This last Sunday my family was at home lounging around, not really doing much. We have two kids (a 4-year-old boy and a 2-year-old boy). The boys were acting restless—squabbling, whining and what not. It was starting to get on my nerves and so I suggested we all hop in the car for a car ride. I didn’t have much of a plan about where we would go, but eventually we found ourselves driving up Provo Canyon. And before I knew it, I had turned the car to drive up the Alpine Loop.
As we got higher up the mountainside and deeper into the forest, I found that I experienced a distinct mental shift. It’s difficult to describe, but I think the word reverence might possibly be applicable. I felt quieted. I felt a sense of awe. I also felt a sense of gratitude.
And I know I wasn’t the only one. Everyone in the family seemed a little more reposed. We turned off the DVD player and the kids started looking out the window at the rivers and streams, the flowers, the trees. (My husband spotted a deer at one point.) We turned off the air conditioning and rolled down the windows to smell the pines.
When it was all over, my husband said: “Let’s do this every week.”
Later that night, I saw that a friend of mine had posted on Facebook: “New favorite place: Alpine Loop. I can’t believe I live in such a beautiful place. Like mountain biking through the Sound of Music.” And in the comments for that post he had written: “I had a transcendent experience in that canyon, both in the bike and in the car.”
On Monday, I sent a postcard to a neighbor who seemed to be down on Sunday that had a picture of the Alpine Loop and told her about the experience. She later sent me an email to thank me for the postcard and said: “My mom’s favorite thing to do is to drive into the mountains, so I spent many an hour there as a child. It never ceases to lift my spirits.”
What is it that causes such a deep mental/spiritual/emotional shift when we are in nature? What makes places like the Alpine Loop have such a magical effect on us? Please share your theories (or your own experiences) in the comments.