If I am not very careful and do not watch my back, I am going to be packing healthy oat-nut granola bars into a fanny pack that I strap onto the waist of my high-tech snow pants, which I have tucked into my space-aged padded socks that peek out of the tops of my light-weight, nubby-soled, extra-tractiony shboots (which I double-knot for safety), snapping the chin strap of my floppy sun-protecting hat briskly, hauling on my survival backpack and snatching up my sturdy, polished-to-a-gloss walking stick as I stride out the door, the dogs at my heels.
“Come!” I will cry out to my faithful companions. “We have mountains to conquer! Valleys to probe! Rocks to scale and small, tree-lined paths coated in sucking mud to wander down confusedly because we’re not sure exactly where we’re going! It is adventure we seek, for hikers we are! And we hike! Away!” The dogs will be wearing hats, too.
And then I will climb into my Subaru Explorer Edition SUV of Doom and roar off into the day and over to the hilly but nicely manicured golf course that sits at the bottom of the town’s mountain, and once more forge a path along the very clearly marked and heavily traveled Exercise Trail that, nonetheless, makes me feel like a real, live hiker person and dogs. With hats. I feel that the hats are very important.
My dog-walking adventures continue, and they continue to make me very happy. It is good for me, to break out of the house and the rut in which I am unclothed and unconcerned about my dignity; it is good for my Min, who continues to be charmingly batshit. It is good for E’s sweet Porter puppy, his boxer who enjoys to explore things and has very important missions to complete when we are out on the town. I have been taking them up to the golf course, which is acres and acres of rolling green (though recently, very white). They run, and I run after them. They stop to sniff things, and I fall down a hill and roll to the bottom. They come to sniff me. I limp up the next hill and throw myself back down. We frolic! They try to eat the other dogs we run into with alarming, frustrating regularity. A cross-country skiier comes cross-country skiing by, and they lose their ever-loving minds. Then we run out of golf course, turn around and come home.
It is a wonderful time, and it is good for them to go flying across the snow with their ears flapping behind them (and in Min’s case, a long, magnificently unbreaking silvery trail of drool), it is good for me to be flinging myself around the countryside, but I feel that we’ve been missing something, and that is a sense of purpose and direction. We have been missing a path to follow, a goal to achieve, a destination, an objective–ambition. Also it was getting frustrating, trying to herd howling, yelping dogs away from one another and from cross-country skiiers.
So today, when I discovered the hiking trail that led from the back of the golf course, through the trees, and breaks open far above the whole city and the wide expanses of snow, that feels so close to the sky, that has the mountains at our back and winds enticingly through groves and up through valleys and over streams and in between outcroppings, with signs that say things like “Waterfall 1.6 miles,” and “Canyon 2.6 miles,” I felt that we had discovered our purpose. We were hikers. We would hike. We could explore these intricately connected web of trails that lead all over the mountain and through it and next to it. We would discover canyons and water features and new, knee-deep patches of mud that would end up, paw-print-shaped, all over the upholstery of my car, and it would be good. It would be better than good: it would be great.
That is not to say that we will not be rolling down hills at points in the future. But, buoyed up by my discovery, and loads of sunshine and the lack of oxygen at high altitude and not having fallen down any hills, I have decided that hiking (sorry, “hiking”) is our new hobby, and though I will probably avoid buying specialty shoes, who can resist a big stick? Also, the dogs will look so cute in hats.
photo by Flickmor