Sunday, April 10, 2016

Three Months of Two Miles

There is just this one two-mile long trail at the park where I lived this winter.  So I’d walk, run, or rove it at least once, usually twice, and sometimes three times a day during the week.

Did it ever get boring?
Was there ever a day when the sunset was just the same as it always was, pretty-boring-dull-colors-anyway, should-have-just-stayed-in-bed?
Did I ever regret putting on my trail runners and heading out into the cold/ wind/ snow/ stillness after a tiring day?
Do you really need to bother seeing the elk when you can see their scat?
Could I have just waited until the next day to see the newest blossoms opening up?
Did it matter that I finally got to glimpse the gray fox up top, silhouetted against the sunset? (Sorry you can't see him over there-- you just had to be there, I guess.)
Hopefully, you get my point.  Which is: the trail outside your backdoor is equally important as the exotic, once-in-a-lifetime trails farther afield, if not more so.  There is something life-affirming about getting to know the place where you live, wherever it is.  A daily walk brings you in tune with your neighborhood wonders, with the changing seasons, with the changing hours.
The tinajas filled up with water.  And eventually it all evaporated away and nothing was left but cracked dust.
Full moon evening.
That one day they did a controlled burn, and the smokey sunset was all yellow.
During the 15-minutes of the March snowstorm.
Now, granted this is one phenomenal, two mile trail.  No doubt about it.  But still, this was the first time I’ve had such limited options in terms of where I could exercise in the evenings.  No other routes (except the flat road) and no off-trailing allowed.  Yet, the experience of the same trail, day after day, was extremely rewarding.

Don’t put off walking everyday just because you think that next month, or next year, or *someday* you will be somewhere prettier or more worthwhile.  Maybe the backyard ramble will teach you lessons that you thought were only possible on a long-trail.

Here are tips to help you make it a regular practice to explore your close-to-home routes:

   - Make it less “tedious” by changing up your routine- vary your pace, route, and time of day. 

This moment happens so fleetingly.  Can you experience this moment from a different spot on the trail everyday?
   - Bring friends and family. 
Going with Mom made me see how big these dropoffs and steps can seem.
   - Carry a pack, or not.  Load up your pack with 5 lbs, or 40 lbs. 
   - Race to do it in 30 minutes.  See if you can draw it out to 2 hours— no really, try harder to slow the heck down.
  - Change your perspective, change your focus.  Try looking at everything close up, or only in the distance.

Don't forget to look down.
And up.
Don't forget to look back over there too.
   - Pretend you are a geologist, a birder, a botanist, or someone who knows about lichen or grasses.  Notice everything you can about that one aspect of nature.  Make up silly fake-scientific names for all the plants/ geological formations/ birds you don’t know.
Neapolitan ice cream unconformity.
   - Try not bringing your camera on the day of the brightest, electric red sunset.  Force yourself to memorize the colors rather than focus on taking photos.  (Yes, this will make you cry since you won’t be able to post it on instagram— get over it.)
It was sort of like this, only imagine more glitter.
Whatever you do, GET OUT THERE. 

How do you keep your backyard, after-work trails interesting?


  1. Love all these Pics :)

    1. Thanks so much- it was fun trying to take fresh photos of the place I was at every single day-- a worthwhile practice for sure!

  2. You had a pretty special 2 mile trail. Great collection of photos! The years that I participated in the 1000 mile challenge I spent many days taking mini walks in the neighborhood. It was flat but I did notice lots of little things I might not have noticed otherwise plus I got to meet my neighbors and interact with their kids and pets.

    1. I did think of you and your 1000 mile challenge. And I also did enjoy meeting my "neighbors"-- it has a different feel than always exploring places far away. It's nice to cultivate a sense of home and place.

  3. Well, this got me moving. It's Sunday and I was pretty well decided on not going for a walk this evening when I saw this.

    So hey - why not? I need the exercise. Luckily, I took an umbrella because there was a rain shower about 15 minutes out. But it was all over in a couple of minutes, so I got to put the umbrella away.

    About two minutes before the rainstorm hit. The gravel path was suddenly an inch deep. But there was grass to walk on. But grass is just as wet, so my feet got soaked, but at least it wasn't a thunderstorm.

    Boom! Lightning. More rain. Heavier. Wind.

    Jeans wet. Shoes wet. Socks wet. Arms wet. Rain pouring off buildings in violent urban waterfalls (no rain gutters here). Slip-sliding around on tile sidewalks. Raindrops machine-gunning the umbrella, trying to get at me, trying to break through, trying to blast away my one good ear.

    Almost like real hiking.

    Well, whatever - at least I did get out there. And it was different from my usual walk on the very same old route. So thanks for the reminder.

    Another great post.

    1. I'm so glad this post inspired you, and allowed you to get out for a true urban hiking experience. Nothing like getting drenched to really make it worthwhile. It's so easy to just stay home all curled up with a pot of tea and a good book during a rainstorm-- and then you don't get cold and uncomfortable, and your umbrella doesn't get a chance to bust a spoke, or anything fun like that. So really glad you got the reminder in time! :)

  4. Getting caught up on your recent blogs! Oh, what an AWESOME 2 miles - thanks for sharing your incredible pictures. I had to chuckle at the pic with your parents - I could just picture the look on your mom's face so clearly!! I've been varying up my daily walks - between the lakefront and marks and the wooded Metroparks - you are so right that the experience is ever changing through the seasons and time of day šŸ˜„

    1. OMG yes, I'll bet you can just imagine my mom out there. She was such a trooper!

  5. One thing I do is never run on my favorite dog-walking trail. I find it really hard to enjoy walking on a trail once I get used to running it. Maybe I need more practice slowing down.

    1. I admit, I do like to run sometimes, so I'm always trying to remind myself to slow down or at least vary the pace.

  6. See if you can draw it out to 2 hours— no really, try harder to slow the heck down.

    Love this.....the old Joan was hard to keep up with! Always enjoy reading your adventures and was inspired to move to the mountains of western North Carolina! Lots of great day hiking in the area and I'm looking forward to getting out and exploring the trails close to home.

    1. How wonderful that you moved to a beautiful new place! To have that as your home, to walk outside your front door and already be in nature-- yes that's the way to really live.

  7. Replies
    1. All taken with the secret ingredient... (i.e. love).