Let’s Take a Walk in the Woods

Hiking in the Great Outdoors is Good for You.


Once upon a time, there was a magical and mythical country where great adventures happened. Unlike other legendary locations, there was no need for a secret password, an incantation in an occult language, or even going through a wardrobe or an inter-dimensional portal. Believe it or not, to access it, all you had to do was open the door of your house and go out. This land of wonders was simply called the outdoors. Other people gave it other names such as the exterior, the outside, the countryside, the woods or even the Great Outdoors. Truth be told, this place still exists, but an evil magic trick has obscured it from our eyes. The tech fairy has placed a bewitched screen before our eyes that eclipses true reality. The elders among us remembered this land full of danger and fun that we frequented until sunset. With the exhortations of the parents, as soon as breakfast was swallowed, we left the house on foot or by bicycle during the endless summer days. New species of insects or snakes were discovered; we frequented the cabins that we built ourselves with abandoned boards and furnished with car seats that we took out of junk yards. We stayed there until the appearance of the universal sign that we had to rush home under threat of punishment: the lighting of the streetlamps. At that moment, we returned quickly because everyone knew that as soon as night fell, the Rougarou came out.

The relationship between the number of hours spent in front of one’s screen and the harmful effect on one’s mental state no longer remains to be proven. There is, however, a recognized cure for the blues and it’s called hiking, walking in the woods, or breathing in the fresh air. Going outside, you know. “There is growing evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for human physical and psychological well-being,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD in a publication by the American Psychological Association. We are particularly fortunate in Louisiana, being surrounded by green spaces accessible by trails such as those along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya levees, at Chicot State Park and even upstate between Jamestown and Winnfield. Some follow the tracks of old railways. The good news is that for the past few years there has been a serious effort to create the Bayou State Trail that will connect these routes from New Orleans to Shreveport and beyond. It’s not for tomorrow, but once achieved, we will have a very long hiking trail to refresh our soul and renew the joy of finding ourselves in nature.

In the meantime, turn off the phone and open the door to find this almost lost country. But don’t come home too late, as the French nursery rhyme says, “Promenons-nous dans le bois, tant que le loup n’y est pas/Si le loup y était, il nous mangerait” (“Let’s walk through the woods, as long as the wolf isn’t there/If the wolf was there, he’d eat us.”)