A few years ago, Kurt Hoelting, a wilderness guide and commercial fisherman living in the San Juan Islands in Washington, took an online quiz to calculate his carbon footprint. He was living fairly simply, so he was shocked to find that his carbon footprint was gigantic. The culprit? Air travel. So Hoelting made a resolution. He would spend an entire year only traveling within a 60 mile circumference of his house and using only public transportation, his bike, his kayak, and his feet. He wrote a book about his experience called The Circumference of Home.
In an interview Hoelting said that his experiment made him see the world from a new vantage point. His first adventure was walking a 130 mile circle around the Skagit Basin and Whidbey Island, and he expected a nice, long wilderness hike. But he was shocked at how complicated walking turned out to be, because our world is built for cars, not foot-travel. As Hoelting walked, he noticed “nooks and crannies” of wildness everywhere that he’d been missing when traveling by car.
Hoelting’s experiment made me think about my own walks. I love to walk, and I’ve walked nearly every day for as long as I can remember. Thus for much of my life, I’ve been exploring circles around the different places I’ve lived. Recently I was on a walk in the hills near my house. It was a route I’ve taken dozens of times before. But this time I noticed something I’d never seen before: at the end of a cul-de-sac, it looked like there was a path leading into the trees.
It was a rare occasion where I didn’t have my son or his stroller with me, so I followed the path. I found myself in a city park that I’d never heard of or seen on a map. I only knew it was a park because of the city’s sign, which is lying on the ground in the undergrowth. Trees have fallen across the trail in places. And I’ve yet to see another person there even though I now visit regularly. It’s just as Hoelting described – an unexpected pocket of wild in the middle of a residential neighborhood. And I’m sure I never would have noticed it from inside a car.
I can’t tell you how much visiting this little patch of wilderness has added to our lives. My son and I call it the “forest”, and when we talk about it, my son says, “deer!”, because we so often watch deer grazing there. We also listen to birdcalls and look for different kinds of bugs and just sit together on a log and soak up the forest, which is something I’d missed, because like Hoelting, my family lives a lot more locally these days than we used to.
It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago, we didn’t know this wonderful place existed. What else might we be missing right outside our door?
If you liked this post, you may enjoy these popular posts:
- The Art of Walking
- Out of the Wild
- Living Local
- Confessions from the Car-Free Life
- Learning to Listen Again