The Best Things in Life are Free

If ever there is an awesome place to go mountain biking, DuPont State Forest south of Asheville, NC is it! With sunshine and blue skies beckoning, my husband and I recently grabbed our water bottles, strapped the bikes on the car and set out on a day of adventure in DuPont.

After a straight shot up Conservation Trail, we made a “have to” detour to an abandoned airstrip. Lining up we pretended to take off down the runway on wheels and since we weren’t airborne at the end, taxied off and took a road less traveled. The tiny sign said “Lake Julia”.

A light rain had made the path slightly muddy. The overhanging forest kept delivering unexpected and intermittent short showers. We were alone, no other bikers or hikers around and the quiet enveloped us.

A quarter mile in and we could see the lake, its outline blurred by its size. It first appeared as a big blob of reflective gray in a green panorama of trees. We parked our bikes and walked down to a small dock. We sat at the water’s edge and stared at the immense expanse of nature that lay serenely and silently in front of us. It was one of those rare and beautiful moments of awe.

After a while, we got up and started back up the gentle slope to our bikes. As we walked away I heard a loud splash from the opposite shore. A dog, I thought turning back around to see.

Did you hear that I asked my husband? With our curiosities in agreement we ran back down to the lake. In the distance we saw a light brown head moving across the placid lake. There was no one on the opposite shore throwing a ball nor any sign of civilization that might belong to a frisky water loving retriever. We stood still and stared as the creature swam gracefully through the water.

Could it be a deer? In all of my time in nature I had never seen one swimming. But there it was; head held high, destined for a far distant shore.

We sat mesmerized by this silent panorama of lake, forest and the deer, swimming through the water painting a perfect v shaped wake in its path. She seemed to know where she was going; not the shortest distance between two points but a specific destination. Once there, in a surge of power, she lunged to shore and disappeared, leaving the two of us breathless.

Wow! What a moment of awe and wonder. What a chance to appreciate the simple power and beauty of being alone in nature, dangling our feet in fresh, clear water, feeling the sunshine, taking in a natural setting , mesmerized by an animal in the wild, unafraid.

With that memory etched in our brains, we left and biked back to Conservation Trail and our car to gather swimsuits and towels. We were in pursuit of the feelings we had just witnessed.

We chose a smaller, closer lake for our submersion, Fawn Lake. With its proximity to parking we arrived to a noisy arena. Same natural beauty but this time the addition of people painted a totally different picture.

Kids were yelling at the top of their lungs with their young parents shouting reprimands and orders while dragging on cigarettes and drinking beer. Others sat under a gazebo, playing loud music and unwrapping paper shrouded fast food; the odor of grease wafted from fries.  Cans of sodas, bags of chips, packages of cookies. Young bodies padded with the extra weight that comes with processed food. No one was in the water except for a few children.

The contrast between the deer and the people and their respective relationships to nature was sharp and distinct. The deer was fully alive and alert in its environment. The Fawn Lake crowd had a noisy, distracted detachment from their surroundings. Unaware of the comforting feel of the weightlessness of the cool, clean water, they sat on trodden, littered earth, preoccupied with all the things they had brought with them; giant plastic bottles of sodas, colorful tote bags filled with stuff, iPods, I Pads, IPhones, the latest fashion in swimwear, jewelry, cool sunglasses… all packaged in noisy conversation and attention getting antics.

Distracted by the material world, the crowd at Fawn Lake had no connection with the powerful and supportive simplicity of the natural world surrounding them.

A lone deer swimming through the water… quiet, strong, powerful, peaceful, beautiful…in harmony with its natural surroundings.

As humans we too are part of nature, we too can really feel the sun on our skin, the power of our bodies, nourished by healthy foods and fueled by refreshing cool water. As humans we too can gain immense insight from solitude, strength from physical exertion, and power from breathing in deeply our natural surroundings with appreciation.

Simplicity, nature, solitude, caring for our physical, spiritual and emotional selves brings true, authentic value to our precious and fragile time on earth.

Take time today to put aside the noise and distractions that so dominate our lives and step into and be a part of the natural world. With gratitude for your shot at being fully alive, make a promise to stay connected with the simple gifts our planet offers, free of charge.

About LiftOff Leadership

Betty Shotton is a nationally recognized leadership author and motivational speaker. With a lifetime of experience as a CEO and Entrepreneur, she is passionate about the responsibility and opportunity that leadership has to create a magnificent future. Her audiences are inspired to seek broader perspectives and climb to higher altitudes as they face challenging and volatile business & economic climates. Her most requested presentations are A Journey to Exceptional Leadership, Defying Gravity & High Altitude Leadership. You can see her in action on YouTube ( She blogs ( and writes. "Liftoff Leadership, 10 Principles for Exceptional Leadership", her first book, sold out in 18 months. She is working on her next. Visit her website www.liftoffleadership; it is loaded with leadership resources. She welcomes your interest via FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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