When you’re looking for a new place to explore, sometimes it’s best to start small.
When you think of the word “hiking”, what comes to mind? Is it winding paths through mature forests, or hours spent working towards a scenic view? Hikes are often thought of as walks in the woods, but not everyone with the desire to get outdoors has the ability to access forests and trails. So what do you do if you can’t go far? You go on a micro hike.
Generally speaking, a micro hike is taking the discovery process involved in hiking and scaling it down. This can be done in several different ways, depending on the hiker’s preferences, just like a regular hike can be a walk in the park or a climb up a mountain. Micro hikes aren’t exactly a new method of exploration, but they’re definitely not as talked about as their macro cousins, even though they’re much easier and more widely accessible. In fact, I’m willing to bet most of us have already been on a micro hike at some point and didn’t even know it. If you have small kids at home you might go on a micro hike with them every single day. All it takes is stopping for a moment and getting up close with your environment.
After being inspired by this How to Be a Micronature-ist activity, I decided that where I live was the perfect place to try micro hiking; I live on less than an acre of land and 0% of it is forested, so at first glance my backyard looks like a sub-par place for a hike, but micro hikes are actually perfect for these kinds of spaces.
Once I was outside I crouched down and examined about a square foot of earth in a few different locations, looking for anything that caught my eye, like the details in the bark of a woody plant, new growth emerging from the ground, or bugs crawling around leaves and stone. To get a better look at the small stuff I brought a magnifying glass with me, which I also used to help take zoomed-in pictures on my phone (no fancy camera needed) and to make comparisons between what my eyes could and couldn’t easily pick up on their own. It’s amazing how much more texture and color there is to see when you look up close.
Underneath a sugar maple tree I found buds that the squirrels had chewed off and dropped to the ground. I hadn’t noticed this before, but now I couldn’t help but think there was something almost alien-like about the fuzzy tendrils snaking out of the munched buds.
Then I spotted some happy dandelions blooming in the lawn…
…while a few others had already gone to seed.
Tucked between the blades of grass were tiny purple flowers. Do you see the small bug crawling up the right side of the magnified photo? I didn’t notice it until I got close enough to take the picture.
For blogging purposes I brought a camera with me, but depending on what your hiking goals are you can approach your micro hike however you like: pictures are great for sharing on social media, while using a nature journal is a simple way to keep your experience more personal, and bringing extra activities like a field guide for insects, fungi, or plants, or even a scavenger hunt sheet can keep kids active and engaged. So if for whatever reason you can’t or don’t want to get out into the woods, don’t forget there are plenty of tiny –but exciting- ways to explore right at home.