Gearing up for a walk (or run) in the woods

While working my way through the pile of general stuff which ends up on my desk (the “Oh, I’ll get to that later” repository) I uncovered a list I made back in January.  Yep, it was my New Year’s Resolution list, or more accurately, my New Year’s Intentions list. While I listed some specific goals — like going to a climbing gym, hosting a dinner party and reading 12 books — those were just suggestions, not a to-do list for 2011. The important part of the list were my intentions for 2011. These are much less outcome specific and more about the ways in which I want to be, the ways in which I want to approach life.

First thing on the list: Do the things I love to do.

Sounds pretty basic, right? But so many times I’ve caught myself saying some variation of: Gee, I love to do this. But I don’t have the time, money, energy, confidence. I put off doing the things which make me happy, believing in some sort of delayed gratification. And though working for something can bring a wonderfully deep sense of satisfaction at times, continuously putting off joy only serves to make me grumpy, fostering uncertainty until I whip myself into a frenzy of doubt mixed with malaise.

My mind created many reasons why I should skip the Thursday hike — I had writing I could be doing, packing for the weekend, cleaning, reading, overall tiredness. Not to mention I wouldn’t really know anyone going on the hike. (Sense a theme here for me? Check back to my Seneca 7 fears.) But I knew that walking in the woods is something I love to do, and so grabbing my boots and backpack I headed out toward Chestnut Ridge Park.

Not the stream we had to ford, but a beautiful overlook on our hike.

The guided hike is a weekly offering from Gear for Adventure, a store in Hamburg, N.Y. owned and operated by Kevin and Sarah Beckwith. It’s become one of my favorite shops in Western New York, not just for what they sell (all types of gear to go play outside) but for the atmosphere of the space, which encourages adventure and exploration no matter what your experience may be. And so, with a Thursday night free, clear skies and mild temperatures, I decided to join them for their weekly walk in the woods.

It was a small but interesting group of six, led by Kevin who alternates guiding the hikes with his wife, Sarah. We met at the store and drove over to Chestnut Ridge Park, picking up part of the blue trail. The terrain varied between a flat field stroll and some small hills — just enough to make it interesting. We forded a stream (did I remember to bring an extra pair of socks for after the hike? of course not!) and maneuvered our way around, and occasionally through, some mud pits, fresh and deep from the recent rain storms. At one point, I was in the lead, deciding to try to go through one section of  mud. Thunk! My feet, up to my ankles were submerged in the mud. Whosh! came the suction sound as I pulled my feet out of the ground. “Hey!,” I yelled back. “Don’t go this way!” It was all good, though. When else as adults do you get to play in the mud?

The sunset through the trees on our way out of the park.

The colors of the sunset were beautiful, peaking through the trees on our walk out of the park. What joy to be walking in the woods, to be enjoying beautiful surroundings while being active without any need to evaluate. It was both vigorous and relaxing. And it set the tone for the weekend, where I will combine something I love to do (play in the woods) with another intention for 2011 (challenging myself and doing new things) as I participate in the Allegany Adventure Run on Saturday. My trail running experiences have been few, usually including multiple wipe-outs by me while Mark casually jogs along. The event will be the second straight weekend where I venture a bit out of my comfort zone. But if I waited until I had more experience and skill at trail running or until I was stronger, or thinner or had the right socks … well, there’s no limit to how long I could put it off, waiting for the “perfect” moment.

I’m no longer waiting for perfect, for the stars to align just right. I’m doing the things I love to do, finding adventure and experiencing new things. And each new venture brings another smile to my face.

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