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Taking a hike means more than just exercise regimen

By Sun Advocate

About three months ago I found a new world that I knew little about.
The neighborhood where I have lived for five years.
The street and surrounding areas where I live had been a place I just drove through until early June, when I started an exercise program that requires I walk at least three miles per day.
I thought I knew each house and lot very well. But my familiarity with the streets that surround my home was much like how well you might know someone that you see that works in the building next door every day. You wave to them as you walk into your work place and maybe see them when you go home. You know who they are, but you really don’t know them.
I started out the first day walking about a mile and a half. That first walk was an eye opener. First I found out that my neighborhood had a lot of friendly people. So many that I often had a hard time continuing to walk because people wanted to talk with me. Now anyone who works at keeping the heart rate up knows that to do that you have to keep going. I had to make the decision to walk in the early morning after that.
So the next day I tried to move it to two miles. To do that I found myself having to go in the same circle three times. Boring. The same reason I didn’t want to have a treadmill put in my basement to achieve the result I was looking for. So I decided to start to alter my paths of travel. First I reversed my directions on some days. Other days I took new roads and walked by a lot of houses I had hardly ever driven by before.
What I found was a world of detail and of beauty I hadn’t ever seen before. I have spent the summer viewing some of the best sunrises I have ever seen, and considering my age that’s a quite a few. Nature is the earth’s best exterior decorator.
But I have also learned that homes are not only a statement about the people who live there, but also a statement about our community, past and present. I walk by new homes, a couple of which have been under construction all summer, a couple more that have just recently been occupied. I have strolled by houses that were built early in the last century and still have their character, because the owners want it that way.
One of the things that has been most amazing to me is the details I have missed as I have driven by places a thousand times. I’ve found houses that I never even knew existed. I’ve found a myriad of beautiful yards and have even met a few people, out early, gardening.
I have seen poles, trees, signs, and animals I had never noticed before.
One morning on my walk I was headed down the road when I felt a little nudge on by back; it was a small brown goat that was following me. He stopped in his tracks when I turned around. I petted him and he went on his way. That same goat now greets me many mornings on my way along the course. I have encountered peacocks, raccoons, prairie dogs, deer and skunks along my route. Some I obviously didn’t try to pet. And of course the dogs; most are confined to yards, and bark at me.
There is something quite enlightening about how the world starts it’s day. Toward the end of my walk I usually pass a few people getting in their cars to head to work, and then they pass me by down the street, often waving.
A few days ago, when school started, I found out how early some kids show up at the bus stops. I’m not sure if they are there because the are excited to get to school or just wanted to get out of the house. It’s been so long since I rode one of those to school, I can’t remember what time I had to catch it, but to me at the time, it was always too early.
It’s also interesting to see the differences each morning brings to my neighborhood. Some mornings everything seems to run like clockwork: the same people doing the same things. Weekdays are like that. Weekends are when I walk my long walks, up to five miles. It’s then I see a lot of happy people getting up early, headed for fun or something they really want to do.
It’s funny how some of those same people have long faces on the other mornings of the week.
I also have come to be on a friendly basis with every other walker, runner or bike rider that I pass each morning. When you see someone else doing the same thing it is kind of like you both belong to a special club, that few others want to join because they would rather be sleeping.
A long walk is not for everyone. Some people prefer other activities or a different time of day to get their exercise. Some like running on that treadmill while they watch the news or their favorite television show. But for me this is the way to do it. Of course when the winter comes and those roads are icy, I may be at the BDAC running on equipment myself.
But for now this is great. It is something everyone should do at least once in a awhile.
But make sure it is just once in a while. I want that sidewalk to myself.

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