If you mention the word “church,” this — a shot taken at Derrick and Gwen’s beautiful wedding last weekend at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church — is the image most people would come up with.

And yeah, that’s tough to argue with.

But I got out of bed on my birthday and drove north, out of the gloom that encased Pittsburgh and towards one of my favorite spots anywhere — the Kildoo Trail along Slippery Rock Creek. It’s a decent little hike, but the best part, for me anyway, is plopping down on a rock next to the creek and taking everything in.

That time of day, this time of year, means I generally have the trail to myself. When I last did this — on my 40th birthday — it was a chilly day, and it even snowed a little bit while I was walking. Yesterday’s walk was just as quiet, but the weather was glorious — cool but sunny, with just enough of a breeze to pull some yellow leaves off the oak and walnut trees.

I don’t spend a lot of time in churches, but spending a morning like the one I did yesterday accomplishes a lot of the same things for me. There is no outside noise, there are no distractions — there is just peace. And when I left, I felt renewed. I have hassles, headaches and problems, just like anyone else, but they seem insignificant when I’m there and manageable when I leave.

And for me, that’s exactly what I need.

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