A walk in the park is a relatively simple process. It involves stepping into shoes, grabbing a snack, some water or other liquid refreshment and heading out into the woods. But if you’ve ever read stories about Winnie-the-Pooh , you might recall that this ain’t necessarily so. After all, he has a reputation for being “a bear of very little brain” with a tendency for going round and round, in more ways than one. Still, I’m very fond of Pooh; we have something in common: a liking for going on “expoditions.”
Recently the forecast called for a mild and sunny Saturday. After a week spent parked in a cluster of gray cubicles, I was more than ready for an outdoor adventure.
At first I considered a trek to Washington D.C. It’s Cherry Blossom time down by the Tidal Basin and Mother Nature is flaunting her stuff. Trees with delicate pink blossoms surround the basin, much like ruffles on an old-fashioned petticoat. I knew I’d regret passing up this display, but the thought of pushing my way through a throng of people all bent on posing for pics or picnicking beneath boughs of pink fluff put me off.
Should I take a spin on my bike, the Purple Pansy? I nixed that as well. Give locals a perfect weekend day and we all dash to the nearby trail. There, we throw ourselves into dense huddles of walkers, joggers, bikers and babies in strollers, as easy to move through as swimming in honey.
And then I remembered my floppy muscles; they needed revving up. I knew just the place to wake them.
That’s why, last Saturday morning I found myself huffing and hoofing along the Perimeter trail in the woods of Rosaryville State Park.
For eons, as I made my way along MD-301, I saw and promptly forgot the sign to the park. A few years ago, octogenarian friend Cindy, the feisty German friend who gave me a lesson in Kaiserschmarren-making, told me of the time she and visiting son Tony were lost in the woods for many hours. Last year, friend Debbie invited me to join her on a trek through the park.
Together we’ve twice explored a portion of the trail. The path, with its winding and varying terrain, is an ideal cardio workout, great for toning lax muscles. On our first trek we were surprised to hear the trumpet of a horn followed by hounds baying madly into the woods. Soon we found ourselves no longer in Maryland but in England. Or so it seemed when a party of riders, all dressed in English-style riding pinks, with stunning horses and eager hounds running alongside, came ambling through the woods.
This time, with a mental battery in need of recharging, I went alone.
Feeling as spirited as Winnie’s friend, Tyggr, I bounced onto the trail feeling all was right with the world. Three white-tailed deer bound up from a clearing. They stopped, stared and, deciding I posed no threat, leaped across the path not twenty feet in front of me. Brooks meandered through valleys; water spilled over rocks, tiny waterfalls that echoed in the tranquil setting. Songbirds flitted, chirped and twittered all around. Violets and Bluets hugged trees and peeked through the leaf-strewn ground.
I made room for riders, horses and dodged piles of horse poop. Daredevils on mountain bikes careened past, jumping branches, tree roots and man-made mounds. Are they on time trials for the Olympics or just out to self-destruct? I wondered. Feeling much less energetic, I plopped onto a tree trunk, nibbled my nut bar and sipped water as I watched them zoom by.
Sometimes, being in a Pooh-like state-of-mind, I wander without a map (or GPS). Inevitably, the thought I should have been there by now arises followed by Am I heading in the right direction? I kind of know that I’ll get there eventually. I’m just not sure how long “getting there” takes. That happened last weekend.
Three hours into the walk, worry sat in, birds no longer sang “every little thing gonna be all right.” I’d already scarfed down my snacks. Water, energy, mood—all were in the red. No sense heading back, it would take longer than going forward. What to do.
Here’s my tip: be a kid, throw a tantrum.
Get me the hell out of here, I screamed, wanting to throw myself to the ground. Then I remembered Cindy’s misadventure. If an 89-year-old managed to walk upright out of the woods then I’d better get on with it.
It’s spring but the spirit of Christmas came to the rescue. “Put one foot in front of the other” played over and over in my head.
PLEASE tell me I’m near the end because I think I’m lost, I said to the young man sprinting past. It’s only about three more miles. You’ll see the horse trailers soon and then you’re close to the parking lot.
I’m sure he was either misinformed, took pity on me or out and out lied.
They were the most miserable three miles of my life.
When I glimpsed cars I was tempted to charge my way through the thicket. But thinking, dignity, Vera; dignity and not wanting to look like an escaped lunatic, I stayed the course ‘til the path spilled out onto the parking lot.
9 miles. That’s the official distance to walk the Perimeter trail. It felt like 99. My stumble through the woods lasted nearly 5 hours!
The most expensive champagne couldn’t taste as sweet as the water I found in my car.
I peeled off boots and socks and shoved wrinkled pale sausages, a.k.a. toes, into comfy sandals. Once home, I wallowed in an Epsom salt bath and guzzled gallons of water.
It’s a remedy I highly recommend, if, like me, you’re wandering round and round for hours on end.
When you wake the next morning your muscles will thank you. And, like a “silly old bear”, you’ll find yourself full of sunshine and ready to excrete happiness again.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson