Get yourself outside

Seriously … get yourself outside. Take friends and family with you.

For me, this is the most glorious time of the year. As I write these words, a brilliant sun dominates a cloudless sky. It’s chilly, but not cold; not yet. That will come soon enough.

Days like this one remind me of the need to be in the world, not on its fringe; to be immersed in the natural blessings God provides us. I have written about times in the outdoors before. They mean everything.

Special places always come to mind on days like this.

Upper Gulph Run is one. Barely wider than a yardstick in most places, its clear, cold water flows down a ridge in Pendleton County, West Virginia. It empties into Whites Run, which empties into Seneca Creek. All three of those streams are home to native trout; Upper Gulph and Whites Run have brook trout, and Seneca Creek has brook trout and native rainbow trout.

Upper Gulph is, by far, the smallest of the three – but it is home to the biggest fish because it’s tough to get to and even tougher to fish. Far above its confluence with Whites Run, there is a small, deep pool guarded by huge boulders. In that tiny piece of water, I once caught a glimpse of the largest native brook trout I have ever seen. Well over a foot long, it would be a real trophy just about anywhere – except for certain beaver ponds I know of in Maine and West-Central Wyoming.

For a long time, I thought that fish – and the opportunity for a personal encounter – drew me far off the nearest road to reach that deep, small pool of cold, clear water. Not having a chance to visit literally for decades has helped me see the real reason. There, in that little piece of the Appalachian Mountains, God reveals himself to all who visit through the simple-but-awesome beauty of that place.

Only the sounds of mountain water flowing over the rocks and the occasional bird or squirrel invade the silence of that space. They actually complement the silence, offering evidence of vibrant life in an otherwise-quiet space. I don’t remember a hike to and from that spot on the little stream that didn’t include a pause for prayerful thanksgiving.

Until I can visit that wonderful stream again, this time of year brings similar feelings after sunset because our clear skies offer wonderful views. Look up in any direction on a crisp, clear evening, and you are rewarded with a view spanning millions of light years. Fall and winter skies are the best for looking at the stars; I prefer the fall because it’s fairly comfortable to stay outside more than a few minutes.

Just now, Orion greets early risers at about 45 degrees looking south and just a bit to the west. Soon, evenings will bring the opportunity to observe the Andromeda Galaxy with nothing more than binoculars. Through my 8x binoculars, the galaxy appears as little more than a gray smudge about the width of my fingernail. Knowing that I’m looking at something 100,000 light years across always leads me to thank God for all He has created.

Get yourself outside. Visit one of your special places. Take a few minutes to enjoy the night sky. Unplug. You need it; possibly more than you realize.