I went on a little adventure on Friday. What I gained from it is a priceless sense of independence and empowerment. I’d experienced this activity countless times with my family but have had a growing urge to try this alone. I’ve lacked the courage to do so in the past for two reasons: my sense of direction is a few fries short of a happy meal and I didn’t want to be murdered by the Boogie Man. Friday changed all of that for me. I finally went hiking in the woods by myself!
We have the privilege of living near a state park that has a diverse ecosystem with an abundance of of wildlife, trails, streams and a river that I’ll never get tired of looking at. This place is becoming my new best friend, gym and place of solitude where I can leave my worries, my busy schedule and my job at the entrance of the trail.
I realized as I was parking my car that I’d forgotten the map of the park that my husband had printed for me so I had to hike the trail relying solely on my memory from the one and only hike I’d taken on this particular trail with my family the weekend before. Fortunately this park color codes the trails. Once I found the turn off for the blue trail I knew I was on my way.
My first obstacle was to cross a small stream. I’ve crossed plenty of streams and rivers but this one was different. I was alone. I had to survey the stream to find the safest place for me to cross. It was a tricky little stream with large rocks under water that could be slippery and if I stepped wrong I could fall. I was able to cross the stream and check box that obstacle.
My sense of awareness changed after I crossed the stream and entered the deeply wooded area. My ears and eyes were in the drivers seat. My ears identified each and every word that nature spoke; the hollow sound of my footsteps on the ground, birds welcoming me, raindrops softly hitting the fallen leaves and of course the silence. Occasionally I’d hear a cracking sound and wondered if it was an animal traveling through the brush or a branch that had fallen from a dead tree. My eyes focused on my surroundings, the beauty of the forest and the patches of blue painted on various trees indicating that I was on the blue trail. Look for blue. Stay on blue but don’t forget to do a 360 every once in awhile to make sure the boogy man isn’t behind you.
I hiked along, kept my eyes open for blue, and remembered every land mark I’d made a mental note of from my hike with my family the weekend before. I listened intently to everything nature whispered to me. Each time I changed elevation, the woods presented me with a different flora to observe and a new appreciation for the experience.
After I was about three quarters of the way through the trail I encountered a fork in the trail. Orange was to the left, blue was to the right. I did not remember this part from my previous hike with my family but I was alone and I had to decide what to do. I chose orange because it veered left and I felt that was to the direction that take me to the main entrance trail. I started getting nervous because I didn’t recognize the scenery but I knew as long as I stayed on a trail I wouldn’t be lost. From a distance I could hear the sound of the flowing river telling me I’d soon pick up the blue trail and sure enough I did.
I could not contain the smile that came across my face as I approached the main trail that would take me out of the park. I didn’t want to leave but it was time for me to re-enter society, go to the grocery store for the ingredients for the supper that I’d make and then greet my children as they arrived home from school.
I grew up in an era when kids played outside. I spent plenty of time outside with my brothers and the kids in our neighborhood swimming, riding bikes, playing ball and getting dirty. My family did not however, have an appreciation for the outdoors. We didn’t hike, fish, camp or spend time on the water the way my husband’s family did.
Each decade of my adulthood has had a different theme. I am now midway through my third decade of adulthood and the theme of this one has been to earn a bachelors degree, change jobs, participate in my children’s extra curricular activities and stand by my husband as he earned a master’s degree. It is in this decade that I have developed a hunger, yearning and an interest in the outdoors. I want to be able to occasionally leave the craziness of life at the entrance of the trail to hike, fish and eventually learn to camp.
I believe that everything comes in time at the right time. As the decades of my life unfold there will be more time for the outdoors but I know where that trail is, that I can hike it by myself and that when I need to leave society at the entrance of the trail if only for a few hours it’s there waiting.