Two gravel riders in the desert

The GU'd Life: Amen to Awe

“I go to nature to be soothed, healed and have my senses put in order.”

– John Burroughs, an American naturalist involved in the conservation movement

I was a free range kid before raising free range kids was a thing. Growing up on a farm in rural Petaluma, CA, in the early 70s, without a TV, meant that I spent plenty of time outdoors roaming the hills looking for adventure when I wasn’t doing ranch chores. My time in nature as a kid was the foundation for my deep love and appreciation for nature as an adult, which might explain why I seek as many awe-inducing experiences, adventures, moments, etc. in it as I possibly can in my day to day life. 

Did you know that research suggests that experiencing awe can make us happier, healthier, more humble, and more connected to the people around us?! Science has proven that experiencing moments of awe makes us better humans, so why would we not want more of it in our lives?!

Desert landscape with big views

I recently had the privilege of spending an extended period of time in one of my favorite landscapes in the world: the San Rafael Valley of Patagonia, Arizona. There's something unique, almost vortex-like, about this place that hits you on a deeper, more emotional level,  whether you are hiking, riding a bike, a horse, or just being in it. Maybe it’s the fact that Patagonia lies at the intersection of the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Madre, the Sonoran Desert, the Chihuahuan Desert, the Great Plains, and the Neo Tropics. It’s also home to hundreds of different bird, bee, and butterfly species, as well as having the greatest mammal diversity in North America.

I’ve been blessed to experience hundreds of miles of riding gravel in this beautiful place for the past decade, and the amazing thing is that the pure awe I felt when I first came here, hits as strong today as it did way back when. It’s easy to feel really small in the San Rafael Valley because it’s so vast. There’s a stillness and silence that centers the soul when you’re in it, that grounds you in the landscape and the present moment, and inspires me to return year after year much like the hundreds of migratory species that call this region home do. (Click here to watch a video about this region.) 

We all know that there is something magical about being in nature. You can’t totally encapsulate it in words, kind of like trying to bottle lightning, but you feel it deep within – it touches your spirit and soul. Just a few minutes of being in nature makes us feel healed and restored. Nature gives us strength, drains away negative energy and fills us with positivity. For me, time in nature is often the reset that I need to find balance, peace, and stability in my life. 

Outdoor goodness, no matter if you’re a birder, hiker, biker, runner, or just outdoor enthusiast, fills our cups, makes us happier, better people, which hopefully allows us to inspire others to get outside. Think of it as ripples of stoke that you put out into the world about getting out in nature. Your ripples of stoke will collide with other people’s ripples of stoke, which in turn will make some waves of stoke that will get more people outside where they are hit with more awe. 

Gravel riders in Lochiel, AZ.

Get into the landscape, wherever that might be for you. Encourage others to get outdoors. Embrace the awe that is sure to hit you, and then take those feelings and let them ripple out into your respective worlds, because the more collective ripples of stoke we all put out via our communities, the more likely they are to build into waves that allow people to feed their souls, experience embodiment of place, and have their senses put in order. Amen to awe. 

All photos taken by Molly Cameron
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