SOAK IN NATURE: FOREST BATHING
BY OLYA CANNON FESSARD
All cultures have known for centuries that nature makes us feel good. The scent of the leaves, flowers, fresh clean air, the sun peeking through the trees, and even the soil we tread upon give us a calmness and even joy. In the past, we have not completely understood if those feelings were real. And certainly did not know they were good for our physical and mental health. We only knew how they make us feel in the moment. However, about a decade ago, Worldwide scientists finally started to test these experiences. Now there is solid scientific evidence that nature promotes mental, emotional, physical fitness—even including cardiovascular fitness. Long before this became common knowledge here, the Japanese had already discovered it.
The term ‘forest bathing’ emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku. “In Japan, we practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses,” states Dr. Quin Li in FOREST BATHING: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness.
This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. In fact, they might get in the way of it. “It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world,” Dr. Quin Li says.
The best thing about it is that you can do shinrin-yoku anywhere there are trees once you’ve mastered forest bathing. Here are some lovely places you can practice forest bathing. And they are not so far away.
Cannon’s Point Preserve
The Preserve has some of the last intact maritime forest on St. Simons Island and is rich in cultural and natural history. It is a 600-acre tract of green space at the north end of St. Simons Island open for public exploration. The peninsula has more than six miles of salt marsh, tidal creek and river shoreline that provide habitat for wildlife such as oysters, birds, fish, and manatee. CPP is a wonderful, primitive, wilderness area staffed primarily by volunteers. To fully enjoy your visit, please be aware that only biking and walking are permitted once your vehicle is parked at Taylor’s Fish Camp. Also, since Cannon’s Point Preserve is shephered by Sain Simon’s Land Trust. As a forested wilderness, we recommend that you take a few simple preparations so that your visit is a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience. Visit our Regulations and Safety page to learn more. I’m biased about this preserve. My great, great, great, great grandfather, Daniel Cannon, General Oglethorpe’s master carpenter at Fort Frederica, was the first English owner of Cannon’s point, having been granted property here by the Trustees of the Georgia Colony in 1738. Thus the name.
IF YOU GO:
560 Cannon’s Point Road,
St. Simon’s Island
Dauset Trails Nature Center
Dauset Trails offers your family a chance to see wildlife in their natural habitat from beavers to a cougar. But it also has a number of trails. Choose the Tree Trail and learn to identify thirty-one native trees on this trail. While nature bathing, you may come across a number of wild life.There are also farm animals you can interact with, hiking trails and a woodland garden. You can stop and enjoy lunch under one of their pavilions after a day of sightseeing. There is no admission fee to get into Dauset Trails, but donations are welcomed.
IF YOU GO:
360 Mount Vernon Church Road
These gardens are located north of Atlanta, a little farther than the others we are listing. First of all, study their website before you go because there are numerous special gardens that you might want to plan on seeing. We are concentrating on the World Class Japanese Gardens that will best invite calmness, i.e., shinrin-yoku, although you will probably not want to miss some others while you are there. The Japanese Hill and Pound Stroll Garden is the largest Japanese garden in the nation at forty acres. Reflections of clouds, waterfalls, ripples, butterflies, birds, and fish provide movement in the garden. Impressive stones speak of stillness and serenity.
IF YOU GO:
1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground
Indian Springs State Park
A 520 acre park that boasts a 105-acre lake and swimming beach, Indian Springs State Park is a great day trip or mini-vacation. Guests can still sample the Spring’s healing water from which it drew its noteworthiness. The park has a tent, trailer, and RV campsite if you want to linger. They also have ten cottages. Their museum, playground and three-fourth-mile walking trail are perfect for reconnecting with your family this summer.
IF YOU GO:
678 Lake Clark Road, Flovilla
Ocmulgee Heritage Trail
If you need to find wooded areas nearby, try The Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, as it is the only riverside trail and park system in Middle Georgia. If you have a small amount of time, it provides walking and bird watching. It’s also an exceptional environment for biking and boating. Linking up to four different parks in the city, it’s the perfect chance to get out in nature.
IF YOU GO:
1207 Emery Highway, Macon
Oconee National Forest
The Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest in northern Georgia comprises two United States National Forests, the Oconee National Forest in eastern Georgia (Madison) and the Chattahoochee National Forest located in the North Georgia Mountains at the edge of Chattanogga, Tennessee. This is about calm and comfort, so we are referring you to the smaller and nearer one. This forest provides some of the finest outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resources in Georgia. It boasts of nearly 1,560 acres of forested land, including a 110 acre lake. The present management appears to want to guard it for the rich and famous.
IF YOU GO:
2780 Baldwin Dairy Road, Madison
Embedded in the 3,200-acre greenery are the park’s many nature trails. Whether you want to walk, jog, or bike, there are many trails to choose from. These diverse trails differ by terrain, length, and difficulty. If you’re looking for a less intense hike, consider taking a leisurely stroll around the mountain. Follow the five-mile Cherokee Loop Trail to explore the park’s stunning oak-hickory woodland and lake views. Songbird Habitat and Nature Trail was created for the 1996 Olympics. It’s now home to a variety of songbirds. This area is located on the backside of the mountain and consists of two separate one-mile trails: the Field Trail and the Woods Trail. These trails are at no cost.
IF YOU GO:
1000 Robert E. Lee Drive, Atlanta