Like Thoreau and Bill Bryson, I took myself into the woods today, mostly for a walk up and down the hills, for the clear, cool air, the views of the distant mountains and landscapes. There is nothing quite like a walk among the trees, the juniper, piñon, aspen and ponderosas around here. They seem like welcoming friends along the trail, friends who over the years have shown the way, the path ahead well marked. Sometimes the path is not marked so clearly and there appear to be choices as to whether to go this way or that. Or as the recently departed Yogi Berra is said to have declared, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
The hills themselves are gentle, forgiving, not so mountainous as to challenge these muscles, tendons and joints beyond what is reasonable and realistic. As for breathing, blood has about 90% of its normal level of oxygen at 10,000 feet and that makes for a little more difficulty, especially for those of us in the upper age levels, even if reasonably healthy and in generally good condition. The air begins to get a little thinner around 5000 feet and at 7500 it’s noticeable climbing up. Fortunately it’s not a big issue. Besides, the hills and the contours of the surrounding land add another level of natural beauty worth regarding.
The surface of the trails varies from smooth and hard to small stones and rocks and with so many turns and switchbacks, it’s important to watch carefully where you place the next step. It’s easier and safer to stop and take in the views than it is to be looking off into the distance while still walking at a regular pace.
We have a small check list and prepare for the weather accordingly. Starting out layered, then, as body heat is generated, it’s easy to shed something and tuck it away into the back pack which carries the water bottles, maps, snack bars, water dish for the dog, and some miscellany for personal preferences. The smart phones have compasses and if you want, apps for measuring distance, heart rate, and a host of other functions. Why we are recently so concerned about so much escapes me most of the time. There’s probably an app for that too.
The peaceful environment, being immersed in the natural world, and in a place of beauty and serenity, fills me with gratitude for the opportunity of being here in this place at this time. The colors of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, the breeze and the sun add to an ideal day of this walk in the woods among the trees and hills and I am at home.