Wednesday, May 10, 2017

take a hike

We discover a lot about ourselves when we travel. Even when it is merely aspects we forgot we had.

For me, it is hiking.

You already know I am a bit obsessed with walking for exercise. In the past month, I have been pacing between ten and twenty miles each day. I like it.

But exercise walking is not hiking. When I exercise, I block out everything around me -- and just walk. It is an end in itself.

Not so with hiking. A good hike should cover a respectable piece of trail. But the experience of the hike -- and its surroundings -- is everything.

It had been a long time since I took a hike. Maybe sixteen years ago with the peripatetic Professor Jiggs. That is, until I took hikes in New Zealand (hiking with queen charlotte) and Colombia (coming to jesus) -- and I had a great time reviving a slumbering pastime. Great enough that I had one of those heart-to-heart talks with myself about why I no longer hike.

We have some hiking opportunities around Barra. But not many.

That is why I jumped at the opportunity to take a hike with the family when Christy mentioned it this morning. Bend is one of the world's recreation capitals.

What was once a mill town nestled on the banks of the Deschutes river has traded in its chain saws for marketing fun to tourists who come to ski, hike, snowboard, rock climb, and kayak -- and to be engorged with the output of the town's microbreweries.

When the logging industry collapsed, Bend made bread out of poverty. The sawmill was turned into an upscale shopping center along with a chain of of trails and parks hugging the river. 

What had been a utilitarian stream for transporting and storing logs became a first rate attraction for residents and tourists. Why drive to Disneyland when nature can provide thousands of happier places on earth?

The trail system is the crown jewel in Bend's reinvention of itself. 65 miles in all. And a lot of those miles are in the city itself.

We (Darrel; Christy; my niece Kaitlyn; her friends Lisa and Noah; and I) decided to tackle the four miles that run along the banks of the river in south Bend. If it had been an exercise walk, it would have been a warm up. But it wasn't an exercise walk; it was a hike. A time to be one with nature.

And, just like New Zealand, the hike had everything a successful hike needs. White water. Ponderosa. Lodgepole. Chaparral. And plenty of birdsong.

Tolstoy may have thought all happy families are all alike and that unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. Had he thought that about hikes, he would have been wrong. Because every hike is happy in its own way.

As was ours. I have always found running water to be good for the soul. The sound helped me keep my pace to hiking speed instead of power walking.

One of the sure signs that spring has arrived in central Oregon is the return of the tree swallows. They were out in force -- skimming over the surface of the river in their iridescent blue formal wear.

Swallows appear to take great joy in the fact that they can fly. And they are happy to show that talent to envious humans.

Darrel told me that the last time he was on the trail (and that was several years ago), it was possible to walk the full loop without encountering another person. That was not true today.

We must have seen close to fifty other people on a Tuesday afternoon. Mothers with babies in exercise strollers. Dog walkers. Fellow hikers. Fishermen. Runners. Joggers. Kayakers. All of us putting the trail to its intended purpose.

I started to ask myself why I had moved from Oregon. I felt almost renewed by our two hour stroll along the river. I could do this every day.

Of course, even if I lived in Bend, I would not hike every day. That is how we humans are. We tend to covet what we cannot have and ignore the treasures we possess.

I had lived in the Melaque area for eight years before I took an ATM tour with Ray (city slickers duding it up). And I did that only because Darrel and Christy were there.

But that is why I travel. There is something about being in new places that clears away the natural interta of our existences.

It is also why I am still up north. Finding those parts of who I am amongst the detritus of daily life.

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