Horses and People

There aren’t too many places in the St. Louis area where you can walk and see horses lazing in a paddock.  But, there is one within a few minutes drive from my house and it’s a treat!  Longview Park was a private family estate not too long ago.  I would drive by and imagine how sweet life must be for the folks that owned this prime piece of real estate, complete with a huge paddock.

Little did I know the treat that was hidden from the view of passersby.  There is a small but lovely pond on this property.  The family donated (I think) this estate for the public to enjoy.  Now, the family house is a meeting location.  There is a playground and picnic area beside the barn which houses horses that are used for equine therapy.  A sidewalk runs about a city block around this property and a few houses near it.  Awaiting those on foot is the pretty pond at the bottom of a paved walk.  There are benches, a fountain, two ‘observation’ decks, and some mulch trails that cut through the stand of woods that hide the pool from the street.  Many of the trees are labeled and the area is partially landscaped and partly ‘natural’.

While one walks around the exterior of the park and its nearby neighbors, it’s easy to forget that the pond awaits you.  Once inside the park, the trail travels steadily downhill to the ‘funnel’ where the pond is.  The walk in the ‘funnel’ is nicely shaded, wide enough for traffic in both directions, and offers occasional seating and several foot bridges.

This has become our go-to walking destination when frequent rains have muddied the trails at Castlewood and other parks with trails we prefer to walk.

 

 

 

Forest 44 Conservation Area

Why did I not know about this wonderful place?  I’ve lived just a few minutes from this location near the intersection of I-44 and MO 141 for most of my life!  It’s not a park but a Conservation Area.  What’s the difference?  Not completely sure but their literature states that citizens can take berries, mushrooms, and other items from the CA while such things may not be removed from parks in Missouri.

The trails at this ‘park’ are mostly hilly and rocky.  The trails are limited to foot traffic, dogs on leash, and horses.  No bikes or other means of transport.  While you can hear the I-44 traffic from one or two of the trails, it’s not distracting.  There is plenty of horse poop to step around and some small streams to cross.  The signage is not terribly informative and can be a bit misleading.  But, there is a nice variety of trails here and I think we’ll spend the rest of this year exploring all of them.

Forest 44 CA abuts the Beaumont Scout area and a shooting range and is across I-44 from Lone Elk Park and Tyson Research Park.  There are also two commercial stables whose horses and riders use this CA.  I am a bit familiar with horses so I know to yield to them, especially when my dog is present.  One does not want to spook a horse and my dog thinks they are really big dogs who should want to play with her.  Nothing doin’!

I debated even mentioning this location with my readers as it’s quite a gem and I like the idea that it is mostly undiscovered.  But, this is not the front page of the NY Times!  We can all keep a secret, right?  If you want to explore a local treasure, check out this place.  I can’t wait to discover every inch of it.

I’VE BEEN MIA – IN ACTION!

I haven’t written an article here in months – maybe a year.  A lot has happened in the past year and I’ve been busy.

MIL passed away.  A wonderful trip to Australia.  My son married and our first grandchild will be here soon.  My mom has had some health issues.  Life has been happening!

And, during all the above and the millions of large and small things I (and you) do every day, I have been walking.  I have walked almost every day of the past year.  I’ve walked around my neighborhood, my city, my country and I’ve walked in Australia.  I was fortunate to visit Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, and Port Douglas.  And, I walked in all of those cities.  I even walked around the airport between flights to make the wait time go faster.  Airports are so frustrating.  If I didn’t want to be detained by TSA, I had to keep my cool through all the delays and passport clearance silliness.

Anyway, I think I’m back!  I’ve been thinking of article topics lately which is a clear sign to myself that I need to get writing.  Today, I walked with my friend Kris at a park not far from home.  We have branched out to search out other parks and trails.  I’ll share those with you in the next few days.

As for now, my dog is just happy that she gets walked most days and I certainly sleep better if I’ve walked.  I am also still dancing – sometimes dancing and walking in the same day!  For a preview of local walking trails I’ll be writing about, you can check into Castlewood State Park, Emmeneggar Park (Kirkwood, MO), Overlook Trail at Al Foster Park, and a mystery park I’ll share with you soon.

Rockwood Reservation

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This lovely little spring is near the main road at Rockwood Reservation in St. Louis County not too far from my home.  This lovely park is full of trails to walk amid dense woods, gentle streams, and rocky hills.  It was once the location of a variety of things – ammunition production and storage in huge concrete bunkers as well as kilns used to produce bricks.  Now, it’s mostly used by hikers and bikers and for picnics.  It’s only about 25 miles west of the St. Louis Arch.  When you’re there, it’s hard to believe that you are only a couple miles from a major interstate highway and Six Flags as well as numerous houses and businesses.  Nearby is a fun tiny train that runs in the village of Glencoe, carrying kids and their adults on several miles of track overlooking the lazy Meramec River.

My friend Kris and I walk at Glencoe often.  We have walked at Rockwood several times but the trails are a bit hazardous for us, especially with the dog who may decide to take a slightly different route than me and topple me down a hillside.  But, in our last trip there, we discovered this lovely spring.  My mom loves the sound of running water, so I knew I had to show her this tiny treasure.

Mom is almost 93 years old and lives independently.  On Easter this year, she fell and broke her hip.  The next day she had a hip replacement.  Only a couple of weeks later, she was back to her normal schedule, albeit with a walker now since she has some problems with dizziness.  Still, she walks every day!  She takes only one regular medication, loves the St. Louis Cardinals, and keeps her candy jar full of chocolate for visiting family.

Since there is no parking near this spring, I knew it would take more than one of me to get mom to it.  No walkers allowed on roadside trails!  So, my good friend Kris (who took these pictures) kindly agreed to join us on this outing to be my mom’s other daughter.  Off we went.  Pulled over to the side of the road.  Got mom out on my arm and slowly walked over the grassy, rocky, uneven ground to the nice bench (a bit high) next to the spring.  Helped mom up onto the bench.  And, enjoyed the lovely morning.

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In case you can’t tell, I’m the one in the shorts!  Mom and I are the same height but her feet wouldn’t reach the ground.  Kinda looks like a 5 year old with her feet dangling!

Mom loved the peaceful setting and the gentle sound of the water bubbling up from the rock face behind us into the little pool.  There was a lot of watercress in the cold water and a few unknown creatures in addition tot he water striders.  We think they were crawdads (crayfish) or tadpoles.  They were very active but teeny, tiny.

We enjoyed the site for a while as Kris left her shoes by the bench and waded around in the cold, cold water.  After a while, we had to get mom back for lunch.  Kris got the car turned around, we loaded mom in, and off we went – back to normalcy, boredom, our regular lives.  This brief visit was a joy!

Walk The Dog…

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My dog loves to walk more than she wants to eat.  She knows all the cues to indicate I’m getting ready to go for a walk, including recognizing the bleep on my phone of the text message from my walking buddy Kris when it’s time to head out.  I love taking her for walks too.  But, at about 10 years of age and with a full length black fur coat, she is no longer able to walk the three or more miles I can do in the heat of the day.  Her vet has limited her to less than two miles and her own deteriorating endurance for the heat and humidity of a St. Louis summer mean that she misses out on most of my walks these days.

We have a fenced back yard, but if she is allowed to run freely without the presence of a human, she’ll jump the fence and be gone.  So, on days when I can’t take her walking, I take her outside to ‘play’.  That’s a new word for her and she loves it!  She sprints to the back fence line to flush out the critters who thought they were safe in the shade of the bushes and vines there.  Birds fly, squirrels and rabbits speed off in all directions, and some sort of critters head underground so Lizzie can sniff and dig trying to find them.  She tries to jump up the trees to play with the squirrels or maybe fly with the blue jays.  She sniffs, snorts, and generally makes a real nuisance of herself to these critters who thought the back yard was their domain.

Sadly, after less than ten minutes of this vigorous play time, she’s done.  She’s happy to head back inside the house to plop herself down on the A/C register and deprive the rest of us of the cold air.  It’s clear that she is no longer up to that three mile walk in the woods in this kind of weather.

This marks a milestone in our lives with this dog.  She is now or soon will be ten years old.  We adopted her in August, 2005 when she was 12-15 weeks old.  I wanted a dog to motivate me to walk even on days when I didn’t want to.  And, that she’s done.  She still exhibits puppy-like behavior a lot of the time, but it’s clear that she is ‘sundowning’ each evening and showing her age.  This breed (flat coated retriever) typically lives 11-14 years according to the vet.  It’s hard to think of this family member being so ‘elderly’.

A good friend had to put down her beloved Max this past weekend.  He suffered from bad arthritis, could no longer go on his beloved walks, and had difficulty squatting to ‘take care of business’ in the yard.  I received a tearful call from my friend asking my opinion since Max still seems happy much of the time.  I’ve been down this road before.  My beloved Jasmine, a cockerpoo who was totally ‘my’ dog, became ill in 2004, shortly before I was due to be away from home for about a month then moving to a new house.  I couldn’t put a sick, old dog through a month away from her own home and routine and then move her to a strange, new home.  It became clear to me that although she had some quality of life, it was time for me to be the mom and make the tough decision.  I truly feel it’s better to preserve some of the dog’s dignity, not waiting until the poor animal is completely devoid of quality of life, before helping her on to whatever comes next (doggie heaven).

While Lizzie misses her walks and I miss walking her, I believe that once the weather is cooler, she can resume longer walks.  When she can’t, she’ll still be with us as long as she is a happy mutt.  When she is no longer happy and/or healthy and is suffering from loss of her dignity, the tough decisions will be made.  But, we will honor her by rescuing another dog who loves to walk, who will keep me motivated and moving, who will be loved as a valuable member of the family.

And, I will think of Lizzie in doggie heaven with Jasmine who also loved her walks.  Jasmine was my very first walking buddy more than 15 years ago.  She motivated me, loved me, and loved her walks in any kind of weather.  Her ‘niece’ Lizzie is much the same kind of dog.  If we are really fortunate, we’ll rescue yet another dog who will love to walk and want to keep ‘mom’ motivated.  Jasmine and Lizzie will never be forgotten.  Their faith in me will never be taken for granted.  They will move over a bit to allow another dog to come into our hearts.

I love the old AA prayer which I can only paraphrase here:

Oh God, please let me be the person my dog thinks I am.

I wish I was as good as my dog thinks I am!

While I Was Away ……

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Yes, I’ve been walking.  I just haven’t been writing about it.  On Easter, my mom, the Queen Of Walking, at age 92, fell off a chair and broke her hip.  It’s been a long journey with her back to independence.  She has amazed her physical therapists, doctors, and everyone who has helped on this journey.  In the rehab hospital, she was likely the eldest patient and one of the few with genuine potential to return to an independent life.  Why?  Well, good genes – and a great walk ethic.  She still walks every day and was held back only because of hospitalization and severe fatigue after general anesthesia and her hip replacement.  She’s downright remarkable!

But, no, I haven’t been napping.  In addition to helping her in a variety of ways that only a daughter can, I’ve kept to a pretty rigorous walking schedule thanks to my walking buddies.  We have suffered from so few rain-free days.  Even on the days with no rain, the trails we prefer to walk amidst the woods are just too wet to maneuver.  This past week has been about the best in a month.

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Kris and I have walked pretty regularly at Emmeneggar Park despite the weather.  The good drainage there and the well maintained trails have drawn us back repeatedly.  Also, the lack of bikes!  We took a rugged, uphill trail a couple days ago and were rewarded with the site of these lovely flowers that Kris took pictures of.  I had heard of Indian Paintbrush but had never realized why it earned its name.  The color is so vibrant!  And, the lilac flowers, slightly different than those we’ve seen before, turned out to be a carnation variant.  Who knew?

I’m not much of a gardener but I do love the color that nature so freely and generously shares with us.  These beauties are great rewards for hitting the trails.  We also saw 4 deer atop the same ridge as these pretty flowers.  That marks the first time we have seen deer in this park!  We’ve seen there footprints in the mud but never the animals themselves.  This time we were not walking with my dog which may account for the presence of the deer.  They were not afraid of us and took a leisurely walk away from us.  One wonders though.  Just the day before, a deer could be seen feasting on my neighbor’s hostas in the front yard in the middle of the afternoon!  I love deer – unless I’m driving and I see them on the road.  No close encounters of the car vs. deer type for me, thank you!

Lessons Along The Walk Way

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My 92 year old blind mother fell on Easter Sunday and broker her hip.  She dragged herself to her phone and called me.  I was out with my husband (the doctor) and we were able to get to her in just under 30 minutes.  That put her about an hour from the time she fell til we got there and my husband diagnosed her broken hip.  A few minutes later, EMS was on the scene and two very competent and compassionate muscle men got mom onto the gurney and on her way to the ER.  I texted my brothers who actually beat me to the hospital.

My mom lives in an apartment in a facility that has both assisted and independent living units.  She lives independently despite her blindness and advanced age.  Her recovery since surgery the Monday after Easter has been nothing short of miraculous.  She’s not a soft, fuzzy kinda gal.  She was a registered nurse since 1944, served in the US Army mostly in the Philippines during World War II, and worked full time throughout my youth.  The last 20 or so years of her career were spent as the Director of Nurses at large nursing homes.  She knows old people.  Now, she is one.

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Believe me, it sneaks up on all of us.  One day you are agile, capable, independent and the next you are old, frail, and asking for help from those around you.  No one plans that.  It just happens.

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Why has mom’s recovery gone so well?  You already know the answer.  Even at 92 and robbed of most of her vision due to macular degeneration, she walks at least a mile every day inside her facility.  She uses no walker or cane.  She takes the stairs, shunning elevators due to fairly severe claustrophobia.  Her blood press and cholesterol are lower than mine.  As my husband would tell you, she chose her parents well.  Despite her years of smoking, she has no lung disease.  She lucked out in the genetic lottery and has maximized her health by continuing to walk and push herself when most of her younger apartment mates are sitting around complaining of their aches and pains and sharing tales of the horrors of hospitals.

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Not mom.  She had no aches and pains.  In fact, since two days after surgery, she has taken no pain medication except right before bedtime – and then only Tramadol, a non-narcotic pain reliever.  She requires assistance with a lot of things right now – like getting up and down to walk, help ordering from the menu (she’s blind),and dealing with ‘hip precautions’ which require someone else to put on her socks and pants.  This phase won’t last long.  She is already bending too forward (than the hip precautions allow) to pull up her own pants.  She receives visitors and chats on the phone.  All 3 of us kids visit almost daily and the grandkids, inlaws and outlaws have all made appearances.  She’s really lucky that way.

Mom has no mental deficiencies.  Since she has become blind – about 15 years ago – she REMEMBERS all the dates that I write on her calendar – hair and doctor appointments, laundry day, and which friend will be visiting on which Friday.  She calls me to remind me to pick her up for the beauty shop.  If she could see, she’d still be driving and giving the people at Walgreen’s grief for not having her eye drops ready!

Most of us will not have the same durable, healthy genes mom inherited.  But, we all have the ability to keep ourselves agile and physical strong.  We can all work on our endurance.  We can all get off the sofa to walk the neighborhood or march in place in front of the TV during our favorite TV show.  If we are really lucky, one day when we least expect it, we might have an accident resulting in a broken bone requiring surgery, but we’ll recover much more quickly if we’ve worked to keep our muscles strong.  And, there is strong evidence that the same exercise that flexes our muscles also flexes our brains so we retain our mental abilities right along with our physical ones.

You go, mom!  Such a good example is impossible not to follow.  Join me on the Walk Way.

NOTE:  Here’s a picture of my mom when she was about 19, during nursing training.  Wasn’t she pretty?  St. Vincent’ss Infirmary School of Nursing, Little Rock, Arkansas.

NOTE:  The photos in this article of anonymous people (or someone’s xray) from bing.com

A Little Walking Drama

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Kris and I hit the trail again at Castlewood State Park in hopes of seeing those lovely bluebells again.  We got a bit of a late start since I had a busy schedule then a friend in from Albuquerque.  We got to the park and walked the route in the opposite direction from yesterday.  Once we rounded the bend in the trail that mimics the river’s bend, we were greeted with the delicious aroma of the bluebells which seemed even more numerous than yesterday.  Probably because it was nearer to dusk.

This end of the park has two wooded trails that edge a central grassy area that is easily the size of two soccer fields.  When we entered this meadow, we saw a fireman across the meadow who indicated that we were not to walk across the meadow to the next part of the wooded trail but to divert to the parking lot.  Then, Kris heard the unmistakable thumping high in the air from a helicopter.  So, we stopped to watch the copter land and then to try to figure out what was happening.  Things were calm, but it was clear this was no drill.

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When we had entered the park, we had seen first a huge EMS unit (necessarily large as it must be ready for injuries on land and in the river) and farther down the road, a cluster of smaller emergency vehicles.  We didn’t think much of it since they let us pass under the single lane opening under the train tracks that surround and crisscross the park.  Unconcerned, we took the dog and walked away.

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Once the copter landed, we watched one of the large fire department SUV’s load up the copter pilot and the other EMS guy from the copter and drive away.  Hmmm.  This was getting curious – and interesting.  We loaded up the dog and headed back home.  Then, as we passed under the train tracks, we could see the lineup of emergency vehicles.  Later, Kris reported that the a train was stopped on the rails at a highway overpass just outside the park.  Curiouser and Curiouser.

What we know about this park is that there are some extremely steep and rugged trails.  There are bluffs over the river and bluffs over the railway right of way.  There is a steep set of stone steps over one part of the bluff just above the train tracks.  Bikers, runners, and walkers scramble high and low through this park every day, no matter what the weather.  Further, the river draws boaters and fishermen, floaters (a term dear to the hearts of St. Louisans.  If you aren’t familiar, please ask.), and photographers.  The park is tucked into one side of a sharp S bend in the river and links at one end via a railway right of way (that is illegal to trespass on) to a small river town and a large park upstream.  It’s a popular place.

We surmise that someone fell or jumped from some height onto the train tracks or from the tracks into one of the culverts that follow the train tracks.  The tracks themselves form a levee to protect the park and farmland from the river.  Sadly, the railway trestles and bridges have been the scenes of many teen deaths, either by accident or suicide.  But the ruggedness of the trails lend themselves to body beating falls.  The only thing worse than falling while you’re walking or running is to fall from the greater height of a bike.  Something as simple as a broken leg could easily require a team of first responders to safely remove the victim from the trail. Something more happened today since we saw 10 or 11 first responder vehicles in addition to the helicopter!  Probably not a simple fracture when more than one fire protection district responds to the call.

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We may never know what happened today.  Our fingers are crossed that it’s that broken leg on the train track rather than any of the scarier scenarios.  Either way, we had our dose of drama for the day.  We prefer the silent beauty of those fragrant bluebells.

An Uphill Walk?

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My life has been mostly uphill the past couple months.  Life can get like that, right?  But, due to my perseverance and the support of good friends, I’ve been able to keep walking through most of it.  Walking in sickness and in health is one of my mantras.  It keeps me going so that the uphill days get leveled off to more stable territory and I sleep better and have a better outlook in general.

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Yesterday, my friend Kris and I walked at Castlewood State Park, one of our favorite locations.  We have had so much rain over the past few weeks that we had to walk on concrete to give the trails time to dry out a bit.  Yesterday was our first off-road walking in a while.  And, it was glorious.  The weather was totally wonderful.  But, the Bluebells.  OH, my!  They were splendiferous.  The walk through the Bluebells was worth all the difficult days I’ve been through lately.

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Kris is an excellent photographer, even with her cellphone.  Plus, she’s a faithful walking buddy who is as devoted to walking as I am.  That’s hard to find!  So, enjoy ‘my’ Bluebells and the tiny violets we saw also.  We even saw wild carrot blossoms!  There’s no telling what beauties you could find in your own neighborhood.

If You Start Now…….

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So, we can take a step each day toward goals we establish – not those cast upon us by others.  We all must complete our jobs, our chores, and the other necessities of life.  But for most of us, there are at least a few minutes most days we can devote to ourselves, to moving forward, to creating

One person, two hands, two feet, one brain.  That’s all it takes to make something wonderful.  The article I’m linking here is not about walking, but you’ll see how it applies to what we each can do in our lives the progress we can make, the beauty we can create, the satisfaction we can attain.

So, if we start today, and continue most days toward a goal, the results are inevitable.  The same is true if we continue to sit on the sofa and watch Jerry Springer.  No progress will be made toward anything positive – except lining Jerry Springer’s pockets with more money.  I’m much more interested in doing things that benefit me and my family rather than the likes of Jerry Springer, Judge Judy, or even Oprah.  Real life is far more satisfying, stimulating, and well, real, than the passive life one might live in front of a TV or computer.

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