By Paige Neidig – During every hike I take, I have this one notable moment of appreciation. It can happen at any time during my hike, but all at once I am hit with wonder, appreciation and gratitude for the life I’ve been given. Don’t get me wrong, I am often reminded of these things; but it is especially overwhelming in this one moment. Hiking reminds me that I am a part of something so much bigger than my own little world that I so often get caught up in. My life is connected to the trees, plants, wildlife, vegetation and dirt that sustain us. Hiking has a way of bringing me back to my roots.
On a recent balmy summer morning, I took a hike at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve in Fairfield, Pa. with my friend, Jess. Strawberry Hill is a 600-acre preserve with diverse habitats and many scenic spots. Jess and I are both frequent hikers, but it had been awhile since either of us found the time in our busy lives to take a walk through Mother Nature. Needless to say, we were looking forward to our hike at Strawberry Hill on trails that were new to both of us.
Strawberry Hill has six trails of varying distances and difficulties. We started out on the Nature Trail, a one mile trail which is recommended as an introduction to Strawberry Hill. We passed through woodlands and wetlands that are found in abundance at the preserve. Mid-way through the Nature Trail, we hopped onto the Swamp Creek Trail. Running two and a quarter of a mile long, this trail crosses over Swamp Creek and lead us through beautiful forests of tulip poplars, beech and hemlock trees.
Another hobby that Jess and I share is photography. We took our time hiking through the picturesque forest, snatching photos of the creek, mushrooms, wild raspberries and other plant life. We both continually expressed our gratitude for being back on the Pennsylvania trails. We crossed over logs, got our hiking boots dirty with mud and made our way through some deep vegetation.
At one point as we were walking through waist-high foliage I had my moment. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, taking in the raw smell of nature, the feeling of the dirt beneath my boots and the way the grass tickled my legs as I walked. This was it – the highlight of every hike. In this moment, I truly appreciate the environment I live in and the landscape that I am so fortunate to call home. It’s powerful enough to carry with me until the next hike, and my next moment.
After completing the Swamp Creek Trail, we hopped on the Quarry Trail. Running approximately half a mile long, this was the hardest part of Strawberry Hill that we hiked. It is a steep uphill climb through varied rocks and minerals. We took a short water break at the top of the hill, and proceeded back onto the Nature Trail to complete our hike.
We weren’t ready to leave this place of solitude quite yet, so we stopped by the Nature Classroom located right across from the Visitor Information Center. Within the nature classroom we found mounts of foxes, coyotes, birds and other animals to teach us about wildlife. We also found skeletons, rocks and minerals, reptiles, fish and insects. There were groups of children bustling around outside, participating in the education programs offered by Strawberry Hill. It was nice seeing this generation of learners eager to broaden their knowledge of our environment. I am eager to return to Strawberry Hill to check out the remaining three trails that we didn’t get to explore during this hike.
About the Author
Growing up in nearby Wellsville, Pa., Paige made frequent trips to Gettysburg with her family. Today, she enjoys rediscovering Gettysburg as an adult. As a nature enthusiast, she is especially amazed by the landscape of Adams County, Pa. She likes spending her time outdoors amidst the orchards and hillsides of Adams County. Paige enjoys traveling and experiencing new things with her friends and family.