There is something magical and soothing to be found in nature. We become so accustomed to the expanses of concrete, fences, walls, signage, and artificial lights of the city, that we begin to tune everything out. Being surrounded by nature with few signs of human influence is a great antidote to the city, and one that recharges me immensely. And during the current Coronavirus pandemic, after months of being surrounded by nothing more than the walls of my apartment, it was intensely liberating to leave those confines, especially in an activity ideal for social distancing. 

One of my favorite spots for this in western Pennsylvania is Linn Run State Park, located just outside Ligonier, in the Laurel Highlands. The park offers ten so-called "rustic cabins" for rental. With a bed and other furniture, lights, refrigerator, and microwave, they're hardly what I would call "rustic"—perhaps their lack of running water requires that description. (But no fear—taps with drinkable water and a modern bath house provide everything else you need.) These cabins make an excellent base for exploring the many trails in Linn Run, and also the adjacent Forbes State Forest.

These particular parks were developed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the early 1900s, in some of the first purchases of land to create public parks. The lands had been logged until nothing remained, and without the native trees, the animal, birds, and insects disappeared. But Mother Nature is resilient: in the time since, the forest has regrown, bringing back habitat for native species, and erasing the scars of the logging industry. On my hikes I've seen a wide variety of creatures: the most arresting being a bright orange salamander and a waddling porcupine.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

—Henry David Thoreau

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau chronicles his move to a rustic cabin on Walden Pond in an attempt to better understand modern society through personal introspection. Like Thoreau, I find this isolation and introspection allows me to reconsider what things are important in my life. While walking the narrow trails, I become aware of the rhythms of my body, and rediscover the pleasure of the most basic form of human locomotion. The day is no longer measured in hours; it's not divided into work and home schedules. It's measured by the steady pace of one foot after another, feeling the stones under my feet and the patterns of my breathing, surrounded by a great symphony of nature. For in that cacophony of bird calls, woodpeckers hammering, and leaves blowing that I feel most at peace.