It was the first truly glorious spring-like day in Western New York. The sky was blue. The temperature was reaching near 60 degrees. People were crawling out of their winter doldrums with smiles and hope.
I was working in downtown Buffalo that day and took a jaunt over to Tifft Nature Preserve in the afternoon. As I pulled in the lot I saw about half a dozen people already congregating at the fishing pond, poles in hand, looking to make a catch. The birds were offering a squawking chorus — mostly gulls and geese, sitting on the edge of the remaining ice, drinking the cool water and bathing in the sunlight.
I told myself to smile. Yes. I actually thought “smile” and forced myself to do it. It’s not that I was unhappy but I lacked energy. I was dragging for no good reason. At least at the time I figured it was for no good reason. Hindsight tells me that was the day when my symptoms of the flu were beginning to show — a flu which knocked me out cold over the weekend. But this was Tuesday and I thought I could fight it off with sunshine and Vitamin C.
I had visited Tifft in the winter. Now it was in the throes of spring which equated to mud. Lots of mud. I was somewhat prepared with my trail sneakers (gaiters probably would be a prudent investment) and entered the trail this time turning right toward “Old Tifft” Road and trails which crossed old railroad tracks.
Slowly I started to feel at peace. There wasn’t much green about, but the mixture of ice and water created interesting scenes. Off in the distance, at the mounds, were deer grazing. I stopped and watched them for a while. Didn’t have to force a smile there.
I continued on, trying to stay true to the trail without trudging through too deep standing water or falling into the mud. The afternoon sounds were peppered by bird calls and ambulance sirens. (It is an urban sanctuary after all. We’re not here to shut out the urban world, but to find a piece of solace within it.)
As I walked, I found myself again thinking about scale. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately including Girl Camper and Sounds of the Trail. When I listen to these stories and adventures, I start to dream of my own big adventure. And then at times I get discouraged. I’d love to set up my life to travel around the country and thru hike, but that’s the place I”m in right now. And this project I’m doing right now, this getting a trail every week for a year, does it count if I’m going back to familiar places? Does an hour at Tifft on a Tuesday afternoon count?
My heart knows the answer to this: Of course it counts. Everything counts. Perhaps sometimes the small things count more, because we fail to take into account the importance of the every day. Just as we can get caught up in day-to-day living where we get in a cycle of work-laundry-bills-repeat so too can we get caught up into believing that only grand adventures matter.
I’ve hit this theme before in my #hike52 posts. But I’m sure I keep returning to it because I need to learn the lesson. There’s something right in front of me, something small, that I’m ignoring or taking for granted. The trail is trying to tell me that. I’m committed to paying better attention.
Back to Tifft: My intended trail was flooded enough to make it impassable, so I backtracked and found another route back toward the visitors’ center. I started to see a number of people on the trail, each there to embrace the warm day and get out of the stale winter house.
I didn’t use any measuring tools for my walk. It was about an hour long. I’m not sure how far I went but I’d hazard close to two miles. In the end, the stats are just for my amusement. The important thing wasn’t how far or fast I went — it listening to what the trail wanted to teach me today.
Date: March 8, 2016
Location: Tifft Nature Preserve
Total distance: Approx. 2 miles
Duration: 1 hour
Weather: sunny, 60 degrees
Hiked with: solo