― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
I like to walk.
For me, so long as it's not too hot outside, whenever I needed to think, taking a walk was always my favorite option. Strap on a pair of headphones, add music and go. Somehow, those long walks, where I escape into my head, if only for a little while, would always soothe whatever doubts, fears or anxieties that were hanging from the day, and leave me prepared to take on whatever came next. I dare say that these head clearing exercises also inspired a great deal of creativity as well.
The city isn't always the best place to go for a walk, though. Cars and dogs can get downright territorial depending on where you are trying to walk. It's difficult to get into your own head space when you are concentrating on avoiding getting hit or bit. Los Angeles native that I am, especially in the inner city areas where I was raised, I am used to constant concrete, broken up by the occasional tree, or if someone is REALLY good, a nice lawn or garden. The scenery doesn't change much. But I still preferred being outside, and if I could catch even a small glimpse of the beauties of nature, it felt like a bonus.
A couple of years ago I became a fan of a show on PBS called Globe Trekker. I am a perpetually broke single parent, so I have a tendency to travel vicariously through others. This show is the perfect vehicle for that. By watching this show (and Rick Steve's Europe), I have been able to view nature in all of it's beauty all over the world. What really got my attention, especially in the Globe Trekker series, were the hikes. Long walks through beautiful countryside in every corner of the earth. Fields, meadows, trees, flowers and not a car or streetlight in sight. I would look at my daughter laying next to me watching these shows, and we would agree (as she dropped off to sleep) that we needed to see more of these types of things.
We immediately planned our next hike. This one was longer, 4 miles in and out, up through Eaton Canyon, and into the Angeles National Forest to a small natural waterfall. Neither of us had ever seen a waterfall before, and for most of the time on the trail, she ran ahead of my sister and I. Here is the beauty of taking a child out of the city, and into the natural world. She was fascinated by everything she saw, because for the most part, she only got to see any of these things on TV. Her oohs and aahs, and the looks of wonder on her face, will stay with me for a very long time. She got to forget about daycare and neighbor kids for awhile and just enjoy the wonders and beauty of the Earth. She was also ready for her first trip to a sleep-away camp, and was completely able to enjoy the experiences of hiking in the woods, and sleeping outside. My sister and I got a good workout, and got to have a good, unhurried conversation while marveling at the landscape that surrounded us. And although we started later than I thought we would, therefore it was extremely hot on the hike out, it was still a beautiful trek, although we agreed we would go back when It was cooler.
My first solo hike was to have been this past Friday. A one mile round trip around a natural garden, up to a man-made lake, then back out again. The heat got me again, before I got to the lake, but the beauty and solitude of the trails and surrounding gardens will draw me back again when it is cooler. I also discovered that although solo hikes are nice when you need to clear your head, it's better to go with someone else. I admit that I am still a city girl, and hearing things rustle in the surrounding brush startled me into a trot on more than one occasion on those isolated trails. Having someone else there to take it all in with you makes for a great time of discovery with conversation and companionship to boot. And of course there is space to sit and contemplate.
I live in the city, and as always I have to go home. But a love of walks in the woods has been woken in me, and I have a list of hikes I am planning to attempt. Short and longer, destination hikes, and looping trails, up into the mountains, and along the beaches. There is great beauty in my own backyard, and I am just getting around to exploring it all. No need to trek the globe. Not yet anyway. But I do hope to meet you on the trail someday. Just lace up your shoes, grab a friend and take a walk.