Its not what you think; or, what I thought when I first heard the term. You don't go into the woods and take a bath, or swim in a pond, or submerge yourself in water at all.
Rather, its bathing in the sense that you let the forest wash over you, seep into your pores, and settle in your heart. It's not about exercise; climb every mountain and all that. It is about taking deep breathes of fresh air and being still. Studies have shown that forest bathing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and instills a sense of well-being. (Well, duh, I thought).
This month has been beyond stressful for me. I've needed my garden and the horses and the forest. And Brett, of course. He's been incredibly supportive. We've taken the kayaks to a lake every weekend. Last weekend, we went to Echo Lake which is near Lake Tahoe. It was beautiful, but it was also packed with people. Cars were parked on top of each other, blocking the road, for a good mile. There is a trail head at the lake which leads to many trails; short day hikes and long backpack trips to lakes deeper in the Sierra. The lake itself, wasn't crowded. But it was choppy and windy and that, combined with all the people, made it pretty much impossible to relax and refresh.
Today, we tried another new lake. Woods Lake is very high -- up at 8200 feet. The lake is very small and quite shallow. No motor boats are allowed at all; not even fishing boats. Despite that, the lake was dotted with fishermen in canoes, rowboats, kayaks and on the shore. Schools of trout streamed under our kayaks, speckled brown, slipping and sliding beneath us.
We paddled over to the far side of the lake where granite cliffs rose from the snow, still deep at their base, to jagged peaks and ridges. Waterfalls coursed and tumbled and sang on their way down.
A large beaver dam rose out of the water on our right, close to another waterfall behind the reeds and rushes. After we finished paddling and loaded the kayaks on the car, we walked up a trail to get closer.
We learnt that there is a trail that crosses the stream at the bottom of the lake, and climbs up and around, passing by two more lakes before returning on the opposite side of lake. We made a promise to come back and spend the day on that trail.
As we paddled and drifted on the glassy surface of the lake, I closed my eyes and felt the sun warm, the breeze cool and the hint of a thunderstorm on its way in. I breathed in Ponderosa and cedar and reeds. And I felt my worries drift away on the wings of the osprey that soared above us.