Mud – there was just so much mud on the trail! Seven miles we hiked, trying not to get sucked in, lose a shoe, or slip and slide onto our fannies. What an adventure! We tried a new (to us) trail – Alder Trail at Prairie Oaks Metro Park. So much mud!
I had to laugh at the sound of my new, once clean, pair of Oboz hiking boots made as I pulled myself out of the deep mud. Let’s just admit that 12-year-old boys (and some grown men I know) would have snickered.
Why do I wear Oboz? Because they plant a tree for every pair of shoes they sell. And because the $180 pair of boots was 1/2 off at the REI “Garage Sale” a few weeks ago. Why do I shop at REI? Because they are closed the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday, to allow their workers to spend time with family, getting outside! #OptOutside
In any case, I was happy to be outside! I was bundled up, though my body couldn’t decide if it wanted my heavy scarf wrapped snugly around my head, to keep my ears warm, as the wind blew harder than anticipated, or draped loosely around my shoulders, as the sun peeked out and my body started generating heat a few miles into the hike.
On this hike there were trees to step, crawl, and scamper over, fallen across the path or stretching their massive roots in any and every direction they please, slowly but with determination. Nothing stands in their way!
Big Darby State and National Scenic River cuts through the park. An impressive wooden bridge carries us across the shallow water, to explore tall grasses and a horse trail on the other side
A 10-year-old boy and his mother look down at the water on one side, holding large sticks – the kind Golden Retrievers or tenacious young terriers would grip in their teeth. Mom is counting: “One. . . two. . . ” when the boy drops his stick into the river, his mother’s stick following a moment later. “Hey, yours got a headstart!” she declared.
They hurried to the other side of the bridge, to watch anxiously to see which stick would emerge first. Mom smirked a little as her stick came into view. She laughed heartily. Perhaps the boy was 12, just on the verge of no longer going on hikes or tossing sticks off of bridges with his mother.
Mom laughed again, over her shoulder, when we told her the boy’s stick was rallying and could pull ahead. They had returned to the upstream side of the bridge, ready to toss the next pair of sticks, which might almost be considered small branches, really. They scurried back to see what we had described.
“What did you decide was the “Finish Line?” I asked. “Well, we didn’t think that far ahead. . . ” she replied. Of course she hadn’t! This was a shining example of being right there, in the present moment, and not living in “what might happen next” or “that which has already passed.” She laughed once more, as we turned back toward the path.
The park map showed two options: we could cross the bridge, and take the crushed limestone path through the park, toward the shelter and playground at the main entrance (this is the way we’d always gone) OR we could go out in search of a new adventure. We turned our backs on the familiar path, the one that the Metro Parks Winter Hike Series puts on its marked route, ready to explore!
This was no typical Metro Parks Winter Hike. We’d get out “Ticket to Travel” stamped, making our way toward earning a hiking stick medallion, but there would be no bonfire, no hot chocolate, no long lines for chicken and noodles served up by park volunteers. We hadn’t met a group of friends to hike with (see: ). And there were no “designated” routes recommended for winter hiking. We were on our own!
So we chose the unknown path, despite the fact that we could see nothing beyond a muddy path. Well, that’s what hiking boots are for, right? Without hesitation, perhaps with a childlike eagerness inspired by the young boy and his mom, we started along Alder Trail, toward Sycamore Plains Trail and Tallgrass Trail, eager to see where the paths (and the day) would take us.
Slippery wet, fallen leaves made the path dangerously slick. Mud-covered rocks came as a surprise, seeming to jump out at us unexpectedly. I thought we had lost the path at one point, but we continued along the water’s edge and soon found our way again. Thick logs, spindly branches, and twisted roots were “painted” by the thick sludge, to match the surroundings.
It was an obstacle course, and so much fun! We had much of the hike to ourselves. We were just so happy to be outside, it didn’t matter if the sky was overcast or broken by sun rays. I wasn’t concerned by the cold winds alternating with sweat dripping down my back. It was all exhilarating, adventurous, and challenging.
We hiked up, up, up to the ridge that overlooked the river and the trail we had just pushed through, then back down, down, down after we’d completed a big loop of tall prairie grasses. It felt as though we were all alone out there, following a path someone had left for us, not knowing precisely what was ahead.
Then I’d hear the low buzz and hum of the familiar sound of highway traffic, just outside of the park. I was reminded that this was a metropolitan park. I was thankful for these opportunities to be outside, part of the wild, yet so close to home. I felt a deep sense of gratitude to the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks and the Friends of the Columbus and Franklin Country Metro Parks, for challenging residents to hike throughout the winter months, year after year.
The hikes look a little different this winter (#COVID-19; #ThanksCovid), but we’re still out there, doing it, breaking in a new pair of shoes, bringing them home caked in mud. The Oboz company encourages us to close our eyes and visualize our “happy place” on the trail. On this mud-caked hike I believe I have found a new favorite adventure destination.
In the meantime, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, smile, and visualize your favorite place on the trail. As soon as it’s safe to come together, we hope you’ll be ready for a stellar hiking season filled with friends, fresh air and major fun.Oboz website
Join me on my next adventure,
Oboz – One More Tree: https://obozfootwear.com/one-more-tree
Metro Parks Annual Winter Hikes Series: https://www.columbusonthecheap.com/metro-parks-annual-winter-hike-series/
Friends of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks: https://www.metroparksfriends.org/