My Church is the Outdoors

For some, the place to look for peace, to find a purpose, and to seek a connection to something that goes beyond our understanding, is right out the back door.

Among the many heart-felt reasons people turn to the church, ones that resonate with me are to look for peace, to find a purpose, and to seek a connection to something that goes beyond our understanding and our lifetime. For me, the place I find these things is a mountain trout stream.

There is a feeling I get as I come into the forest and hear the river – a calmness from being where things are as they were meant to be. Seeing bright green moss on the rocks, hearing the laughing sounds of small waterfalls, sensing the strength of tall poplar trees watching over it all, and seeing the clean, clear water gathering and then flowing and then gathering again as it comes down from above and heads to where it can find its own level. If it is an old and natural place, you feel that it has always been that way with the rocks worn smooth over thousands of years and the soil rich and deep from generations of the forest falling there – and the river always alive and at the center of it.

This past weekend was no exception. Hiking along a beautiful, small stream in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the sounds and the coolness from the water made every step seem a little easier and the pack a little lighter. After several miles, we got to where it was time to pull out the wading shoes and the fly rod. This is where my church is. Looking upstream, the river comes down through the forest, bathed in filtered light from above. It is a cathedral in nature that happens in many places if you look for it. The alter is just a little farther ahead.

And the confirmation that this is someplace pure comes when a native Brook trout, whose ancestors have been here since the Ice Age, takes the fly. If the river was alive before, it’s even more so now as it cuts around rocks and through the pools. And then to hold this beautiful fish, with bright colors and sleek shape, before letting it go confirms that in this place, all is right with the world.

The good news is that this stream, its forests, and its trout are protected as part of the national park. Too often though, that is not the case. With less than one-half of one percent of our nation’s rivers protected by “Wild and Scenic River” designation, protecting more rivers is important work. It is the goal of our 5,000 Miles of Wild campaign, which you can read about here. What a wonderful calling to keep these natural cathedrals the way they were meant to be.

11 responses to “My Church is the Outdoors

  1. I think a spring creek in Wyoming or Montana is the equivalent of the high cathedral of the outdoors.

  2. So true. When I started fly fishing was when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Church didn’t do it for me so I turned to fly fishing and the solace and peace of the river and the outdoor.s. The outdoors are my church.

  3. totally agree on the outdoors as a spiritual experience. I feel more at home in nature and closer to whatever higher power there may be than in a stuffy building, even if it is beautiful. I also think that organized religion can sometimes cause more harm than good, in that differences in beliefs seem to cause many of the world’s wars, conflicts, etc. But not so with nature.

  4. The Sunday cycling group here in Durango CO is called – Church of the High Pines.
    I agree, lots of us find peace in the outdoors.

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