Gifts from the Great Outdoors

By Susan Hendricks

“We need the tonic of wildness … We never have enough of nature.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden


When was the last time you stepped outside and headed to the woods for a walk into open spaces?  Either a leisurely stroll through familiar territory or to strike out into the unknown?  What encouragement would you need?

Getting outside and communing with nature is therapeutic.  Fresh air, breezes and sun on your shoulders can change and brighten some on your darkest days.

The healing benefits of Nature are getting a new boost from the medical profession too.  A recent segment on The PBS Newshour (August 28, 2019) described one push to get children outside and away from their sedentary distractions.

Primary care doctor Nooshin Razani and other doctors from coast to coast are writing prescriptions for the Great Outdoors and this creative new movement is spreading across the country.  The story is online at: (

Walking is my exercise-of-choice that I began many years ago and continue to enjoy.  A stroll around the neighborhood can be just as rejuvenating as a long hike in foreign territory.

A number of years ago I joined the SC Midlands Master Naturalist program and discovered old trails throughout the Midlands that I didn’t even know existed.  It gave me the chance to explore some of this area’s most interesting natural habitats to get to know and identify wildlife as well as local flora and fauna.


South Carolina provides excellent opportunities for year-round outdoor exploration with over 4000 nature trails spread across the state.

When The Palmetto Trail completes the remaining sections of its mountains to the sea route across South Carolina, it will be one of only 16 cross-state trails in the United States.  Planners envisioned this unique trail as a tool for bridging gaps through and between many small towns and cities from Walhalla in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Awendaw on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Today, over 350 trail miles have been completed and are now open, free for public use with 26 passages ranging from 1.3 to 47 miles.  Only 150 miles in different segments along the planned route are yet to be built. (

To supplement volunteer workers,  the Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) started the Palmetto Conservation Corps in 2016, to employ Americorps members, young adults between 18 and 24, to increase the push for completion.


A new opportunity this fall for women at Table Rock State Park in SC’s Blue Ridge Mountains November 14 -17 has already begun to fill.

Women over 18 are invited to either take their very first step on a trail or continue a longtime love of hiking.  This will be a weekend to learn from experts and get out on hiking trails in Pickens and Oconee Counties as well as an opportunity to improve skills or, if new to hiking, to learn and gain confidence to enjoy the great outdoors.  Some will want to take this opportunity to explore the new Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park near Walhalla, SC.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, a record-setting Appalachian Trail hiker and Carolyn L. Hartifield, a passionate health and wellness advocate and certified coach who healed herself from an accident through health food and sports nutrition, Tai Chi and health literacy will speak of their unique stories.

To register or inquire further, click, call 803-771-0870 or visit the headquarters at 722 King Street in Columbia.

Perhaps you’ll share this experience described by Wendell Berry, cultural critic, essayist, farmer  and world-renowned poet.


“All day I have moved through the woods, making as little noise as possible.  Slowly my mind and my nerves have slowed to a walk.  The quiet of the woods had ceased to be something that I observe; now it is something that I’m a part of.” 


Susan Hendricks leads guided journal writing groups as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Journal Therapist and Certified Dream Group Leader.  All of her previous Columbia Star articles can be read at  To learn more or contact Susan go to: and