A Productive Afternoon on the James River Rock

Dio scenting the breeze from upriver

Dio scenting the breeze from upriver. This dog lives for our daily walks. 

This morning, while searching scientific journals for compelling geology stories for the March issue of EARTH magazine, I stumbled upon a study in PLOS ONE exploring the link between creativity and the outdoors:

According to a study by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas, creativity is boosted by spending time outside, away from electronic devices. 

Well, duh. Anybody who spends time outside, away from screens, knows how good it feels. But still, I’m glad to see the link between walking and well-being getting some love from the scientific community. I am blissfully well aware of the productive benefits of a daily walk outside, but I realize that a lot of people might not be; in our high-tech, high-speed, high-stress world the simplest solutions are often overlooked.

When I was in college, I got into the habit of taking a long walk outside everyday and have reaped so much health and happiness from my daily walks that I prioritize them with religious fervor. Missing even one day is unacceptable — malaise sets in by dinnertime and my dogs are restless all evening.

Getting outside everyday in the winter, when days are cold and short, can be a challenge. Lately, I’ve been interrupting my work day at 3pm to go for a 2-hour hike on the Appalachian Trail.

My walks are spent hiking and thinking, sitting, looking and listening, delighting in the feel of weakly warm winter sun on my face, watching my happy dogs enjoy their two favorite hours of the day. I always emerge from my walks lighter and clearer, with a notepad full of ideas– emails to send, essays to write, trips to plan – and the creative energy to make them happen.

Here are a few photos from yesterday’s hike to the James River Rock, which is just far enough off the beaten trail that it feels like my own private Terabithia… 

Bowie Chillaxing

Bowie Chillaxing

Bluff Mountain. My morning commute on the AT runs from the other side of this ridge to the summit and then down this side to my house.

Bluff Mountain. My morning commute on the AT runs from the other side of this ridge, along the cliffs to the summit and then down this side to my house.

A train! I counted 150 cars!

A train! I counted 150 cars! Each railcar holds 110 tons of coal, so we’re looking at 16,500 tons here. These trains roll past my house at least ten times a day. Where does all that coal come from and where does it go? Sounds like an idea for another post!

Afternoon by the River James

Afternoon by the River James

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently traveling the backroads from New Mexico to Alaska, writing and living out of a tiny Teardrop camper. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Appalachian Trail, Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Sustainable Living, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A Productive Afternoon on the James River Rock

  1. amberlife says:

    I go for a 40 minute walk pretty much every week day lunchtime otherwise I’d be at my desk for 9 hours going quietly bonkers! Yesterday was very cold and there was only me and a Cormorant down on the seafront. Perfect :0)

  2. Tourism Oxford says:

    Reblogged this on Tourism Oxford and commented:
    I certainly agree with you. I love getting out on the trails with my camera. You just never know what you may see or meet!

    • Quite true! Yesterday I met a hunter out looking for a renegade hunting dog (I pointed him up a creek where I heard baying) and a hiker wearing all browns and blues. I gave him one of my extra bright orange vests. Gotta be seen to be safe in hunting season! It was a good day in the woods. :)

  3. sedonagirl says:

    (Don’t take this creepy but) I love your life Mary! I always look forward to your posts. You inspire me to empower my own life. And I am. Your life is like a parallel of my dream of my life when I was ‘your age’ . But at the time, I let my circumstances determine my path instead of knowing that choosing my own path would lead me to my desired circumstances. Better late than never!! On with the adventure :)

    • Thank you! Inspiration is one of the very best compliments. I like your take on paths and circumstances. Do you live in Sedona? Beautiful place! Thanks for reading! M

      • sedonagirl says:

        I am actually a New Hampshire girl, but am in love with the Red Rocks. When I sell my home here I am hitting the road in my 21′ Travel Trailer. I took my ‘maiden voyage’ down the Eastern Shore in October-November. Loved it. I plan to be in AZ next winter, but open to whatever adventure is inspired on the way. I have a truck tent for more nimble, off road exploring. Yay!

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