Not All Walks Go Somewhere

The other day I had the opportunity for a very leisurely walk on a lovely afternoon.

It was totally enjoyable.  I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of the Fall colors, avoid most of the sweet gum balls, and count a bunch of acorns.

My walking companion was my 16 month old granddaughter, Addie!  And, she never misses an acorn.

I am her ‘outside’ grandma.  Her other grandma, Grammy, is better at the indoor stuff.  But when Addie sees me, she knows it’s time to put on her shoes and head outside.  Of course, we read books and sing to the teddy bears too, but we are much more fond of blowing bubbles and listening to the neighborhood dogs bark.

This is a way of walking that I highly recommend.  No hustle or bustle.  No keeping up a pace.  Just a meander.  Walking just for the sake of being in nature – and in the company of a wonderful kid.


A Distraction

We all need a distraction from time to time.  One of the blogs I regularly read had a recent article bemoaning the ‘good old days’ of the blogger’s life – back when s/he had time/money/youth – you pick.  Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.  It’s always the same.

When I was reading the article, it became clear to me that what the writer needed was a distraction!  Get over all the things that are part of the past.  We were all once younger, thinner, cuter, richer, poorer.  All of us.  Certainly that younger part.

Of course, from time to time, I recognize a longing for some day or period of my past.  But not for long.  I can distract myself pretty easily.  One of the very best distractions for me is to go for a walk.  Could it be simpler?

Simple does not always mean easy.  KISS – keep it simple, stupid.  That’s a great acronym that reminds me to focus on what’s important rather than what seems urgent right now.  While I might feel that a chore or errand is important, it’s probably just urgent.  My health is important.  That’s my mental health as well as my physical well-being.

Should you find yourself stressing over what Christmas gift to buy, or where you’ll find the money to buy the Christmas gifts, how you’ll ever get the house clean for all those guests coming for dinner, or what the neighbors will think about all those leaves still clinging to the grass in the front yard, remember to take care of yourself first.

If you take a walk, I guarantee that the leaves will still be there as will your neighbor’s opinions.  Christmas is still on December 25 (every year!).  The guests will appear whether the house is cleaned or not.  The money WILL come.  I guarantee all of that.  I also guarantee you’ll feel better about all of it!

Different Kinds of Walks

There are a range of kinds of walks.  There is the stroll, hands behind one’s back or being held by another person.  There is the dog walking the human walk, kind of like my paddling a canoe downstream, floating from one bank to the opposite one, not in control of the canoe or the dog.  There is the ‘on a mission’ walk, a business event.  There is the taking in the sites walk, varying pace depending on the scenery and the conversation – but getting to the end is not the goal.  There is the we gotta get out of this place walk, a frantic rush to the end, wherever that is.

Then, there is the defined walk – the kind I like to take.  Walking with a purpose but not with my pants on fire.  Eyes ahead to take it the sights, dog on close lead so she does not delay or distract me, maintaining a nice pace while, often, carrying on a friendly conversation.  I like to talk while I walk, so if it’s just the dog and me, I spend the whole walk engaged in ‘conversation ‘ with Lizzie.  She is a good listener.

There’s a time and a place for all these walks.  There’s no right one or wrong one.  Well, for me, the dog walking the human is not gonna happen.  Other than that, I routinely participate in all the kinds of walks.  But, when I write or talk about my walking, or taking a walk, I’m referencing a specific type of walk.  Me with a goal, a destination, a pace, good shoes, enough time, and a strong preference for an unpaved trail in the woods.

What are your walks like?  A business walk is what gets us from one class to another in school or from one meeting to another at the office.  The sight-seeing stroll is lovely and we all do it.  The dog walking the human is just a mistake – one that I see every time I am around humans with dogs on leashes.  More than half of those duos will be led by the dog rather than the human – a disservice to both.  A bit of training will take that walk to a whole new level, better enjoyed by both dog and human.

So, walking is such a part of our lives that we often just don’t even think about it.  I must give it some thought since I need to pay attention to my pain level and treat ahead of time with some Tylenol.  I must have my good shoes and socks available.  I need a layer of sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.

Walking is easy for most of us and we give it little thought.  When we move walking from casual to either defined or ‘business’, we also move its place in our lives.  Essentially the same activity changes roles and redefines itself.  But, whatever you call it, the movement is good for you on several levels.  So, keep it up.



We’re Into The Fifth Generation

My love of walking was not created in a vacuum.  It occurs to me that with my little granddaughter (now 16 months old), we are into the fifth generation of walkers in the family.

My mom died April 6, 2017.  She walked every day up until a few months before her passing at age 94.  Before mom, there was her mother (my mamaw) who loved a walk in the woods more than just about anything else she could name.  She lived in a tiny town in rural Northwestern Arkansas, surrounded by heavily wooded hills, clean creeks, numerous lakes and ponds, and a nearby canal that led to the Arkansas River just a couple miles from her home.  She walked to pick berries (muscadines were a favorite), to listen to bird songs (mockingbirds and cardinals were favorites), to get to the canal to fish (never ate the fish from that canal), and to get from here to there.

My mother fled that small town at age 18 for the big city and WWII where she was a Registered Nurse in the US Army for the duration.  She did not begin her daily walks until she retired from nursing in her 60’s, despite the fact that nurses probably walk 10 miles a day during a shift at work.  But, a different kind of walk.

I had taken many walks with my mamaw when I was a child.  She was such a fun human being that I spent as much time with her as I could.  She could make most things fun!  The journey from picking berries to making jam seemed really long to me as I had absolutely no interest in any domestic ‘arts’ as a child or teen.  But, my appreciation for nature was born in that era.

It only took me to about age 50 to begin daily walks.  What started as a strongly stated second-rate activity because I had been forced to give up my beloved racquetball, soon became not so second rate with me.  While I would go back to racquetball in a heartbeat, I would never willingly give up my walks.  I’d enthusiastically do both!

Fast forward several years to the present.  I have a daughter who invites me to walk with her once or twice a week.  She has discovered the wonders of walking for her physical well being as well as for its tension relieving qualities.  She enjoys walking and swimming, and walking in the pool.

And, for the fifth generation, little Addie (the daughter of my oldest son) and I take at least one walk every day I babysit her.  We walk outside in heat, cold, rain, and soon, snow.  We just suit up and show up and the walk proceeds.  While walking with a 16 month old will not result in much of a work out, it has other benefits and lots of charms.  We have a great time!  Addie is constantly searching for rocks, sticks, and acorns, picking them up, sorting them, moving them from one location to another, making piles here and there, sharing them with me and others, and generally making an hour’s activity of all this.  We ‘run’, walk, jump, and stomp, crunching those dry leaves in a way that can appeal only to a toddler.  We even carry a rock ‘purse’ to save select rocks found during our walks.  Since we are not purists, some of those ‘rocks’ are black walnuts masquerading as their far less edible counterparts.  These daily walks occur mostly on the sidewalk between her house and the end of the street – five driveways.  That world is plenty big enough for a toddler surveying her world under the watchful eye of a loving grandparent.

My fun-loving mamaw would be so pleased to learn that her great great granddaughter was happily tramping on trails similar to those blazed by her a hundred years ago and four hundred miles away.  So far, the beat goes on.  No evidence it will every stop.

Brisk Autumn Days

I am NOT superstitious!  But, I prefer to use the term Autumn rather than Fall for this time of year.  Goofy, I know.  But, having fallen a couple of times in my life, and suffered injuries both physical and to my dignity, I shall refer to these brisk, sunny, beautiful days as days of Autumn.  No Fall allowed.

I have rediscovered the pleasure of walking alone – rather with just my dog, Lizzie – on week day mornings.  I had gotten away from that for some time due to a busy life, general disorganization, and dedication to friends who must walk later in the day.

So, who says I can’t walk twice in one day?  I say I can, at least on some days.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays are dance days for me.  So, now, I take a short walk in the morning and continue to dance for about 1.5 hours on those evenings.

I cannot sacrifice the opportunity to spend time in nature on crisp Autumn mornings just because I have commitments later in the day.  It’s well worth it to me to take the extra time out of my daily schedule.  Too bad if anyone else thinks it’s frivolous for me to do so.

I am very fortunate to have the support of my husband and other family members about this.  Everything else that’s supposed to get done each day will ultimately still get done if I spend an extra 45 minutes walking.  I’ve written about that before.  If you’ve read many of my blog postings, you are well aware that putting myself high up on my ToDo List and letting other things take care of themselves works just fine for me.

That said, I truly do not need much prompting to lace up my shoes and hit the trail when the weather is so inviting.  Autumn is full of allergy triggers for me, but walking proves to be quite an effective tool to ward off those ill effects.  Sort of like an Autumn-Allergy-Immunization!

While I am not an early bird, not an early riser, not particularly energetic in the morning, I find that taking a brisk walk for even just 20 minutes turns me around.  I am energized, both physically and mentally, by that walk and look forward to knocking items off my ToDo List.

A new you could be just a brisk walk away!  Try it.

Smart Walking Info

The November, 2017 issue of Family Circle Magazine has a nice one page article featuring a round up of walking statistics.  The article focuses on many of the points I have tried to emphasize here.

* Walking is good for us;

*Walking is easy;

*Walking offers great rewards with minimal effort.

What could be wrong with any of that?  According to this article by Gabriella Vukelic, there’s more….

*Walking up and down stairs for 10 minutes offers the same energy boost as caffeinated soda or coffee;

*Walking in nature for 60 minutes improves short term memory by 20%;

*Walking while texting can be hazardous to your health.

There’s more in the article.  You can read it yourself.  It’s brief, to the point, and pithy. And, consider this point.  If you wear a Fitbit, you are 50% more likely to jog (and I hope walk too) on Thanksgiving Day!

And Still I Walk

My feet hurt.  My hips hurt.  Often, my shoulder hurts.  I get migraines.  I overheat pretty easily.  I have two different sleep disorders.  I have arthritis and have had two total knee replacements.  And, I’m no Spring chicken.

And, still I walk.  Why?  Because it makes everyone of the complaints in the paragraph above better.  Really!

My brother has a theory that you can’t have pain if you focus on something else as you can only think about one thing at a time.  I must be remarkably talented because I seem to be able to think of many things, all at the same time.  A book I just read may explain this difference.  According to the author’s (fictional) character, women’s minds are always busy, buzzing from one thing to another while men’s minds focus on only one thing at a time – I’m hungry, I’m horny, I’m handsome, etc.  Women would get awfully bored in that one-thought-at-a-time mind.

At any rate, I find that walking purposely for 20-60 minutes ALWAYS makes my day better.  Much of my pain is diminished.  My outlook improves.  I’m happier.

And, still I walk.  Now you know why!

Thorn Apples and Dogs Don’t Mix

Thorn Apples are very attractive.  They have a pretty flower and grow wild.  But, beware!  They are also known as Jimson Weed (will make horses crazy) and Devil’s Snare (will make the rest of us crazy).  Check the plant out here. They have a viscious barbed seed pod that is almost impossible to remove from the fur of a long-haired dog.

While walking along a creek bed in Castlewood State Park yesterday, Kris and I went to take a look at some late blooming flowers.  These were near the Thorn Apples we had identified earlier in the year.  The Thorn Apple seed pods are quite large – as much as .75 inch long and .50 inches around.  Dog friend Lizzie was with us as usual.  Nothing unusual about the walk or the company.

About an hour after our walk, my husband noticed that Lizzie was limping.  I checked it out and identified a burr in the pad of one foot.  We teamed up and attempted several times to remove the burr.  Nothing doing!  Lizzie, a very mild-mannered, good-natured dog snapped at both of us.

So, a trip to the vet was in order.  That happened this afternoon.  It didn’t take them very long to remove the burr – but it was FIVE burrs!  Poor doggie!  She does not like the vet on a good day.  This was definitely not a good day for her – except that once she was free of the burrs, she was back to her usual frisky self.

Later, we walked at Castlewood again.  On a different trail, far from those darned Thorn Apples.

Emmenegger Still Beckons

I have been walking at Emmenegger Park for years.  It’s a Kirkwood (MO) City Park on the banks of the Meramec River as the river flows under I-44 a few yards west of I-270.  The park is tucked between the two highways, the river, and a rather isolated outer road that winds for a couple miles from Geyer Road, past Powder Valley State Park.  If you don’t know that park is there, you are unlikely to stumble upon it.  Most people never make it past Powder Valley.

Emmenegger was once ‘the’ Kirkwood city Park.  It had a nice pool and bath house, a couple baseball diamonds, a pavillion, and some nice trails.  After the flood of 1993 which devastated much of the St. Louis area on both sides of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, the park fell into disuse.  The pool was filled in after that.  Then, after the floods of last year, the pavillion is gone now as are the baseball diamonds.  The trails, luckily, remain.

The entire park is not large with less than two miles of trails.  But, they are great trails!  There is a creek running through the park, two steep trails – one overlooking the river and one overlooking the outer road.  The river overlook has several rock outcroppings offering a place to stop and take in the sights of the river as well as the sounds of the soccer park across the river.

Emmenegger has one other advantage.  No bikes!  While I love to share the trail with bikes, it’s a relief to have the trails to ourselves from time to time.  No hassles with the dog being scared by a bike.  No having to step aside into the bushes to allow a bike to pass.  No being startled rounding a bend.  No having to remind bikers to announce as they come upon me from the rear (which is posted on all trails shared by bikers and walkers).

Emmenegger is a wonder.  It’s mostly used by dogwalkers.  It has a devoted group of volunteers who cut back the invasive honeysuckle.  It remains undiscovered by the masses.  So, if you’re interested in walking on a path that’s not ‘beaten’, skip on over to this one.  It’s worth it.  And it calls me back again and again.


A Lucky Find

My daughter and I live about a half hour drive (in no traffic) away from one another. Lately we’ve been trying to get together once a week or so for a walk. I have more time on my hands these days, so I try to save her some time by driving to her neck of the woods. Well – if there were woods! While she lives near Forest Park, we have not been able to find my preferred trails – unpaved and covered with mulch, wood chips, or just plain dirt. Forest Park has a few such trails, but they also seem to include at least an equal distance of paved paths. And, there are bikes, strollers, skateboards. Gets too busy for us.

So, I went looking for a suitable place to walk near her. Came up empty for several weeks. Then, one day when my husband and I were running (driving!) errands in that part of town, I saw a street sign that indicated a City Park. After we finished our work, we checked out the park.

What a find! The park is very near a huge mall (The Galleria) and an extremely busy strip mall area, the Promenade. I hate having to deal with the extreme traffic at the Promenade, so I typically steer clear of it as much as possible. Tucked in, down a narrow side street less than a mile from the Galleria and within spitting distance of the Promenade is the MidCounty Y and the park. It’s actually a series of parks – Hanley, Memorial, and a couple others.

The park contains a paved walking trail, picnic areas, gazebos, tennis courts, playgrounds, and assorted other suburban park amenities. I checked the map at the park and learned that there was at least one lengthy trail in the park. I assumed it was paved, but since it was mostly shady and the park was tranquil and lovely, I would be happy to walk there.

Later that day, I met my daughter and we set off for our walk. There were plenty of twists and turns along the trail, plenty of turn left or turn right. We kept exploring and soon discovered that once we crossed a foot bridge over a creek, there were mulch trails amid the trees! It was a lovely day, so we felt compelled to explore as many of these trails as possible. Quite a treat!

Turns out that there are 5 or 6 streets that cross the very busy Brentwood Blvd but dead end after a length of 1-3 blocks. The dead ends are where the park land starts. With no need to trespass on any private property, we were able to walk through a maze of hilly, crisscrossing mulch trails, plotted out under the cover of mature trees. The trails contained foot bridges over creeks and some paths led right down to the water. In an earlier era, there would have been a phenomenal swimming hole under one of the pedestrian bridges. Braver souls than I might still splish and splash around in the creek. My assessment of the creek revealed that there is absolutely no wildlife existing – not a minnow or a tadpole, not a water stridor or a snake, turtle, or frog. Too sad. It would have made a great, almost secret swimming hole, a true gem when you can identify one and use it.

Now, I must phone my buddy who lives on one of the dead end streets there to determine why he never told me about the trails behind his house. He better have a really good explanation for withholding awareness of these trails. I know his boys would have scrambled all over the neighborhood and were experts in what will henceforth be called ‘The Lost Trails Behind Brentwood Place’. He’s got some ‘splaining to do.

While I’m awaiting his explanation – likely to be a convoluted attempt to dig himself out of the dog house he knows he’ll find himself in once I’m done with him. While I’m waiting for all that, I’ll be learning these trails backwards and forewards, up and down, back and forth. This little gem of a park, this little series of 3 or 4 parks strung together throughout the blocks that comprise an industrial park. It turns out that with the anchor of a Y at one end, the dead end streets in nice residential areas, and the light industrial businesses create a uniquely appealing and approachable park setting.

We will continue to explore all the nooks and crannies, happily strolling the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the creek side and foot bridges to get the ‘refill’ that is readily available from a walk in the woods.