The Benefits of Nature Hikes and Observing the Seasons

One of the first things about permaculture that I learned was to first observe, then observe, then wait and observe, and then take small actions for change.  You have to understand your context before you can apply techniques or principles to your situation.  For applying permaculture to gardening and farming, it’s important to observe the local area where you want to grow (soil tests, rain fall, sunlight, etc).  However, it’s also very important to know your surrounding region (climate, local plant and fungi species, local wildlife, etc).  I frequently hike through parks near my house to get a better idea of what is already living near me.  Doing so gives me the opportunity to observe natural ecosystems and patterns around me, and contemplate how I can copy these existing natural patterns to benefit my garden.  This also gives opportunities to find herbs and other resources for wildcrafting or herbalism, or plants that you might want to propagate for your garden.  No need to order seeds if you can collect them, or better yet transport species that are plentiful.

There are several hiking groups that explore areas in our region.  Many of these groups meet several times a week, exploring areas minutes from my home that I never knew existed.  I’ve met lots of friendly people, seen some amazing sights, and learned a TON about my local ecology.  Improve your plant identification knowledge, learn to forage, learn to track animals…  I encourage everyone to become more aware of your surroundings, and spend some time in nature!

Here are some local hiking meetup groups:

Hiking Around Philly – My favorite hiking group.  Led by a friendly guy named Sidney who seems to know about every marked or unmarked trail within 100 miles of Philadelphia (maybe an exaggeration, but I’m constantly impressed by his hiking knowledge of our area).

The 20’s Hiking/Indoor/Outdoor Adventure Group – A group that occasionally does hikes in the Philly area.

Return to Nature – A foraging teacher from NJ that gives classes from NYC to Philly.

Wild Foodies of Philadelphia – A group that organizes hikes and plant walks to identify useful, medicinal, and edible plants in and around the city.

Here are some photos from a recent Hiking meetup that my girlfriend and I attended at the Schuylkill Environmental Center:


One of the Art Exhibits at the beginning of the hike was this beautiful native pollinator garden.



We hiked past this huge community garden.



The community garden had an area for beekeeping.


Some animal bones off the trail



The hike leader led us through large holes in fences, and we did some exciting off-trail hiking.


Another art exhibit


Swirly wood grain in this tree.


Interesting formations on this tree.


Beautiful exposed roots.


We hiked past a small pond with some canoes.


A tree loop!


The bird observation station.

 Here’s some inspiring poetry from the Poetry Trail at D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton, NJ:



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4 thoughts on “The Benefits of Nature Hikes and Observing the Seasons

  1. Brilliant post, and very apt at this time as I have just upped my own exploring of the country side, ecology of my neighbourhood. I’m a new gardener, last year I noticed that the wild plants were doing better than the vegetables I was growing, and the wild plants also came up much earlier and were stronger. So this coming season I am letting my wild plants grow in my raised beds, Dandelions, Nettles, Chickweed, Wild Garlic etc. This is so exciting to do, I guess this is the beginning of permaculture for me. Thanks for your writing, I found it very inspiring.


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