There were too many cookies. Of course there were too many cookies. That’s what happens when you don’t eat lunch and show up at your brother’s house hungry and the appetizers are cookies. Then someone mentioned Nutella hot chocolate and, well, I was done for. I didn’t stuff myself beyond belief but I ate a lot of crap. And by crap I mean holiday deliciousness and joy. The only downfall was the whole void of much (if any) nutritional value and the corresponding caloric overload.
My personal keys for dealing with Christmas eating while trying to be a generally healthy person and move toward my athletic goals (which are modest goals but they are my goals and more on that in a subsequent blog post) are thus:
- I have developed a pretty healthy way of eating.
- One day going off the rails will not break me.
- I am gentle and forgive myself.
And so this brings us to the day after Christmas and the fourth week of my #hike52 project where I get on a trail and into nature at least one day week for a year. My boyfriend Scott suggested going to Hunter’s Creek park, one of his favorite walks in the woods. With temperatures again in the mid-40s and no rain scheduled until later in the day, it was a perfect post-holiday activity. Apparently others thought so as well because there were a healthy number of cars in the parking lot on the western side. The thing about Hunter’s Creek, Scott told me, was that you can see a ton of cars in the lot and never run into another person on the trail.
This did not surprise me since I had only been to Hunter’s Creek once before and got lost. Very lost. And it it kind of spooked me away from the park in all honesty. But older and wiser, I was finally with a person I completely trusted and had no qualms about returning to the twists and turns of the park in Wales, N.Y. Onward with the trail.
I followed Scott as we walked into the woods. We quickly found our way down to the creek which looked low to me but was actually running high — at least higher than the summer when we could ford the creek and explore the other side. We did explore along the creek bed, seeing a tall gentle waterfall on the opposite side and listening the peaceful sound of the rushing water.
As usual, Scott pointed out trees to me. Armed with one of his field books, he read me stories about some of the trees we saw, including the Juneberry Tree, also known as the Service Berry and at least two other names. The interesting tale of this tree was that when it blooms, usually in May, it indicates that the ground is soft enough for digging. This is how people determined when they could dig graves to bury the dead from the winter months. This was so fascinating a tidbit, I remembered it all on my own as I wrote my journal entry for the hike.
We continued on the trails, following blazes and rejoining them when we had wandered off to check out a view of the creek or explore an ancient maple. We did run into other hikers on the trail, twice, but for the most part had the woods to ourselves. It was amazing how much green was still there, thanks mostly to the hemlock trees with their soft, green needles bright against the stark, gray winter woodland backdrop.(Technically it’s still winter even if the mild temperatures make it feel like extended fall.)
We climbed up to the top edge of the park. Scott noted directions of trails he had yet to take, trails now on our bucket list, as we made our way to his favorite place in the park. We came upon the ruins of a hunting cabin. The foundation remains. The outline of the cabin is clear and the chimney remains. A scroll through the Friends of Hunters Creek Facebook Page tells me that the Kellogg cabin was standing in the 1970s. I, of course, imagined a much more intricate type of story. And to a certain point, I suppose, the truth doesn’t matter if it generates inquiry in your mind and sparks a passion in your soul.
We continued along the SkyHigh trail then along what would have been the access road to the cabin. We turned onto a different trail as Scott guided us to a spooky looking old cherry tree. As we walked over I was struck with the darkness and beauty of the tree, of the twisting pattern of the trunk and fallen branches. And then Scott showed me a plastic box. He happened upon the geocaching box one day when he was on the trails and drawn to check out the magnificent and interesting looking old tree. We will geocache on purpose one day soon. For now, I thought it was cool and remained spellbound by the tree.
The mud was thicker as we worked our way out of the park, made worse as the trail was chewed up by mountain bikers. (Love you guys and gals, but the trail was in bad shape here.)
I had forgotten to bring my TomTom watch, the one I normally wear for running to track distance, pace and elevation. This caused me some stress on my drive. I was disappointed in myself. I would be absent good stats, relying instead on an iPhone app which wasn’t nearly as reliable. But how quickly in the woods did I forget my missing wearable technology. The stats are cool. They’re fun. They’re interesting. But they’re not the reason for the hike.
I started this post with my tale of holiday over-consumption. And I’ve seen more than a few group hike invitations that used the “let’s burn off those Christmas cookies” theory to entice people to join the activity. Nothing wrong with that logic. In fact I thought of Dec. 26 as my get-back-to-normal day with less sugar and more vegetables and protein. But by the time I got to the park, my thoughts had shifted. I didn’t enter the woods to burn off calories. I entered it to be in the woods. To discover the solitude and peace that resides in nature and enter that state where my anxiety is soothed and my imagination soars. To find both center and limitless possibilities. To be with a person I love as he showed me one of his favorite spots and reminded me of a line from the poet Mary Oliver:
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.
Hike 52 Project
Date: Dec. 26, 2015
Location: Hunter’s Creek
Trail: several we connected
Total distance: 3.27 miles
Elevation: 200 feet
Duration: 1 hour 12 minutes
Weather: 44 degrees, overcast, drizzle at end
Hiked with: Scott
“A hike with Scott as he shows me one of his favorite places.”
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