I’d put it off for weeks. (For years?) It wasn’t even a long hike (2.5 miles). It wasn’t rough terrain, just steep (as steep as 6%). As a bus ride, Terwilliger Blvd is long-ish, twisting through forest, around the sides of small-ish mountains, gaining and losing elevation. It’s also quite lovely, with views that are difficult to enjoy driving a vehicle, or to enjoy long enough as passenger. I’ve had my eye on walking it for… years. Yesterday was a lovely cool misty gray morning, suitable for hiking. So I went.

I felt rather reassured that on foot, the perceived steepness of the paved trail seems quite manageable.

Hey, this isn’t so bad…

I felt rather reassured that on foot, the perceived steepness of the paved trail seems quite manageable. Trail? Sidewalk? Hiking? Walking? Do those distinctions matter? Not today.

In the distance, a city I love.

In the distance, a city I love.

The first view-point, hiking from my starting point at Sam Jackson Park Rd, was well up the hill and quite beautiful enough that if the hike had been tough going, I could have contentedly turned back at that point and felt satisfied with my progress… maybe. I exchanged pleasant greetings with a nice elder gentleman smoking a large aromatic cigar, and walked on.

A route for another day.

A route for another day.

I observe side trails along the way, taking note of each one and considering future hikes as I pass by. Once they are behind me, I return my attention to the path I am on, and this moment, now.

What's left of us when we're gone?

What’s left of us when we’re gone?

Along the road, off in the weeds, are the remnants of a well-planned exercise course laid out along Terwilliger Parkway. It hasn’t been maintained. The signage is rotting away in the weeds. Stations with exercise equipment still in place (like this one with a balance bar) are in disrepair, and not safe to use. We leave bits of ourselves behind as we move forward in life, don’t we? I found myself curious about the vision and intent of the parkway itself, and promise myself I’ll read up on it when I return home.

Nearing the top... and a place to rest.

Nearing the top… and a place to rest.

It would seem amusingly metaphorical some minutes later… but for now, I pause to enjoy a celebratory moment – I can see ‘the top’ just ahead!

The top!

The top!

Nope. Not the top at all. Just a peak, not the peak. There’s a lesson to be learned there, something about becoming attached to, or emotionally invested in, some goal or another… 🙂

...And then, too, there's the part about how it rained softly much of the way.

…And then, too, there’s the part about how it rained softly much of the way.

I have a raincoat, and proper rain gear for hiking. I could have worn it. Or brought it. Or checked the forecast. Instead, I just enjoy the soft mist, and cool fresh scent of petrichor as I walk through the forest.

Another beautiful view.

Another beautiful view.

I look eagerly up the trail… (“No. It’s not the top. Stop asking.” I tell myself.)

Beautiful parks and green spaces dot the trail.

Beautiful parks and green spaces dot the trail.

It’s a lovely day, and delightfully, I have the trail (and the day) mostly to myself. It is quiet, aside from the sound of traffic passing me now and then. Good timing… mid-morning on a Tuesday. 🙂

Just beyond the forest, the city.

Just beyond the forest, the city.

I keep walking. The trail keeps climbing.

Some of the exercise stations are well back into the trees, and quite overgrown.

Some of the exercise stations are well back into the trees, and quite overgrown.

Every point of view is subtly different. Each perspective on the city and the world beyond has nuance, and value. The trail just keeps climbing. So do I.

More forest, please.

More forest, please.

More acreage has been added to the original parkway over time. The high value placed on green spaces in the community is a characteristic I cherish about living in this area. More forest, more green, more trails… more ways to find a few chill content moments of stillness in a busy world. [Your results may vary.]

A handy side trail down into the dense wetland acreage conveniently at hand.

A handy side trail down into the dense wetland acreage conveniently at hand.

I stare down the trail into the wetland acreage… It’s tempting… but a lot steeper than I feel prepared for… and I’ve just spent nearly an hour walking a more or less continuous incline. I’m already feeling it. I’m not up to it, standing there staring down the steep staircase built into the bank… but I am thinking about other days, other hikes… I walk on.

Looking back from around the next bend.

Looking back from around the next bend.

I almost reconsider that side trail… I look back from farther up the trail, and see the staircase down through the trees from the other side. New perspective. Yeah… totally too steep for me, in that moment then. I chose wisely. I continue to walk on. My only real destination is to finish the 2.5 miles I’ve planned, and reach the bus stop at the far end. I’ve passed the last bus stop I could take if I cared to shorten the trip; I have to reach the finish at this point.

An exercise station deeper into the forest, seemingly without a path to reach it.

An exercise station deeper into the forest.

Each exercise station I pass reminds me of other forgotten human endeavors, trips with my Granny to see ghost towns, crumbling homesteads along country roads, isolated cabins left standing in land claimed by national parks… we settle, we live, we move on…

Approaching the final peak on this trail (in this direction).

Approaching the final peak on this trail (in this direction).

I laughed at myself when I experienced real relief seeing the final peak in elevation just ahead. Tired, and feeling more committed than joyful at that point, I feel renewed and re-energized by the feeling of achievement. Silly primate – it’s just a hill. lol

Unexpectedly pointless...

Unexpectedly pointless…

I shot a picture standing in a moment of utter stillness. No cars. No voices. No traffic in the distance. Nothing but the soft breeze, birdsong, and one still moment. I breathe. Relax. Exist so gently and contentedly… one moment that put the entire walk into perspective. This. This is my destination. A picture seemed appropriate…

…It was the last picture I took, with half a mile left to go. 🙂 I rounded the next bend and instantly frustrated myself with regret about the way I use my device; the battery died entirely, and my device powered down just as I approached a viewpoint called “Eagle Point”, with a carved wood totem pole standing nearby, and the landmark restaurant located there, The Chart House. I might have considered stopping there for coffee, but I was completely distracted by the sudden lack of camera, my feet were really aching by that point, and the bus stop was just a half mile further, down hill. I got started walking, after a few minutes enjoying the view from Eagle Point.

My bus ticket? On my device, which was as entirely dead and powered down as a device can be and still ever come back to life. lol I’m fortunate that the bus driver was very understanding about it, and my morning hike ending as the afternoon took over. If I took a moment I could remember what I did with the rest of the day… I do remember feeling quite content. That’s enough.

Every day is a solo hike on life’s journey. Destinations come and go, and have only as much meaning as I give them. The map is not the world. The destination is not the journey. I am my own cartographer, and each day is a new beginning. The future is a vast unwritten page in our unfinished story. What will I do with it?

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(There are verbs involved.)