Before my holiday in Scotland, I found myself wary of the “difficult” trails in my area. Knowing these trails might involve more than lots of hill-climbing, I hesitated to walk them without a buddy.
My perspective shifted in Scotland. “Easy” walks there, like many sections of the Fife Coastal Path, could include long steady ascents, narrow or rough trails, cliff-edge paths, or long distances. Unable to pack my hiking poles, I managed a wide variety of walks and hikes on my own, challenging my limits and successfully completing a handful of hikes that might qualify as “difficult” back at home.
So when I returned, I started looking at my hiking goal list with that new perspective. Plan for 6, 8, even 10 miles in one day? Attempt two or three “difficult” hikes in a row, on my own? Sure, why not?
Which is how I found myself at Sand Run Metro Park shortly after sunrise this morning. I had, quite frankly, avoided the park because I knew that all the hiking trails had a label of “difficult” and likely involved some steep paths. Now, with my inner voice telling me, “Well, I did it in Scotland…” I decided to visit the park and hike the three loop trails. For an estimated total of 4 to 6 miles. On my own. Why not?
I gave more thought than usual to preparing for the hike, tucking some sensible first aid items, a small towel, a rain jacket, water, and snacks in my backpack. I planned to hike the combined Dogwood and Mingo trails first — or at least part, since I’ve already hiked the portion of the Mingo trail located in neighboring Nature Realm. After that, I meant to hike the Parcours trail, and then I had a clean shirt, pants, and sandals to change into when I finished.
I started at the Dogwood/Mingo trailhead and, unsurprisingly, immediately began climbing the wooded path. As always, I stopped to rest as needed, but I soon reached a point where the path leveled out. The morning sunlight glowed softly through the lushly green canopy, making droplets from last night’s rain sparkle in its beams, and I found myself merrily traipsing along, finding happiness in my morning walk.
The trail descended eventually to the road running through the park, and the Mingo trail split off to the left. Unfortunately, the trail was blocked, and the sign indicated that it was closed due to erosion, so I had to write off that final portion from my goals list. Instead, I turned right and continued the Dogwood trail, following the parkway to where the Mingo trail rejoined the Dogwood and then around the bend and over a small hill to where I had parked. Success!
I took a break, changing my shirt (the morning was already warm and humid enough to make me sweat) and eating a snack before repacking my backpack (with a lighter load) and heading to the Treaty Line parking area. From here I could hike the Parcours, a trail for running as well as walking and with exercise stations set up over its 1.4-mile length.
I don’t run (I always injure myself), but I decided to try some of the exercises along the way, from arm circles and side bends to jumping jacks. The exercises became more challenging the further I walked, though, and since that wasn’t my purpose for being on the trail, I stopped making time for them. Still, I enjoyed the gentle ups and downs of the trail as well as the golden light through the trees, and I mentally cheered myself as I came to the end of the trail. Who said this was “difficult”?
Now that my perspective has shifted, I think I might actually be looking forward to tackling other “difficult” trails this year!