Hiker Notebooks, #12: Gratitude, Part 2

In yet another installment in our ongoing series about thoughts or drawings people have left in our hiker notebooks, this is the second in a mini-series on gratitude (see also our first “gratitude” post), as it is an emotion that is very frequently expressed by hikers in their notebook entries, I think for somewhat obvious reasons — at least for anyone likely to be reading this blog post. Those who enjoy getting out in nature on a well-constructed trail with views and a variety of environments are all too likely to be grateful for the experience. As we are too. Read and enjoy what these visitors have felt inspired to write at the top of the trail.

Our first highlighted entry, as many have been, comes from a visitor, not a resident. From “KL” on October 20, 2012, they write: “My first and maybe only time here — coming from gray, rainy Seattle — this place feels so different and refreshing. There are so many places in the world — big towns, small towns — with people who are happy and sad. But if they got outside and visited this tree with the unusual pods [likely the California Buckeye] and looked out to the hills and trees and water and all the people doing all the things in the valley — it would make them feel just a little bit better, I think.” We agree, KL, we are right there with you.

From a person even farther away we have this entry from a visitor from Ames, Iowa on the 14th of November, 2012. “We live on such a beautiful Earth. As I sit here and write, a brilliant green hummingbird calls on the buckeye branch, with a dark throat and glints of the most amazing purplish red, flashing in the sunlight. Life is such a blessing. Do I really have to hike back down the hill? In gratitude to those who made this trail and maintain it…” Right back atcha, Ames, Iowa. We love that you are so grateful for the trail. It inspires us too, all the time.

Our next entry, from January 16, 2013, by Sam, is an introspective reflection on gratitude and feeling blessed, which hiking the trail clearly so often inspires: “A heavenly beauty surrounds me on this mountain. A gentle haze blankets the valley as my life achieves clarity. Becoming whole in myself I am grateful for everything life has given me. I strive to make the world a better place and know that we are all here for a reason.  Thank you for this gift. It is truly a blessing. Love to the world, Sam.” You seem like a really fine person, Sam, to be so grateful for what you have been blessed with and your desire to make the world a better place. We wish you all the best in your life’s journey, and we hope that you will once again return to the trail one day.

Our final entry for this post is really hard to argue with, and frankly needs no embellishment or even transcription. We love it too, whomever you are, we do too.

Hiker Notebooks #11: Gratitude, Part 1

The sentiments that hikers express the most in our hiker notebooks are appreciation and gratitude. We have so many entries that express these feelings that we must write multiple blog posts about them to cover even just the best of those thoughts. This seems to indicate that many, many hikers have the same thoughts as we stewards do toward the trail and the property that it traverses — we love it. And we deeply appreciate what it provides to us in our lives. We’re glad that so many can drink from the same well and get so much back from the experience.

We start this post about gratitude with one of the most direct, and beautifully depicted, sentiments along these lines: “What a Beautiful Day to be Alive!” the hiker exclaims to the world. Take a moment to think about the hiker who paused long enough to inscribe, multiple times, in the same lovely script, those deeply felt words. Many of us have been there as well, but perhaps didn’t take the time to so artfully express our emotions in the notebook. I know I haven’t, but I’ve felt the very same thing.

This next entry spoke to me personally, as my wife and I have daughters whom we raised in Sonoma (yes, we know, “Slownoma” to the younger generations) and went off to big cities far away. Although I may harbor a fantasy that they may one day move back like these young people, I’m not sure if that’s a reasonable desire. But despite my personal feelings on the subject, it’s just really cool to know that the Overlook Trail has held a special place in their hearts, and could welcome them home like nothing else could. [A side note: what is a “sophisticated” trail hike? Not sure I’ve been on one, LOL]

We move on to a visitor from Seattle, who expresses something I think a lot of us can get behind: simply getting outdoors and experiencing nature. On October 20 2012, the hiker wrote: “My first and maybe only time here — coming from gray, rainy Seattle — this place feels so different and refreshing. There are so many places in the world — big towns, small towns — with people who are happy and sad. But if they got outside and visited this tree with the unusual pods [most likely a buckeye] and looked out to the hills and trees and water and all the people doing all the things in the valley — it would make them feel just a little better, I think.” We agree, “KL”, we agree.

Reading through all of the hiker notebooks has been a joy, as so many hikers have expressed positive emotions during their hikes — even when dealing with serious life issues, as they have felt like their time in nature has helped them to deal with tough times. I know that it would be the first place I would head when struggling. So all of this appreciation, gratitude, and love is both fully expected and yet inspiring. It’s why we do what we do.

Team Building on the Trail

Today a global technology team took a long hike that started on the Montini Preserve, and finished on the Overlook Trail and Mountain Cemetery. With over 50 people in attendance from all over the world (see the picture to the right), it was something to behold. Attendees were from the U.S., Canada, Israel, Japan, China, the Czech Republic, and who knows where else. They were here in the Bay Area for their annual conference for employees and customers of the Scylla NoSQL parallel database system.

The hike was very ably led by Melissa Beasley and Lisa Turchet, both yoga instructors and hike leaders for The Lodge at Sonoma. Melissa led the hike and Lisa made sure no one was left behind. This hike was part of a “thank you” as well as a team building exercise for the company, as with any very distributed company it can be difficult to build relationships that are challenged by both distance and time zone issues. Having been a part of a global organization, I know these challenges personally. Face time is really important, especially in a relaxed atmosphere such as a nature hike.

So it was good that our trails could be used to build relationships, introduce visitors to the awesomeness that is the Sonoma Valley, and generally show them a good time. Thank you to The Lodge at Sonoma, and particularly to the hike leaders Melissa Beasley and Lisa Turchet, for leading such a great event on our cherished trails!

Hiker Notebooks #10: Philosophy

As we continue this series of blog posts about the best entries in our hiker notebooks over the years (chosen by me alone, it must be pointed out), this one focuses on those who wax philosophical when writing in our notebooks. To be sure, I only have a couple entries to highlight, but others have been philosophical as well, but I have slotted them into other categories that seemed to match what they were being philosophical about.

This first entry is brief and to the point, but it makes you think: “7 billion people experienced this day in a different way.” I often think about this when I travel — especially when it is a country that is vastly different than the United States. As I experience their very different reality it makes me think that on any single day as I go about my day where I live, these people in this other country have a very different experience of that day. Of course our hiker is pointing out that we ALL experience our day differently, even in the same household. And he or she is true, we do. Something to think about, and especially what effect it may have on how everyone ends up viewing the world.

Our next hiker is intent on making us all feel better, and have more empathy and understanding for our fellow travelers. Jeremy, as he signs his post, advises us to “Be mindful of the human condition — we are all lonely, scared, and sad, but together, helping one another we can love, laugh and feel strong. DO GOOD!”

It’s really hard to argue with that. Keep waxing philosophical, hikers! We read and “see” you. You’re awesome.

Hiker Notebooks #9: Love

This is another one of our series of posts about entries that Sonoma Overlook Trail hikers have left in our hiker notebook, which can be found on the bench at the top of the trail. This post is focused on a topic that we all…well…love. That is, LOVE (sorry, I went there, and I’m not proud of it).

It’s hard to argue that there is a human emotion more deep and potentially dangerous than this one. Love is where we feel the most utter joy and can be hurt just as deeply. If your heart is open to love then it is also open to be hurt, and that can be a difficult thing for anyone. And yet the first entry I’m highlighting isn’t wrong either. “Love is everything!” it boldly states, with tremendous confidence, and you won’t find me arguing with it.

But perhaps it worth pointing out that “love” comes in a variety of guises. It doesn’t always and only mean romantic love. You can love your dog or cat, you can love a wilderness area (I have many, but primary among them is the Grand Canyon). You can love a piece of music. You can love cooking a particular dish. I’m not saying these “loves” are equal in their intensity and meaning to your life, but I just want to say that, yes, love is indeed everything. If you aren’t loving something, each and every day, no matter how relatively inconsequential, then perhaps reassess your life choices. Because, you know, love is everything. 

One of the reasons why it is, is deftly expressed by another hiker who writes, “Everything is always so beautiful when you’re in love.” Yes, indeed it is. So why not be in love every single day? And in whatever way that is meaningful for you. Clearly, a lot of people love to hike the Sonoma Overlook Trail, and that means that those people have love in their life whenever their foot falls on the dusty or muddy trail, which could be, for some, almost every day. And what’s not to like about that?

This next entry, penned on Mother’s Day 2012, kind of blows the door off this car, as you will soon see, written from a man to his wife. “Happy Mother’s Day [redacted],” it begins, “Let this mountain be my witness to a proclamation of love: I love you with all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body. I have for as long as I recall. And I will forever more. Please hear my message. And receive it with your heart as well. I am not afraid, because love is all powerful, and with ours no obstacle is too great, no challenge too difficult. As our love endures, so shall we. Thank you for being in my life, and for being the most amazing woman, wife, spirit, artist, lover, friend, adventurer, and mother, that I could have ever imagined. Yours forever.” WOW. Just…WOW. All the best, you guys. I mean, srsly.

And lastly, we have a message about those just beginning their journey of love. I’m sure you’re with me as I wish them all the best in their life together. And as a trail steward, it really means a lot to me that their family began their special day hiking the trail, and sharing something about their special day with the rest of us. Thank you for that. “Six of our family are taking this hike on a special day,” it begins, “Today we will celebrate the marriage of Ryan and Alina and we will all remember coming together to reflect on their love — and on our love of family — in this beautiful place.” Yes, indeed. We hear you, and share you best wishes and sentiments.

As I write this, I’m approaching my 36th anniversary with my beautiful wife. I couldn’t have asked for better. I certainly didn’t deserve it. I’m grateful, and clearly some of those writing entries in our Hiker Notebooks are as well. Please keep them coming.

We hear you.

Hiker Notebooks #8: Appreciation, Part 1

In this series about the entries that hikers have written into our Hikers Notebook left on the stone bench at the top of the trail, appreciation reigns supreme. We have had more entries expressing appreciation than any other category. This isn’t surprising to me or anyone else who loves the trail, and what it provides us — for some us, on a daily, or nearly daily basis. For me, it’s my spin class, my psychiatrist, and my health coach. It’s my spiritual advisor, my friend, and my love. So…yeah. Appreciation in spades.

Our first entry is astonishing in its simplicity and yet heartfelt sentiment. “Hello everyone, I love (heart) Sonoma Overlook Trail.” Thank you, whomever penned that, as we do too. You’re in some very good company, and we hope you come back often. It’s hard to get more direct than that.

A much more thorough and nuanced entry is our next highlight. The author expresses a lot of thoughts that many of us feel, and that bring many of us back, day after day. “I’m so thankful to have places like this in my life,” he or she writes, as if reading my mind, “a chance to be at peace with the stresses of our environment, our jobs, our lives.” Yes, so that.

“I wish more people could experience beauty like this, and truly appreciate its healing powers.” We do too.

“This book is a great idea. Thanks to whomever put it here!” You’re most welcome.

“Musically yours.” Whomever you are, thank you for that wonderful entry. We hope you get to experience the “healing powers” of being out there as much as you want and need.

Next I want to highlight two very brief entries. This first one is so droll that I can’t figure out if it is serious or not. I like to think of it as being just plain funny. But even if it’s completely serious, I still think it’s funny. “I had a mediocre time,” it begins, and yet ends with “This place is okay,” signed, “Allee”. Yeah, Allee, it’s pretty darn OK. Glad you think so too.

This final entry I imagine comes from a young person, whom I also imagine is coming to learn that being out in nature can be a great way to spend some time. “Hikes are fun,” it reads, with a big drawn heart. You know, we think so too, so we’re glad that you’ve discovered a love of hiking, which will be your friend throughout your lifetime.

I began my hiking life with my family as a boy, in the Sierra Nevada, and then went on to hike almost all of the (mostly unmaintained) trails in the Grand Canyon from 18-21, until I became a commercial river guide and discovered an entirely new way to experience the wilderness of the Grand Canyon and elsewhere. But trail hiking (and running) have always been a part of my life.

I’m just happy that many of our Hiker Notebooks entries also express a deep appreciation of what being out in nature provides. We who maintain the trail hear your appreciation, we share it, and we thank you for expressing it.

Hiker Notebooks #7: Determination

This series of blog entries based on what Overlook Trail hikers have written in our Hikers Notebooks has been a lot of fun, but we are still far from over. This time we look at a couple of entries from a couple hikers determined to accomplish something in their lives, and they give every indication that they will be successful in achieving their goals. We wish them luck and godspeed!

This first one is short but very sweet. “Having my first baby,” she writes, “and want to hit 100 trails before he is born. Today will be hike #53 at Sonoma Overlook Trail.” Thank you for having our trail be part of your total! And we have no doubt that you can reach your goal, and giving your baby a very healthy start as part of the bargain. Our journal writer is not the only pregnant mother hiking the trail. Jes, a yoga teacher for The Lodge in Sonoma, leads hikes for guests on the trail, and she’s been doing it while still being fairly far along in her pregnancy. What a healthy thing to do for your unborn child!

Our other entry for this post is longer, and apparently from a graduating senior in 2016. “Here where I’m sitting,” it begins, “I’m going to promise myself that as much as people walk away or whatever life brings me I’m going to make the best of it. I’m going to try more. More in improving myself trying better to become a truly happy person. Basically ‘do you’ type of thing. I’m going to do what makes me happy and not going to let one simple thing bring my motivation down. Self-esteem needs to be higher!” We hope that now, a few years later, that you’ve met those goals you set for yourself. Somehow I think that you probably have.

Stay determined, Overlook hikers! There will be many challenges along the trails in your life, so we hope that traveling this one gave you more strength to handle those challenges. I know that it does for me.