Spiritual Encounters with Nature

Day Hiker Perceptions of Trail Experiences in Three Settings—Urban, Suburban Natural Area, and Wildland; Representing Three Modes of Hiking—Goal-Directed, Nature Observation, and Meditative

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
Susan Power Bratton Baylor University USA Waco, TX

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Mitchell (2016) proposes shared stories and religious background are unimportant to hiker spiritual experience on John Muir National Trail, USA. This study analyzes surveys from 265 volunteer day-hikes in three settings: urban, suburban natural area, and wildland; representing three modes of hiking: goal-directed, nature observation, and meditative. Overall, setting produced more statistically significant differences (22 of 25) among locale descriptors than the mode did (3 of 25). Sacred was more closely associated with descriptors of lack of human presence, than those related to biodiversity. Association of the sacred with higher elevations and mountain wildlands rather than with wetlands implies a pre-existing shared story. Nature oriented and meditative hiking accentuated perception of values, such as educational, humbling, sacred and wondrous, providing evidence that religious practice influences hiker perception. Suburban natural areas, which are more accessible to urban residents than wildlands, received ratings competing with wildlands in terms of personal benefits.

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