It’s really a wonderful thing to lose a day in the forest.
To not pay attention to the time and just start hiking down a trail.
To hike until your satisfied; only turning back for civilization when you are full of fresh smells, cleansed by sweat and dirt, and your mind has worked out whatever thoughts and problems that were lingering when you pulled up to the trailhead.
Stopping mid-hike for a rest; cuddled by the sun and tickled by little ants and flying bugs that traverse the length of your arm or leg as you doze off to another world.
Taking a picture of beautiful scenery all the while knowing that anyone who looks at the picture will never fully be able to appreciate it and understand it, but you’ll be immediately taken back to that moment, those sounds and smells; that experience.
It’s really a wonderful thing to lose a day in the forest because even when you return to your other life, part of you still stays behind among the trees and wildflowers.
Part of you never really leaves but is always waiting for your return; when you’ll be whole again.
Last week Darwin and I attended a small Film Fest put on by the Arizona Trail Association for Latino Conservation Week. We watched three short films and had a brief discussion after each. I was greatly impacted by a short film on the Colorado River (Colorado River – I Am Red). Thanks to this film, I plan on researching and learning more about water conservation via americanrivers.org. Although it was a small turn out, I was excited to meet a few new people and start building a connection to my community and the organizations that help support it.
Taking a lot away from the film fest and the people I met there, I have been slowly trying to make the first steps to get involved. I renewed my membership to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) a community of my past and always my first love and started a new membership with the Arizona Trail Association (ATA) the community of my present. I find myself utilizing the Arizona Trail daily and felt it only appropriate to start shedding some drops of sweat from trail work instead of recreation, thus I have signed up to start volunteering too.
As I write this however there is a forest fire currently burning over 1,000 acres of Coconino National Forest. Just outside the window, I can see plumes of smoke. If I sit outside flakes of ash can be seen dancing on the wind and the smell of smoke is present. The forest neighborhood where Darwin and I would park the Clydesdale over last few years is burning and those that currently live in the area are being evacuated.
My community requires water to contain and suffocate a fire and the water source that helps provide water to many, many, communities in my state The Colorado River, has been used beyond its means and is also in need of help. The trail I’ve been using almost every day and those that connect to it, are most likely going to suffer from the fire too.
Everything is connected in some way or another. The action of one individual or actions of numerous individuals will cause a ripple of effect whether good or bad. Those “ripples” may be noticeable now or years from now.
Every one action and reaction touch someone, something, or someplace and this week I’ve been reminded of that in numerous ways. I am such an insignificant creature when it comes down to it, but my actions can leave such a lasting impact on others and Mother Nature.
I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately. I’ve walked to the post office, downtown, to the grocery, to the office where I now work, and other places. Where is the Clydesdale (our van) you may ask? Hanging out, I’m choosing to walk out of the pure desire to do so.
Let’s get this straight, I consider walking and hiking two totally different things. With walking there is less gear to carry, the distance is typically shorter, wearing “wicking” material is not always needed because cotton is okay, I don’t worry about how much food to carry, walking typically is on asphalt or concrete (not always, but mostly) were as…
Hiking takes place most usually on a dirt trail, your located a majority of the time in a forest, wood, park, or what have you. A hike is usually several miles in length, lunches and snacks are included, water is a must, sweat will likely happen, gear is needed and plans are made.
The “walking” I’ve been doing can easily be handled by a quick drive or ride, but the keyword there is “quick”. I’ve found the need to take things slow and easy. When driving you miss a lot. The fresh air, the smell of the Jeffery Pines, the coolness of the morning, mule deer grazing in a wooded yard… I do love to ride The Prince Veronica (my bicycle) but I have to admit even when riding there are things that I find I’m missing out on; I crave the small details.
When I’m walking I notice the cracks in the asphalt and concrete and wonder how they were made, I admire the ants busy at work, running across from here to there, I take in the silence around the neighborhoods and wonder about the people who live there, I take in the beauty of the weeds growing in the cracks on the sidewalk; I can’t help but think they are pretty. I let my mind clear and let it think all the thoughts it needs to think and challenge it to strategize when I need to play Frogger to cross the street. Sometimes I just tune out and listen to an audiobook; multitasking by exercising, reading, exploring and errand running all in one.
When I arrive at my desired location I’m refreshed and awake. I feel ready to tackle any task and I feel grounded or centered if you will. Best of all I feel good for not just falling into the habit of driving; I know the areas that surround me more intimately than those who just drive past them.
I just can’t help but express my fondness for walking lately. I greatly enjoy my little walks (not to be confused with my hikes) and I encourage you to walk a little too. Next time you need to go somewhere try going by foot. Find all the beautiful little things you are missing when you ride or drive. There’s a whole world out there that we all miss because we are moving to fast.
Being in a new place can at times be a little overwhelming however, being back in Flagstaff is more like coming back home. I am familiar with the area; I know where a lot of the essentials area, grocery stores, and thrift stores, gas stations, coffee shops, etc. However, now being more centrally located here, I have time to wander about finding that there is even more exciting stuff to explore, discover and experience.
For instance, earlier this week I went out for a run. Trying to still acclimate to the elevation this was my first real attempt running off a treadmill, a self-propelled run if you will. Instead of heading to my right down a road I was familiar with already, I decided to see what was to my left at the other end. I expected to see housing and apartments however I was surprised to find a dead end. This dead-end, however, was only a dead-end for the road, a trail branched off from the road.
Of course, I had to keep going to see what I could find down the trail and thus I kept running stopping occasionally to take a good look around, having then been transported into fields of high grass and pines. I eventually came up to a trail junction and was shocked to find the Arizona Trail intersecting with yet another trail, one I had not heard of before. I felt the urge to keep going but on which one? For a run, I was expecting to be short and on asphalt, I was now two miles in heading further down a dirt trail. What a lovely surprise!
Later in the day when I returned from my surprise trail run, I visited a local bookstore and purchased a Flagstaff Trails Map. As I unfolded it, trails of all sorts stretched out in front of me, weaving in and out of the city, spider-webbing out from parks and roads. I immediately felt an exciting urge to ride, hike, or run on each of them. They were all out there waiting for me.
Moral Of The Story: Just when you think you know a place, turn down a road you haven’t traveled before, and look a little closer. You’ll probably find there is more waiting for you to explore.