I don’t feel like I’ve had a day off unless I get out in the sun and do something. Sometimes I almost work harder on my days off – skiing, hiking, biking, gardening – than I do on workdays, when I spend most of the day sitting at a keyboard. Playing outside relaxes me, even more than meditation or yoga – talk about hard work!
Playing outside relaxes me, even more than meditation or yoga – talk about hard work!
In spring, I garden, and in summer, I hike. Both are simple ways to honor the adventurer in me, in between big-ticket challenges. On those spring days when the garden doesn’t need me, I do easy hikes, to ramp up to my summer push into the high country. Early in the season, I’m still a bit lazy, not yet ready to rise at dawn to reach the top of a mountain before afternoon storms turn me into a small but effective lightning rod. So, in May, I tend to keep my hikes close to town and no-brainer.
That’s when it’s handy to pull out my Denver Hiking Guide: 45 Walks Within 45 Minutes of Denver, by Dave Rich. I bought it at REI when I first moved here in 2000. The book was a year old then, so if you buy a copy you’ll want to check it against the latest online info, since trails tend to change. Still, this book hasn’t steered me wrong yet, in terms of sending me on nearby walks that get me a little exercise, a reasonable distance from the urban grind, in at least some semblance of nature.
This book hasn’t steered me wrong yet, in terms of sending me on nearby walks that get me a little exercise, a reasonable distance from the urban grind.
The 45 walks are more like 30, since several are simply different routes through the same trail system. But I’m nothing if not thorough, so I check them off one by one, and I have about a dozen to go. I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of this little guide.
On Monday, our day off, my husband and I woke late and played online for a bit before I pulled my little blue book out again. This time I chose Bear Creek Lake Park, to walk what the author calls the “Game Field Loop,” though we saw no signs calling it that. The walk took us through the 1.7 mile Fitness Trail, plus a 1.3 mile loop that follows Bear Creek along the Owl Trail. The park is pleasant, if not spectacular – graced with breezy grasses, lakes and creeks, and green-and-shade dappled riparian habitat, all in a cradle of distant mountains. The price of admission: five bucks.
The fitness trail crosses flat open space, and the dirt path offers little challenge. So, for once, I tried a few fitness stations, doing stretches, leg lifts, sit-ups, pushups, and even swinging on the monkey bars. Dale exercised his eyeballs: eye-roll to the left, eye-roll to the right.
The creek, and a few spring flowers, made the walk worthwhile.
The creek was what made the walk worthwhile: bordered by slouching alder and cottonwood, a few spring flowers, and the enchanting surprise of a tiny, completely yellow bird unlike any I’d ever seen. “Usually we only see birds that brightly colored in the tropics,” I said. But for me, the best part of a Colorado hike is the light applause of rushing water – when you can get it.
Rivers, streams, and waterfalls soothe me. There’s something prehistoric about them, a reminder that there’s no need to hurry.
Rivers, streams, and waterfalls soothe me. There’s something prehistoric about them, a reminder that there’s no need to hurry. The earth and its waters were here long before humans, and will still be here long after, and though the water keeps getting rearranged, it keeps on moving. After pausing on a bridge to listen, I can return to my regularly scheduled life as satisfied as a child who has just taken a drink from the garden hose.
After pausing on a bridge to listen, I can return to my regularly scheduled life as satisfied as a child who has just taken a drink from the garden hose.
The walk wasn’t exciting, but it was “away,” and that’s what I needed, if only to make me happy to come home. It also allowed me to put another checkmark in my book, giving me a small sense of accomplishment. Why not? All goals are arbitrary, and only take on the meaning we assign them. The goal of a hike simply means I’m fit and active, open-eyed and exploring, a participating part of Colorado and the earth, even on my lazy days.