an idea born in nature

Around 2016 I was on a solo hike along the North Fork Skokomish River, near Lake Cushman in the Olympics and while I enjoy hiking with others, there are times I really just want to be out there on my own.

When I’m solo hiking, I always tell myself this is a great opportunity to go through my mental to-do lists, process thoughts on things that I need to make decisions on, etc. But what usually ends up happening is my mind just tends to wander. Unfocused on anything specific, brushing the edges of a lot of different things. Thoughts just sort of drifting by, only slightly interrupted by the sounds of birds, running water, or something that catches my eye that I just have to stop and get a photo of… like an interesting fungi. Typically, the thoughts I had, any great ideas I came up with, would be gone by the time I got back to the trailhead. Left behind among the trees and streams and fungi.


This would happen when I was avidly riding my bike as well, and I basically called it my “zen time”, a time to just let my mind go. I chalked it up to my own special form of meditation.

This time though, I had some thoughts that were coming in to focus that I knew I wanted to capture. I was coming to this realization of how so many of the situations I encounter when it comes to hiking have parallels to trekking the patch towards better health, and use photos from my hikes to help illustrate the points. So I pulled out my phone and started dictating some thoughts so I wouldn’t forget them.

This was a fairly long hike, nearly 15 miles by the time I returned, and while there was a bit of a climb involved, it was an overall easy trail, so my mind had plenty of room to roll these first few ideas around in.

Over the next year or so, I would come back to the whole idea about putting this into some sort of presentation that I could do for bariatric support groups or such. I would flesh out some of the first ideas, jot down others. Think back to different hikes and photos from them that would work to illustrate a given idea.


Then a year or so later, planning had started for Your Weight Matters 2018, the Obesity Action Coalition’s annual convention. Quick disclosure, at this time and as of this writing, I’m on the board of directors for the OAC, and volunteer on the convention planning committee. I reached out to some staff and let them know about this idea for a “lunch with the experts” topic I had. These are small group discussions that take place with a “expert” host and about 6-8 attendees, and are a great way for attendees to get some information on a specific topic, and have some great discussion around it with the host and other attendees.

The agenda committee approved my topic, and so I hosted Post-Op Wisdom: Lessons Learned in the Great Outdoors. I know, it’s a bit of a cumbersome title. Sorry. And while the lessons don’t apply only to bariatric surgery patients, I am one, so we used that title to sort of denote that.

All in all, I’ve come up with about a dozen “lessons” to share, I don’t believe we quite got to all of them that first year. We were having some great conversation about a few of them and started running short on time. Which is perfectly fine with me, the main idea behind all of these are to get others to think about how they may apply to their own situations.

I did the topic again in 2019, this time for a breakfast break-out. It was a smaller group, but we had some good conversation. I had updated a few of the photos to make use of some from trips I’ve made the previous year, and came up with some fresh perspectives, expanding on a few of the items. And we revamped the title a bit to The Path to Healthy Living Through the Great Outdoors. As I said, this isn’t something that applies only to post-ops, so we decided to de-emphasize that point.

I’ve since used this at a couple different support groups as well. The most difficult part is getting through all of the topics, so it’s often a matter of picking a group that may seem to best apply to the audience at the time. Because even just spending 3-4 minutes per topic eats up more than an hour.

I’m going to be sharing them as posts here over the coming weeks, with my thoughts, things I talk about that I try to use to initiate the discussion. Please feel free to use the comments on the post to add any thoughts you have. Maybe we can create an ongoing conversation around those topics. And while I do try to present them in a sort of progressive order, there’s not right way to approach them.

This following is the complete list of topics that make up The Path to Healthy Living Through the Great Outdoors discussion topics. While these topics are listed as a sort of progression, they can be viewed/discussed in any order. Titles will get an active link as they are posted.

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