I read awhile back that somebody said you might learn more from climbing the same mountain 50 times than you would from climbing 50 individual mountains. Hiking trails are much the same.

I was on my morning hike the other day and came across a couple Christmas tree bulbs somebody had hooked to a tree.

Christmas bulb in the woods

I thought, “wow, that’d be cool picture” so I brought my camera long next time. First thing I realized: the bulb creates a fish-eye effect that makes it nearly impossible to photograph without having the camera in the picture. I shot this from a zillion angles and finally decided heck with it, I’ll stop fighting the urge to hide the camera and see what happens.

Another novelty I happened to notice on this trail I’d walked a bunch of times before.

Big dead tree stump

Looks like any old fallen tree, but notice the park road in the background and the angle of the fallen stump: When this tree fell it most likely blocked that road completely. Another of those examples of nature’s seeming delight in bollixing the designs of mere humans.

If you spend much time reading about wildlife you’ll come across the phrase “charismatic megafauna” — a fancy way of describing the innate charm of tigers, elephants and other examples of threatened species that are much easier to rally around than, say, a snail darter or a spotted owl. For hikers there’s a similar phenomenon you might call “charismatic megavistas” — mountaintops, cliffs, coastlines, fiords and such that induce gap-jawed wonder.

There’s a strong tendency to become so captive of charismatic megavistas that we ignore the possibility for wonder amid the mundane in our own neighborhoods. The trail you can walk to from your front porch cannot possibly be as wonderful as the one that requires airfare and six months of planning.

Mushrooms on a tree

Here’s a closeup of a mushroom on that tree stump. Something about this image transcends the limitations of my battered digital camera and scant photographic skills.

Lately I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to drive a hundred miles each way for a few hours of hiking, and every time I come home with images like these, whether in my camera or in my memory, I can’t help thinking: it’s OK hike the same trail a hundred times.

Because as long as I’m paying attention, it’s not the same: different light, different weather, different colors, different state of mind.

And most of all: worth doing.