Little Steps: Day 9 – Escaping to Nature. And Leaving a Little of me Behind…

Day 9: 1.36 miles / Total miles: 5.54 / Days left: 170 / Time: 30:40 mins

I did absolutely the bare minimum on Monday. I couldnt move. And even if I could, I didnt want to.

This weekend completely drained me. Mentally and physically. Which is not a bad thing.

But I am learning to recognize when situations mentally drain me so that I can proactively take the time to heal.

Instead of crumbling in to a thousand pieces, with a misplaced broom and a broken dust pan.

So I hit the trail again on Tuesday after work.

For this hike, I had a purpose in mind. I wanted to walk as much as I could without stopping. At a speed I would be comfortable with the entire time.

I wanted to get an idea of what my baseline is for a mile hike. In terms of speed. And pace. And in terms of time.

And this is for a few reasons. I want to see how much improvement I make over the next 6 months. And I will be adding more and more miles on each week. Meaning, I need to have an idea how long it will take me to do a 4 mile hike so that I can let my husband, or whoever I leave my trip plan with, know what time they should expect me back.

And when it might be time to start worrying.

With that being said, (I am writing this after the hike on Day 11) I have discovered not all miles, and therefore not all times, are similar.

Some miles I will be able to easily traverse, only partially dying. Other miles…well you will have to read Day 11.

So moving on.

Today’s hike was in a location I never would have expected a forest to exist. And it was in a location that I was most definitely not familiar with.

I found it via the All Trails app. And I picked it due to mileage (1.3) and location (close to work).

I left directly from work. My GPS took me through a number of neighborhoods. Past a couple of schools and I think a church.

I kept wondering where this forest trail existed. All I could see were houses, and apartments, and neighborhoods.

I finally make it to the end of a neighborhood and TA-DA! The skies opened, the chorus started ringing, and light beamed from all the edges.

Ok maybe not. But there it was.

Towering trees. Dense vegetation. An old wooden fence.

And then I had to do something completely out of my comfort zone.

Up until this point, I have only parked in a designated parking lot. There is usually a bathroom of some sort. And there is always a park trail map.

But today, my GPS directed me to the trailhead that was marked by just a sign. No parking lot. No map.

I had to park on the street. And I had to rely on my All Trails map.

It may be silly. But I have never done anything like this. I was a little panicky to say the least. But it is what it is.

And I needed to get my mileage in.

Oooo a tree swing?!? (P.s. I did not find that this trip. Maybe next time)

I hit my FitBit Hike button. And off in to the forest I went. 100 feet in, and I had a choice to make. Left, or Right?

I like going clockwise. And the map is telling me it is just a big rectangle divided into halves. So to the Left I go. (Side note: I knew this was the route I was going to take since I saw the park trails layout a few days ago)

The trees envelope me. I could get used to this. Going left is only a slight uphill. Nothing bad. Barely noticeable.

Vegetation is fairly dense. But not tall. And even though we are in a forest, the trees are spaced enough apart that privacy is hard to come by.

The path turns right. The trail is a smooth and wide path. Fairly easy to traverse.

And then the downhill ascent begins.

It keeps going. My legs aren’t used to this motion. I make a mental note that when I add in additional exercises in the next few weeks, I need to figure how to make going downhill easier.

The trail keeps descending. Will it ever end? What goes down, must come up. Or is that vice versa?

I realize I parked on the top of the hill. At some point on this trail, I have to go back up.

Halfway down the hill, there is a new trail that goes to the right. This wasnt on the map.

So I look at my map. This isn’t the turn. I dont know where it goes. I do not feel that adventurous today.

I keep going.

Finally. The trail turns to the right again. I am on the right trail. And I start going up. I hope it isn’t too long.

At this point, I am focusing on my pace and my breathing. I an trying to remain at a steady pace so as to not tire early. But I need to push myself.

A runner passes me. Will I ever get that fluid on a trail I wonder? He makes these uphills look like backwards slides.

We reach a hump in the path. And back down we go. We, meaning my pack and I. No puppy today.

And we keep going down. I know that I am going to turn left at the halfway point. That part of my route was already preplanned.

We get to the fork. There is a beautiful bench, calling my name.

It overlooks the “I” in the trail. One side leads to a neighborhood. I politely decline. I tell the bench I need to move on. I have a purpose.

I turn right. Up and up I go.

Oh hey. Halfway up, the mysterious trail from earlier appears. It crosses with the N/S dividing line, and keeps moving East.

Again, this path is not on the All Trails map.

As I am walking up this dividing line, I have to work a little harder to control my breath.

I slow my pace just a tad.

And then it hits me.

I have to go to the bathroom…..NOW!

You see. I have no gallbladder. Meaning I have no filter. Meaning that when I need to go….I need to go. There is no holding it. There is no waiting.

One of my scout friends got me a birthday present last year. His son and I have the same birthday. It is pretty serendipitous.

I am now regretting not reading the book he got me. It was entitled “How To Shit in the Woods.”

I know the basics…dig a hole. Stir. Bury.

But here I am, in a park, that has thick, short, vegetation. Houses are literally everywhere. Backyards have fences with doors that open in to the park, with no trespassing signs hung.

Maybe I can make it I think. I will just walk a little faster. I take a left at the T.

I put the issue out of my mind. At least I try. I look to my left. That’s odd I think. there are a bunch of long sticks that are grouped together in an unnatural way.

I take a double glance and I see it. Someone made a shelter. I have to get a closer look. It is just off the path and hidden just enough that I had I not noticed the strange placement of sticks, I would never have noticed.

I take a few pictures.

I attempt to get a little closer.

Nope. I have to keep moving. My body tells me to run.

I walk a little faster. I am determined to finish this loop. Maybe there is another trailhead with a restroom.

And then I hear it. Giggling kids. Little feet running. Adults trying to convince them it is time to go.

Oh great. Is there a school here? Am I going to get arrested for indecent exposure? I really should have gone to the bathroom before leaving work. My mommy always told me….

I am pretty sure I am going to shit myself at this point if I do not figure something out ASAP. Stupid lack of gallbladder.

I really should have read that book. Whatever I do, I cannot tell him about this!

The kids are rounded up. It is quiet. I cannot go another step.

I instantly scan my surroundings. I see a Christmas looking tree about 8 feet off the trail. Or at least the trail I am on.

Because apparently this park has a ton of unmarked, well trodden paths that are not on any map.

Anyways, the bushy tree is in a ditch. If I crouch, I may be hidden just enough. It will have to do.

Ahhhhhh.

I dig my hole, stir, and bury. I make a mental note that I need to figure this shit (pun intended) out soon and move it to the top of my priority list.

Now that business has been taken care of, I can get back on the trail.

I am no longer breathing heavy. I am no longer panicky about a bathroom. I can go at an even pace again. And I finally can see the forest I am walking thru.

I

I am walking thru an urban forest. Or jungle. The paths are well maintained. But the land between the paths has been given permission to go wild.

Trees are down all over. Some older than others. They are covered in a deeper layer of moss, melting back in to the ground.

The older fallen trees are holding up the newer fallen trees. As if sharing their knowledge of the afterlife. What to expect once you have fallen. Your roots may be disconnected. But the old will be there to embrace you.

I take a left this time at the bench to go South on the dividing line.

My ending to this trail is up and to the SW.

But right now, I am walking thru a living, breathing, natural life cycle. In the middle of a big city, in between a bunch of neighborhoods, there exists this forest that wildlife and plants coexist and depend on one another.

This is an ecosystem that used to span miles in all directions. Thriving and growing untamed. And now it is confined and constricted.

It is one thing to live near green spaces. It is another to live in green spaces.

I reached my car. I stopped my timer. And I made a vow that these hikes, are going to be my oasis. My escape. Away from my real world confines and constrictions.

I am escaping to nature to thrive and grow.

Even if it is a forest in a neighborhood in a city.

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