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.
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.
After sitting in front of the computer most of the morning, I decided to embark on one of the hikes in the book Best Hikes Near Pittsburgh. I wasn’t in the mood to drive far, but I knew that the final countdown of leaves changing was in it’s last days, and I would regret it if I wasted it indoors. Again, the world did not disappoint and my decision was immediately vindicated a few miles into the drive.
My windows were full of rolling hills packed with bright reds, oranges and yellows. Colors are at their peak and I found myself getting excited for the hike ahead of me. Thirty minutes later I was at the trail head of Brady’s Run Park, surrounded by the most vibrant yellows and oranges I had ever seen.
I found myself stopping to take a picture every few feet, because in my wildest imagination I couldn’t have created the colors and vibrant scenery. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
About thirty minutes in, I passed by a fellow hiker, who commented, “And I thought I had the woods to myself today.” I smiled back and said hello, but I knew what he meant. It’s so empowering and almost cozy thinking you are the only one being enveloped by the surrounding woods–the sound of another’s footsteps disturbing the peace of your own solitude with nature.
As the afternoon wore on, the wind picked up and dark ominous clouds rolled in. I cut my hike short to avoid the storm, because the forecast called for heavy storms, but when I got back to my car, still no rain. I decided to tempt fate and take the one mile walking loop to make the most of the day, and continue to enjoy the colors.
On my way out, I stopped at a local farmer’s stand and got locally grown squashes and garlic. I may be not be able to make the colors of fall last longer, but as it rains outside my window, and the leaves are slowly, continuous falling to the ground, I have homemade pumpkin goulash in the oven to look forward to. It may not be the colors of fall, but at least it’s the taste of it.