Hiking Challenge Day One: Mission Get Lost
Having lived in the city all my life, I saw nature in brief, planned flashes: road-tripping to Rocking Horse Ranch, camping for a weekend, visiting some tropical spot for that summer's family vacation. But I loved those moments, treasured every minute of them--well, when I could see them. I only got glasses in seventh grade and was virtually blind before then.
Oops. Well, that explains why I was sucky at sports. Not a lack of athletic inability, no, definitely now. Just blindness.
Anyway, I've decided to hike a minimum of five miles every day for a week because 1) it's an excuse to roam about and 2) I think it'll do my health--both mental and physical--some good. So here we go.
Lewis Morris County Park
Using AllTrails--an app that allows you to find hiking trails and track your wander--I discovered Lewis Morris Park. It's a State Park only an hour away, and I figured it'd be the perfect first effort. So, at about four in the morning when I oh-so-gracefully woke up from birds chirping outside the window I had forgotten to close, I brushed my teeth, grabbed a water bottle, and headed out.
When I arrived in the parking lot, not a single soul came into sight. Back on the trail in Bar Harbor, I ran into people every ten minutes or so--this wasn't like that at all, so I guess I was a little uneasy at first. But, I figured I was already there and the weather was lovely, so I was going to do what I came there to do--go out into nature and explore the beautiful wonder it had to offer me.
I'm not going to lie: those first few minutes there felt heavy with a kind of unease. I'm a small girl, alone, in a place I wasn't familiar with and with no one to know where I actually was. The sun leaked out through the skinny, pale tree trunks and, tilting my head back, I saw the vibrant green of the upper foliage, bathed in the open sunlight. But down where I stood, the trail laced with winding tree roots that I tripped over more times than I could count, darkness, not thick but still present, still laid claim to the land. I came upon a small pool of water and listened to the croaking of frogs I could not locate precisely, and stood a bit, admiring the reflection of that brightness above in the pool's surface. Along the hike, I would come across countless little streams that, I assume, fed into the larger lake--most had those tiny, adorable bridges to allow the trail to continue unhindered. I always had a thing for those little things. Ugh. But anyway.
I got lost a few times. I knew I wanted to stay on the yellow trail, but that the red, blue, teal, and green trails all intersected that one at various points along the way. This is where my AllTrails app actually came in handy--not only does it record your hike, which I only learned about halfway through, so my whole journey was only documented on my Fitbit, but you can see which of the trails you're on. Knowing where I was going allowed me to relax just enough to take in all that was around me. And there was a lot to admire.
The entire hike took just a little over two hours, and I had wandered for about five miles. So goal achieved! I saw the tail end of a fox just as it darted out of my path, walked through so many spider web strands that I still feel them on my arms like tiny little hairs, and thoroughly exhausted myself (I took an hour long nap afterwards, because, hey, life is short and sometimes you've earned yourself a nap), but I gained a newfound trust in my body. It's amazing, really, what our bodies can endure when we allow them to thrive. By bringing myself out into nature and putting myself to the test, I learned what my body was capable of. Especially growing up in the city, and being a writer on top of that, intense physical activity isn't an active part of my daily requirements. I have to make the effort to take care of my body and challenge it to new experiences.
Sometimes in the buzz of daily life, we forget to take time to remember to simply exist. This world exists for us to explore and to thrive. If we go out into it with an openness for whatever comes our way, I believe that we'll experience something truly wonderful.
I hope you all take a few minutes out of your day--maybe not two hours like I did, but go for it if you have the time--and remember that you are here, living, in a world filled with countless people and places you have yet to see. There's something magnificent in that, actually.
Much Love, Actual