As I See It

From left to right: Songbird, Three Ties, Steel foot, Blossom, and Wooly Bear on the Trail in Pennsylvania


sneak out behind a voluminous white cloud as we crest the hill. As our eyes look ahead gasps of wonder escape our mouths. The Trail crosses over a lush green field, which is welcome relief to our tired legs but the beauty of this scene fills us with awe. Naturally, our breathing slows, our steps are lighter and our souls lift and soar. This is what I call “nature therapy.”

As a mom of seven children, it’s no wonder I need therapy of any kind. Currently, I still have five children at home. These five fill my days with strengths and struggles. Four out of the five have special needs that challenge them and myself. Most of the things that I take for granted are very difficult for them. My daughter, (autistic, partial deafness, semi-verbal), struggles with flexibility in her joints but she hikes the Trail and over the rocks and roots like a pro. Yes, she’s fallen down quite a bit, but she gets right back up and continues to push forward bellowing out a song as she goes. That’s why her Trail name is “Songbird.” Although she goes to therapy each week, I believe this is one of the best therapies she can have because when we finally reach our car, not only has she worked her joints, but she’s worked her confidence muscle and the pride she feels at having completed another section shines on her face.

My son, (autistic, intellectual disability, reactive attachment disorder, ADHD), looks forward to hiking each week. He’s actually a great map reader and direction discerner, areas where I struggle. He always finds treasures as he goes…hickory nuts are a favorite. His Trail name is “Wooly Bear” because he loves the caterpillars with that name that he finds all over the Trail. My youngest son, (autistic, ADD, ADHD, semi-verbal) loves jumping off rocks, walking on the dead trees, throwing rocks into the creeks we pass, finding walking sticks, and just spreading his joy and zest for life as he hikes. He’s become rather famous on our hikes. His Trail name is “Three Ties” because he has an infatuation with ties. He often has three or four clip-on ties attached to his shirt collar or to his sleeves. He finishes his sensational look with my cheetah headband like a sweat band on his head. When we meet up with someone again as we are hiking, they always remember him and call out to him. He loves that. My other daughter has medical conditions but that doesn’t stop her. She’s almost always in the front, singing, laughing, and discovering. Her Trail name is “Blossom” and it fits her beautifully. My last son’s Trail name is “Steel foot.” He’s chosen this because he loves to crunch the dead branches with his strong feet. He can be found climbing the huge boulders, telling jokes, collecting treasures, and dancing his way down the A.T.

The Trail provides therapy to our bodies, our souls, and our minds. We sure sleep well those nights after we hiked. It’s also providing so many wonderful memories. My parents, experienced section hikers themselves, began hiking with us. Oh the conversations, laughter, and agony we’ve shared together. Our goal is to complete the whole A.T. It may take us a while, but we are enjoying each step of the way. After all, this nature therapy is the best prescription we have found for all of us..

Lisa Lease and her husband Sean


“As I See It” is a column from guest contributors representing the full range of ATC partners, members, and volunteers. To submit a column (700 words or less) for consideration:

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