In my quest to walk more this year, I’ve also challenged myself to take more challenging walks (read: with hills that make my knees wobble).
One of those — one I simply call The Hill, though it’s a beast of a hill — is close to home. The downsides to that path are (A) that it follows a main road, and (B) it skirts along the nearby park which, though lovely, harbors a fragrant skunk colony. Therefore, I rarely walk this route in the mornings (when the chance of meeting a skunk heading home from a night on the town increases significantly).
So lately I’ve been trying to hike at Oak Hill Park once a week or so, right around dawn. This city park, about 3 miles from home, covers a rural area that up to about 5 years ago was a conventionally-farmed corn or soybean field. That it is now a place of peace and semi-wild beauty with a 1.75-mile path winding through and up and down fields of wildflowers is nothing short of a testament to nature’s power to heal itself with only a little nudge from humanity.
I rarely find more than one or two other people at the park at dawn, so I can enjoy the relative silence, broken only by birdsong. (And considering the number of red-winged blackbirds I’ve heard there recently, I’m happy to have that music to accompany my walk!) If the morning is humid, fog often settles in the lower areas of the park, adding to the peaceful atmosphere. And on days when the air is clear, I have a good chance of witnessing a vibrantly-colored sunrise.
Some of the hills here require extra effort, a little huffing and puffing or even the occasional rest. It’s not that they are particularly steep, but they offer long steady inclines that weary my poor knees. I remind myself, though, that last year at this time I was hiking up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, and those happy memories give me the encouragement to power on.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up weekly hikes here once the farmers’ market season and my intensified baking schedule begin this summer, but I’ll certainly try. Visiting Oak Hill for a 30-to-45-minute walk serves as a lovely little getaway for me.
And really, I can always use another happy place in my life.