From The Invention of Nature, Alexander Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wolf:
Humboldt had always walked, from his boyhood rambles in Tegel’s forests to his trek through the Andes. Even as a sixty-year-old, he had impressed his travel companions in Russia with his stamina, walking and climbing for hours. Voyages on foot, Humboldt said, taught him the poetry of nature. He was feeling nature by moving through it.
For me, being alone and “out there” in nature, where my senses are fully awake, is a counterbalance to engaging with the world through a trackpad. Hiking, running, scrambling for hours—duration and intensity lead to a positive and creative state of mind that I have trouble accessing without regular treks through the mountains. For the longest time I felt that I could hike my way to happiness.
All that said, I’ve started to drift away from hiking as a physical practice, because I cannot ignore the ongoing destruction of our natural parks and public lands. I'm part of the problem. You're part of the problem. We are all part of the damn problem. I’m talking about excessive tourism and over-crowding, noise pollution, vandalism, trampled vegetation, streams saturated with synthetic waste, logging, drilling, and abundant litter scattered from the parking lot to the tundra tree line. I once found a heap of trash at 12,000 feet, only a few hundred steps below the summit. There were bags of cans, bottles, tape, condoms, human waste, spent fuel canisters, syringes, plastic wrap, and prepackaged meal wrappers spread across the trail. Leave No Trace has become nothing more than a slogan.
The trail compels you to know yourself and to be yourself, and puts you in harmony with the universe. It makes you glad to be living. It gives health, hope, and courage, and it extends that touch of nature which tends to make you kind. — Enos Mills
We all want to be closer to Nature. We want to see the mountains, smell the pine, taste the air, and soak in the earthly stuff that radiates from the wild. But as long as we continue to live thinking that nature exists only to support our interests, our own wellbeing, we will continue to degrade the natural world, and our natural parks will cease to exist. I don’t mean to end on such a bleak note, but it’s getting harder to maintain hope that our children will have an opportunity to walk the lands and to learn the poetry of nature as we have done throughout our lives.