Although the official first day of winter was this week, amazingly we had a few days where it was in the sixties. How could I not take advantage of the weather and go for a hike? I decided to venture across the border into West Virginia this time, because why limit myself to PA State Parks only?
I left early in the morning, while the fog was still around, making the hike a little chilly and damp, but quiet and dreamy-like all at the same time. On the advice of a ranger, I choose a hike that followed a river. On the way out I was on top of a cliff looking down at the river gorge, but still able to hear the constant running of the water. As I looped around, I got the opportunity to walk even with the river and experience the foggy bottom of the gorge firsthand. Although I felt the hike go by fast, it lasted well over an hour. This to me is a sign of great time spent outdoors. I loved the constant water trickling throughout the entirety of the hike, and being enveloped in the morning mists of the season.
I ran into a little trouble towards the end of the hike, as I couldn’t find the path to cross the river to finish out the trail. I tried to walk along the upper back, but had no footing so I decided to blaze my own bridge and walk across a natural rock crossing. I’m sure I looked like a slapstick comedy routine slipping and sliding, until finally giving up and just walking in the river, getting my shoes, socks and pants sopping wet. Why not? It wasn’t too cold and what’s the harm in getting wet. I drove home in bare feet, but it was fun nonetheless.
This hike was also different for another reason. I actually didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts. As I started the walk I kept thinking back to my dream the night before. It was more like a nightmare, and all I wanted was to forget about it. Unfortunately, my mind was down that path already so when I tried to put it out of my mind other worries and negative thoughts entered my mind. It took the majority of the hike to get my mind clear, but luckily it did. Which, when I think about it, can be the purpose of taking a walk in the woods. To clear the mind and find some peace.
Yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t stand being indoors anymore and decided to go for a walk on the local Rails to Trails again. The weather was cold, but sunny, a weather anomaly I have always enjoyed. It’s thrilling feeling the sun on my face, but the cold in my bones. Of course, if you add wind, I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much. But luckily yesterday, the weather was perfect.
The last time, I tried just walking the trail, I ended up running the trail and did not try any of those side trails that I have always intended on exploring. This time, I vowed not to let the music convince me to go any faster than a leisurely stroll. Before heading down tot he trail I went walking through a local housing development and I found a horse stable! I had no idea that it was there and discovered an awesome old cabin.
Once on the trail, I had the music cranked up and began looking for unmarked trails through the woods. I found one soon and climbed a very steep hill into the trees ready to explore the scenery. Almost immediately, I turned off the music. It was this instantaneous need that compelled me to walk in the quiet. It was as though music was fine when walking a less scenic gravel road, but the woods demanded my undivided attention.
The trees were literally creaking in the wind. It was the most wonderful sound. Many times I stopped just to listen to the trunks sway in the breeze, and occasionally emit a crack amid the silence. The woods were right–the music would have ruined the experience and I would have missed the songs of nature.
Today I felt compelled to go outside. I needed fresh air, I needed to hike. It was an insistent urge. I have been feeling out of sorts, sad, restless, unsatisfied. It could be any number of things, but I knew staying inside was a bad idea. And so I turned to the woods.
I didn’t want to drive 45-60 minutes to a state park, I just wanted to step outside my door. So I decided to walk along the rails to trails near my home. And I couldn’t wait either. I went early in the morning, when it was still quite cold. I could have waited maybe an hour or two to get some sunlight and warmth, but I couldn’t. Not one more second could be wasted inside. I needed to move.
Up until now, I’ve left the music at home, but this time around I brought my iPod to drown out some of the construction and car noises that I usually hear along parts of the trail. And I quickly figured out that there is a reason why an iPod is not the best companion when hiking through nature. For the first few miles, I was fine. I listened to a stream of sad melancholy songs that seemed to echo my mood. But as the shuffle continued, songs started to play that I wanted to move to. It became increasingly difficult to stroll. So I ran. Which was surprising to me, because I hate running. But today, I guess I needed it. I ran.