Sweden’s Fun in the Sun, Nature Hiking | The Institute for Creation Research

Sweden’s Fun in the Sun, Nature Hiking
Sweden is encouraging Hittaut (recreational nature hiking) with the added encouragement of exploring places to find specific checkpoints along the hike.1

With the coming of spring, for 10 years now Hittaut (hitta-ut = Swedish for ‘Find out’) has been urging people to leave their homes and embark on an outing, on foot or by bike, or with a dog in tow, exploring the secrets of local nature. Of the 57 different locations across Sweden enrolled in the public health and wellness project, Luleå stood out as the municipality which attracted the most participants last year…[with its activities] involving about 80 000 people each year nationwide…[this year to] run until 15 October 2020.1

This is like a walking scavenger hunt, except you use a checklist to look for specific checkpoints. Along the way, you use navigational skills, collecting only photographs.

Find checkpoints and win prizes. Hittaut is a form of orienteering exercise/game that suits both beginners and experienced outdoor enthusiasts, adults and children alike.… Anyone is free to join Hittaut by venturing out into nature, using a virtual or a physical map to find checkpoints by day or by night. You can download the app via Google Play or App Store or get the paper map at the Tourist Center in Kulturens hus, Snabbasteg, the adventure shop Hägglunds or the Visitor Center Gammelstad in Luleå. If you're using the digital map you can take guidance from the GPS marker, only make sure you have ticked the app’s ‘use location services’ box.1

In recent months, many have canceled vacation plans that involved international travel, due to travel restrictions.2 As a result, outdoor recreation options now focus on closer-to-home opportunities, such as re-discovering the beauty of nearer places—assuming they are open (or re-opened) for recreational use.2,3

The idea of organized hiking trails in scenic natural settings is nothing new. In fact, the Germans have celebrated organized programs of recreational “volksmarching” (from Volksmarsch, meaning people recreational walking/hiking) at least as far back as May 14, 1883, when the German Hiking Association's (Deutscher Wanderverband, a.k.a. DWV) was founded.4 In fact, many types of hiking clubs and programs are popular all over the world—and have been for many generations.

But this year, most recreational opportunities focus on local places. These remind us to appreciate our own neighborhoods (as well as other outdoor places within driving distance of home), which have recreational value that is so familiar that it is “hidden in plain view.”2,3

For the Bible-believing Christian who appreciates God’s role as our Creator, hiking nature trails with family, friends, or alone (and perhaps combined with birdwatching) is valuable, but not just for recreational uses.

Appreciating natural exhibits (such as trees, wildflowers, rocks, deer, birds, squirrels, rabbits, streams, etc.) of God’s wondrously artistic creativity is itself a worthwhile reason for hiking. God made the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees, the sunlight and the breeze.3,5

For several consecutive summers, my family (as part of a 3-generation vacation) stayed at a Christian family camp, at an elevation of about 9,000 feet high, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Westcliffe, Colorado. Bordering a national forest, the campground offered many opportunities for nature hikes. One hiking trail in particular, the Cha-ha-oh, could be taken with the help of a trail guide. Cha-ha-oh Trail apparently represents the Navajo way of saying “Summer Shade” Trail. This trail guide blended ecological and doxological aspects of mountain trail hiking there.

Horn Creek Conference Center, a Christ-centered resort … [has] established a nature trail for you to enjoy, learn from and focus one. It is for you to:
Enjoy—God’s handiwork in this part of nature … the wildflowers, trees, grasses, birds and other animals as they praise God through their divinely designed tasks of life:

Learn—the names of some of the flowers, trees, grasses, animals ... [and] relationships between the plants and the earth, the plants and animals, and these inhabitants … [as they interact in] this particular mountain life zone;

Focus on—yourself as a unique, intricate creation from the infinite imagination of God, believing you are a small but very important and most loved part of His creation … [and then think of] where you live. Can you see [the handiwork and glory of] God in His creation there?5

Of course, don’t expect those reverent exhortations within a nature trail guide authored by secular-minded evolutionists!

However, Christians who heartily thank for God being the Creator, and who know God’s wonderful character as He is revealed in Scripture (especially in His incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus), should be the people who most enjoy a nature hike—especially if some resources provide contextually helpful information.

Cha-ha-oh Trail and trail guide have come … from a heart of joy and love for their Designer. A heart that wells up in love, joy and praise to God for being who He is and for His creative handiwork; a heart that is at its zenith of joy and happiness when it is reveling in God and His handiwork and in sharing His creative genius with others. To this end was the trail developed and the trail guide written, that the users may learn of nature, revel in Him and His handiwork, and that He, God Himself only, be glorified.5

Perhaps there is a nearby place where you can outline a simple nature trail, with specific objects to see (listed sequentially as a checklist, maybe with a few notes about those specific exhibits of God’s handiwork) that your family and/or friends can use for a local outing.5

It need not be complicated. Just hiking through nature can be meaningful enough to remind us that the beautiful scenery and the providentially cared-for biodiversity is all compliments of the greatest Artist of all, the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Staff writer. 2020. Hittaut Invites Swedes to Exercise and Explore Local Nature. Posted on TheMayor.eu June 1, 2020, accessed June 2, 2020. Although other nations are quicker to trade freedom and fun for pandemic politics (and panic), Sweden has taken “the road less traveled by” and—to use Robert Frost’s words again—“that has made all the difference” for the Swedes’ recreation opportunities. See Sherwin, F. Sweden’s Herd Immunity. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org April 22, 2020, accessed June 2, 2020.
2. Regarding interrupted travel opportunities, see Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. When Travel Is Restricted, Be Honest and Trust God. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org April 4, 2020, accessed June 2, 2020.
3. Nowadays many Icelanders are recommending recreational nature hikes in accordance with whatever opportunities you may have, especially local places conducive to nature hikes. See Ćirić, J. Iceland’s National Parks Prepare to Welcome Local Tourists This Summer. Iceland Review. Posted on IcelandReview.com April 29, 2020, accessed May 4, 2020. Regarding the recreational and doxological benefits of birdwatching, which can usually be enjoyed locally, see Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Turtles, Birdwatching, and Living through Tough Times. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org March 30, 2020, accessed June 2, 2020.
4. Staff writer. Hiking in Germany: Wandering as a national pastime. Deutsche Welle. Posted on dw.com May 15, 2018, accessed June 1, 2020. Volksmarching (from German Volksmarsch, meaning folk-marching) is a non-competitive recreation tradition (at least 50 years old) that promotes physical health, usually by walking in scenic places, typically along marked hiking trails. Some Volksmarching clubs keep formal records of hiking events and achievement programs. Another German term, Volkswanderung (meaning “folks wandering”), is similar, yet is now used less often because it sometimes connotes un-leisurely mass migrations, such as wanderings of refugee emigrants.
5. Quoting Kelley, D. W. 1985. A Trail Guide to ‘Cha-ha-oh’ Trail (revised edition). Westcliffe, CO: Horn Creek Ranch and Conference Center, pages 2 and 31. This is the same Horn Creek family camp noted in Johnson, J. J. S. Steller’s Jays, Dumpster Diving, and Comparing What Is Valuable. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org May 2, 2020, accessed June 2, 2020. See also Psalm 104; Colossians 1:16-17; Revelation 4:11.

*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
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