear the river as it winds it way through the Gorge, tumbling over rocks and small falls as it rushes to the bottom. The air is heavy with humidity and the scent of the pines and as you breathe deeply you can almost taste it. Just a slow walk, breathing deeply, stopping to touch a tree and feel it’s texture, and perhaps even the energy that surrounds it. Perhaps another stop to watch a couple of chipmunks chasing each other around a large oak, Someone, laughs at their antics and they run away to hide. Scolding us as they go. Now we have reached the bottom, how peaceful to just stop here for a moment and watch the river lazily flowing over the massive rock formations that have been carved out of the century, to maybe walk out on the rocks, and stick your fingers or toes in the water. To see new life spring up in the wake of last years flood.

Now the walk back begins, back to civilization and our everyday hustle and bustle. As we climb out of the Gorge, we notice things we may not have seen on our way down, a pretty rock, a fallen leaf, the smell of the river. Slowly we work out way back to the top, stopping occasionally to rest and just breathe. Gradually the sounds of traffic intrude into our peaceful interlude. “Thump, thump; thump, thump” go the tires of the vehicles on the bridge. Some will leave the group here to go up to the bridge and look down into the Gorge the rest of us will continue back up the path, back to the Visitor’s center, back to the beginning. Our adventure is done, for now. There will be another next month and a full moon hike as well. This is simply a beginning. Now it is up to us to continue, or not, as we choose. Perhaps… we will all meet again at the next one. Until then… Breathe!

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