Just Breathe: Vacationing at the End of the Lower Scioto Trail

“Are you sleeping?” I’m asked, in a whisper. “Almost. . . what about you?” is my drowsy response. It’s hardly quiet, just a couple of yards off the urban bike path; the Lower Scoito Trail is an unfinished path that leads . . . well, nowhere.

The trail stops short, in a dead end, but on the way there the multi-use path winds gently along, following the curve of the Scioto river on one side, and the endless softball fields of Berliner Park, just beyond a small stretch of forest, on the other. The leaves overhead never stop moving in the strong spring breeze, so their rustling, and whispering, are constant. It’s enough to drown out the sound of the highway that I know is also just on the other side of the trees.

Our bikes are leaning against nearby trees. It’s late Sunday afternoon, and I have no obligations, and nowhere else I need to be, so my shoes are kicked off and I’m happy to sink into my hammock, and just breathe. My mind is clear, and it feels so good to stop moving, for the first time since I’d driven back into town on Friday night, after a busy week out of town, on a work trip, with little time to myself.

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The trail, and the surrounding forest, smells like wet earth, and new growth; it smells like spring! Nature is coming to life, one tiny bud at a time. I can’t identify them – I can’t even locate them – but there are flowers scattered on the forest floor. The air is full of their fragrance, so once I’ve settled in I just breathe deep and take the whole environment in.

Luckily, I don’t suffer from seasonal allergies, because the pollen count is high. Earlier in the day, about an hour south of Columbus, I’d watched small bits of white fuzz flutter quietly through the air, filling the atmosphere, and landing just about everywhere. It reminded me of an unexpected October burst of snow flurries, except for the fact that I was overheating, after riding a mountain bike through gravel, in a tank top and leggings.

Now, the small seeds, with their white umbrella tops that look like miniature clouds, are gathering along the side of the trail, trapped there by the underbrush. I hope some were caught, and wishes were made, before they hit the ground.

Heading out of downtown, I’d ridden to the bike path from the Brewery District, an historic part of downtown, with red brick streets, and small old houses neighboring newly built apartment complexes, on the south end of Columbus.

The neighborhood, known for its casual bars and former breweries, isn’t at its height of popularity right now, but that’s because there’s so much development in the surrounding areas of downtown. German Village is well established, but under constant improvement, and the Scioto Mile and Franklinton are where the city has poured much of its recent funding and building efforts.

There are plans to extend the Lower Scioto Trail, but I suspect these plans will take a backseat to other development. For now, the fact that the trail leads to a dead end means bike and foot traffic is light, and kept alive by local residents.

The mountain bike was carrying most of its weight over the back wheel, with Panniers (a.k.a. saddle bags) stuffed. It was a struggle to get the bike off the path and into the woods, carrying two hammocks, the straps that would secure them to neighboring trees, and a large bottle of water. I was lucky to make it down the incline without ending up with mud smeared across my backside.

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The goal was a moment of relaxation, after a weekend stuffed with bike rides, bonfires, and the retelling of familiar stories & shared dreams. Somehow we squeezed Mother’s Day celebrations in too. The week before, an exciting package had arrived in the mail, from Cairn. For $25 a month, Cairn is an outdoor subscription box that arrives once a month, filled with mystery items aimed at subscribers with an adventurous spirit. This month, a Serac hammock had been included. This was a big win, compared to the value of the granola bars and socks we are accustomed to.

The hammock had to be tried out right away!

It was getting to be late afternoon, but from where I was reclining I couldn’t exactly tell the direction of the light. Sun beams reflected off of the river, to my left, scattering the directional light, creating odd shadows that cast strange illusions. I realize I’m dozing off, starting to dream a little, no longer noticing the small sounds of the forest.

These moments are sometimes brief, but often deeply restoring, and meaningful. It is a matter of finding a way to take little moments, slivers of time between deadlines and conference calls, and turning them into the moments that so many ‘worker bees’ reserve only for their 2-weeks of vacation. You can live your everyday moments the way you would the final days of a relaxing vacation getaway.

Monday morning I realized that my hair had smelled of campfire smoke for 4 days straight; there’s no question that there was still ash in my hair, when I stumbled downstairs in the early morning, to start the coffee maker and consider all of the responsibilities of a typical Monday morning.

For several nights in a row the late spring temperatures had begged for a bonfire! It was cool enough, once the sun went down, to need a light sweater, while the brick buildings and concrete “floor” of my patio were holding onto the sunshine that had spilled across the neighborhood all weekend.

I gently lean my head back in my office chair, and imagine it’s resting against the support of the hammock. I gaze upwards. Above me I think I hear the green leaves rusting, in a steady wind that is strong enough to create a gentle rocking motion. I’m cradled in the hammock, sunk deep into the lightweight, yet supportive fabric.

“How many people do you think have noticed that we are just off the path,” I’m asked. Suspended, and quietly dreaming, I’m sure that I’m invisible, in my own little world, with no one any wiser.

The thought comes to mind, to return to that spot on the Lower Scoito trail soon. I’ll bring a stack of books and a picnic lunch, but right now I have enough insight to admit that such a visit would only result in a long afternoon nap, and that sounds wonderful!

Update: I wasn’t able to stay away for long, and took the purple bike for a quick jaunt down the trail, early in the morning, when only the skittering squirrels, chirping birds, and curious deer were there to see me. What a beautiful way to start the day, in the 6 o’clock hour, with a slight chill in the spring air!

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Join me on my next adventure,

~ Kat

Related Links:

Scioto Trail: https://www.columbus.gov/recreationandparks/trails/Scioto-Trail/

Cairn Outdoor Subscription Box: https://www.getcairn.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=branded&gclid=CjwKEAjwxurIBRDnt7P7rODiq0USJADwjt5D3BNansON6Zr49-kY0sUvyMYWoiUNtIEO0v7BWhjQ0hoCopnw_wcB

Serac Hammocks: https://www.exploreserac.com/

3 comments

  1. The white fluff: cottonwood trees! Likely the scent you smelled the dreaded honeysuckle, an invasive tree that kills native species because its one of the first to leaf out, stealing light from undergrowth. Thanks for sharing your adventure–I haven’t been down that way and “off trail.” Happy trails, and watch out for poison ivy!

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