The Joy of Walking!
When I look back at the last 5 years of living on Public Land, the thing I love most and that brings me the greatest joy is going for a walk every morning and evening with Homer. When we set out on the road I promised Homer I would give him the best possible life I could, and I knew that had to include daily walks. So we started to go for a 10 minute walk twice a day. As time passed the walks got longer and longer until finally we were walking an hour every morning and night. They became such a fixture in our lives because we didn’t let anything stop us. We have walked in 50 mph winds, pouring rain, snow, mud and marble sized hail and I don’t regret one second of it.
“Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me – I am happy.”
As I was walking along the wash this morning, as usual I was chased off the road several times by ATVs and Jeeps. Each time I had to fight off a wave of anger at them for being out in God’s place with them. But at the same time I felt sorry for them, because they weren’t going to have the experiences I have had. They were going to see many times more country than I was, but they weren’t going to experience it. They were tourists, just passing through; Homer and I were actually taking part in and connecting with nature. Very softly and quietly it changed and healed me on every walk. Let me tell you some of what Homer and I have seen in just the last 10 days of walking:
- We were walking along at sunset and a Kit Fox (they look just like a regular fox, but they are tiny, about the size of a cat) came running down the road at full speed. When he finally noticed me he swerved off and ran past me no more than 10 feet away.
- Walking along the wash we ran into a pair of Javelina feeding on the shrubs. We stopped and watched them for 30 minutes until we started to run out of light and then turned toward home.
I had heard wild burros all around our camp in the OHV campground 25 miles north of Phoenix, but it wasn’t until I was out walking one day that I finally saw a herd of them.
- This morning we headed out and found a rattlesnake along the side of the road. Fortunately, neither Homer nor Zeke (Steve’s dog) showed any real interest in it.
- Spring brings spectacular color to the usually brown, bleak and bland desert. On recent walks I have seen an amazing amount of wildflowers, Ocotillo and cactus in bloom. And I know from experience it is just going to increase.
- I time our evening walk so we will be walking as the sun sets; that’s the reason I get so many great sunset photos; I’m outside when the sun sets. The last few weeks have seen many exceptional sunsets!
I have to admit, that much excitement is not the norm; most of our walks are pretty routine and bordering on boring. I’ve been very lucky and my last three campsites have been exceptionally beautiful and interesting places. But in the last 5 years of living on public land, my best and most wonderful moments have been out on walks:
- In the middle of nowhere we have stumbled on lots of wildlife including wild horses and on many occasions’ desert tortoise, deer and elk.
- Several times we have been walking and happened on the most spectacular wildflowers I have ever seen that I am sure no one else ever saw.
- Too often to count we have stopped and just enjoyed watching desert tortoise, elk, deer, coyotes, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, stink bugs, lizards, butterflies, hawks, Ospreys and a myriad other wild creatures who live fascinating lives. (For some reason, it’s impossible to walk past a tarantula without stopping to watch it!)
- One time we were miles from anything and came across a dog lying under a creosote bush waiting to die. I coaxed him up and got him to very slowly and weakly follow me back to camp where drinking some water brought immediate relief. I called his owner and they said that two days before they had been out hiking many miles from where I found him and he took off chasing some wild horses. They had searched constantly for him, but finally had given up on ever seeing him again. They came and got him and their reunion will always be one of my most cherished memories!!
Of course the great majority of my walks are uneventful and routine. And that’s fine with me. Just knowing every morning and evening when I head out that something wonderful could be waiting for me fills my heart with a very quiet and subtle joy. Retelling these stories takes me back and I re-experience them like they just happened a few minutes ago. My life is immeasurably better for having had them.
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” ~John Burroughs
So as I step off the trail and let the motorized tourists go by, I’m sure that if they knew my whole story they would be pitying me for living in a van and for not being able to afford an ATV. But I have chosen to march to the beat of a different drummer, and in this one, less is more, and slower is better. I wouldn’t change places with them for all the money in the world.
I want to encourage you to get into the habit of going for a walk every day. You may not be able to go very far in the beginning, and that’s fine. First, find a park somewhere nearby where you can be in nature. Then start with a 10 minute walk; just walk 5 minutes away from camp or the van, then turn around and go back. How easy is that? After doing that faithfully for a while, increase it to 15 or 20 minutes. Just walk 7-10 minutes away from camp, then turn around and walk back to camp. Again, that’s super easy. Then just keep increasing it as much as you are comfortable with. As you walk, your mind will wonder and think its thoughts, but be sure part of you is tuned into nature around you. Let all your senses run free and see, feel, hear and smell all the small things around you. On most walks there won’t be big things happening, but there is almost always something small to intrigue you. Your job is to be an open and attentive vessel to let nature change and nurture you.
An outstanding book proving conclusively the importance of nature to our mental, emotional and physical health is:
Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality Highly Reommended! Click on the link to buy it from Amazon.com