It is common knowledge when someone tells you “take a hike,” it means to leave their presence; they don’t want you near. When I tell myself, “Take a hike,” it has a joyful meaning. I literally plan and execute a hike. Not a walk on pavement or a stroll in a city park, but a challenging trek on rough trails off the beaten path.
I, and at times with my wife in the many decades past, have enjoyed hiking in nature. Before moving to North Texas, I lived in Round Rock, Texas, where there were several primitive hikes within walking distance to satisfy that need. I found out that a neighbor I knew went every Saturday morning and invited me along. Soon enough, we drove to Lake Georgetown, which has 27 miles of trails around the lake. It was a fantastic way to spend Saturday mornings. Only a hard rain would keep us from our weekend hike.
Fast-forward ten years. Until recently, I did no hiking at all. The desire was there, but I had excuses: I was too busy, no challenging hiking trails nearby, and no one to hike with. This was my poorest excuse since, over my life, I have many times hiked, fished, hunted, and other outdoor activities alone and loved it.
For many years I have had back aches, culminating in February 2021 with a severe attack of spinal stenosis. The diagnosis was surgery at some point. Long story short, I did what it took to heal so that I could recover completely. In fact, I was in better shape than I was over ten years ago, and losing 70 pounds gave me enough energy to awaken the desire to hike again.
As I do when I want to accomplish some task or goal, I started researching. I knew I could carve out the time if I could find places to hike. Back in my youth, it was a trip to the library to do research; now, it was walking to my computer and consulting my friend, Google. Lo and behold, I found a free website called AllTrails.com. It not only had every hiking trail you would ever desire, but it also had maps, hiker reviews, open and close times, and a lot more.
The one downside to my plans was the fact that the nearest kind of trail that fit my requirements was over 30 miles away. I had to decide to bite the financial bullet to make that drive every week. Easy, peasy. Just do it.
My first two hikes were a warm-up, the nearby Waxahachie Creek Hike, and Bike Trail. All paved and easy to test how out of shape I was for hiking at any level. I was happy to find I was ready for an actual hike. Fortunately, AllTrails.com rates the trails from easy to difficult, so I was able to make a list of moderately difficult trails within 50 miles. This was the rating of most trails I had hiked in Round Rock. I hiked a couple there that would have had the rating of difficult. Those involved climbing and other types of challenges.
I made plans for a trip to the Cedar Ridge Preserve, a local chapter of the Audubon Society, the following Sunday. Most of the trails had many elevation changes, climbing up and down ridges. Sounded like my kind of hike, and I was not disappointed. I downloaded another free technological marvel on my smartphone called a pedometer. This was as smart as my phone. It told me the miles I hiked, steps, time hiking, my average miles per hour, and calories burned. It keeps a record of every hike. Oh, the wonders of modern technology.
Trip one was on Friday, August 5th, at 6:30 AM, with my new hiking shoes and pack with bottles of Smartwater®. I logged 5.09 miles at 2.5 MPH with 11,948 steps. Now, how does it know the steps? I think that is a wild guess – do phone apps “guess“? I’m not sure I want to know.
The following week at the Preserve, I did 5.25 miles; last week, it was 5.35 miles. Unfortunately, I will have to do my 5-mile hike at Waxahachie this week because the trails will be closed due to the heavy rain. That was one problem we didn’t have in Round Rock; there were plenty of all-weather trails – it was the rocks, ya know. Also, we didn’t have the weekend crowds there that we have here. I have learned to hike on weekdays in this area.
Well, there it is, another weekly time carved out for something other than laying on the couch, eating popcorn, and watching actors or sports figures working for a living. I wouldn’t mind some company. Does anyone out there want to spend Friday or other weekday mornings with me in the beautiful outdoors?