Taking a ‘forest bath’ along Walnut Canyon on the AZT

Arizona Daily Sun (November 3, 2020) by Sam McManis

Leave it to the Germans, known for their precision with language and most everything else, to come up with just the right word to describe the ineffable feeling of being alone in the woods, both the pleasures and the loneliness experienced therein: waldeinsamkeit.

Come to think, the Japanese have a phrase that is somewhat similar, shinrin-yoku, which is said to mean “forest bathing.”

Both words are too subtle for direct translation because they evoke inchoate feeling more than something definable. But the way I interpret those concepts is a mingling sense of both calm and exhilaration, a satisfaction in being alone but hardly lonely, joined by the trees waving branches, the wind sighing and the wildlife stirring.

I always feel that way when I hie myself over to run the Arizona Trail’s Walnut Canyon Rim segment in the predawn stillness. It soothes, as they say, the savage beast and serves as a resetting of one’s internal equilibrium, which I badly needed on my latest trip, coming on the weekend before the election and all the noise that clutters one’s thoughts, and with COVID-19 cases rising once more, with all the anxiety that engenders, too.

People flock to the Walnut Canyon rim portion of the AZT, designated Segment 31B for those counting at home, because of the gorgeous views to be had taking a few side trails along its 6.4-mile way. And I don’t begrudge them that. Not in the least.

But on this morning, the day just dawning, the AZT itself was the attraction. Because much of the early going is relatively flat and non-technical, you can let your mind and spirit wander and, yes, immerse yourself in this forest bath.

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