The Joy of Walking!
“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.
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My blast off date is nearing. I love your post today. As always it is when we are nearest nature with a quiet spirit that we can hear the voice speaking to our soul. I definitely plan on walks and hiking and a means to reach out to the universe and be still.
Klbexplores, I have a bone to pick with you! I read your post about saying goodbye to your beloved horse and it brought tears to my eyes! It made me think that one of these days I will say my last goodbye to Homer, and that is a very upsetting thought for me. But it reminds me to make every day I have with him a really great day!! And for that I am grateful. I enjoyed your blog, you are a great writer. I recommend it to my reader here:
Excellent post Bob and I couldn’t agree more. One of the things I do while out walking—to help focus on that which is around me and not noisy, random thoughts—is to imagine that I’m a videographer filming a scene for some nature documentary. It really brings my attention to the surroundings. Helps with still photography too. 🙂
Thanks Wayne! Like you I am always looking around me with an eye to find a photograph. Like you suggest, I’m certain that increases my attentiveness to my surroundings. But I read a guy once who said that he choose not to photograph things because he thought that instead of breaking down the barrier between him and nature, it increased it. He believed seeing through photographer eyes turned nature into an outside subject to be studied and observed instead of a part of him to be connected with.
I love photography so much I wasn’t able to give it up, but I have never forgotten his idea! I try to not just view the things I shoot photos of not just as subjects to be “captured”, but kin to connect to. Unfortunately, I often fail in that endevour! But, I keep trying.
I can’t recall who said “angels whisper to a man when he walks”, but it’s true. I’m sure it’s true for dogs too.
Agree with you that ATVs are a scourge.
Your account of saving that dog made my day!
Kim, it was an amazing day! I can’t tell you how much of a miracle it was. In the high desert there I just pick a point on the mountains and walk toward it. That day I picked a point exactly in line with that dog! The desert is full of vegetation and deep washes/draws so I made constant course changes to get around things. Every course change brought me back in line with him. Back then I walked half an hour out and then turned around and headed back. Had I stopped 30 seconds earlier, I would have missed him. The vegetation is thick, had I been 50 feet to either side, I would have missed him. He was hiding from the sun under a bush waiting to die!! The odds of my finding that dog were incredibly unlikely; and I walked straight to him!
It was a pretty amazing event in my life!
One of the things that has driven itself home to me time and again.. You really dont know a place untill you have walked it 🙂 driving through and looking through a window just doesnt cut it!
Nemo, we have walked many miles and hours together. I am looking forward to many more!!
I used to be one of those ATV’ers. When I was a kid. I can’t tell you almost anything about the places we rode. When you’re going 50 mph, all you can do is look right in front of yourself.
Now that I’m older, I am no fan of the motorized world. The grace and recognition that comes from seeing the world slowly and quietly, cannot be compared. Walking, biking, sailing, etc…Sustainable, green traveling. Seeing the world at 5 mph. That’s my world now.
What a great companion Homer must be to you Bob.To have your best mate with you 24 x 7 is worth all the gold in the world.The beautiful place that you are camping,thats GODS country.May you and Homer enjoy many more long walks together.As for you finding the lost dog,that was meant to be as you were led to the exact spot on that very day.Things just happen like that.
Terry, he is my greatest joy! Right now he is curled up on the bed trying to squeeze me off and have the whole thing to himself. To say I cherish him is a total understatement. My finding Homer was serendipity also, one day I will tell that story.
I love it when things just happen by “chance”. It reminds me there is a guiding, loving hand acting behind the scenes for my good. The only thing better is to be used by that hand for someone else’s good.
Yes, walk and look. It is our 10,000 year heritage. Happy for you and Homer. 🙂
Kitty you are so right!! Darwins understanding of evolution opened up a whole new understanding of what it means to be happily human. A million years of evolution demands that we be connected to nature. Without it we suffer greatly and have no idea why!!
I have been walking “needlessly” since third grade, and I understand and appreciate this essay. Walking does things for a person that can only be understood by walking.
I believe that a Greater Power meant for you to find that dog. You did a great thing for the dog and the family.
Calvin, we think alike in that. As a believer in the principle of Yin and Yang, I believe that life is composed of complimentary opposites. A large part of life happens by chance and Chaos. Another large part of life is guided and Directed by an incomprehensible but loving hand. It’s nearly impossible to know which is which, but it is sure easy to see a guiding hand in my steps that day.
Yes, the benefits of walking can only be experienced. They can’t be described or explained. The problem is they are subtle, and in a world filled with super-sized everything, the subtle doesn’t have much chance.
hey bob, those atv and drit bikes can be a real pain in the a$$. they kick up a lot of dust.an walkers an offroads don’t mix well at all i.m.o. that being said, there are alot rubber tramps, that own small motor scooters to get around on, in fact i just bought one.after seeing bri, dons. an how well they do on gas an they are just plain fun. with gas prices on the climb all the time.i really seeing more rvers get them !!! you might have to go farter in to the boonies. gary p.s. great post an pixs too
I agree totally, especially about the little Honda Trail 70, 90 and 110. Really great little machines! I have had my eye out for one for awhile. They do get great mpg, but they aren’t very fast. That would still work well because slowly working your way down a trail can be a good experience.
Which one did you get?
Bob, enjoyed your post on nature and walking. We always tried to take our babies on walks every morning and evening when out in an area that we could. Here lately, life is so hectic for us and cold that walking hasn’t been an option. Hopefully spring is on the way and life will slow down a bit for us. although our full timing days are on hold until further notice due to some family issues. great post
Pennie, you raise a good point. For some reason we find it difficult to do things that are good for us just because they are good for us. But you could do it when your children were young because it was good for them. You just got the side-affect. And that’s just what happened to me! I wouldn’t do it for myself, but when I got Homer I was willing to do it for him. We were driving so much I felt terrible to have a big dog copped up in the truck all day. So I promised him we would walk twice a day every day and I kept my promise. The rewards have been so wonderful that now I don’t need him as my motivation. In fact he is old enough I’m sure he wishes we walked less.
Family comes first! Sometime you have to do what you have to do. But are you sure there isn’t some kind of a compromise that will allow you to take care of family and also let you follow your dreams? You never know what tomorrow will bring, so I try to live today to it’s fullest.
So very true. You have stated very well why I love to hike. I need that connectedness at the slow pace to see the natural world. Really see.
Wandrin Lloyd, you are right, there is a really big difference between seeing and really seeing. They are not the same thing. I can’t describe the difference, but I know it is there.
The road I am camped on continues on and goes up the side of a mountain a few miles away. The stretch of road on the mountain side is small and far away, but it stands out. I came home one day and just by total chance something caught my eye, I looked again and noticed a dark dot on the road that didn’t seem right. So I watched it for a few minutes and I could finally see that it was moving in relationship to the brush along side the road. I got out my binoculars and saw that it was a hiker with his dog and there was a second hiker and dog behind him and further up the hill. I felt this instant connection with them and felt good feelings toward them. Finding people out walking just for the joy of walking is pretty unusual for me because usually I am in the middle of nowhere. Plus, that was a hard hike! It was a long ways away and they had climbed a pretty steep hill. I knew I would never see them again, but even so I instantly liked them and wanted to get to know them!
That moment left me with two lessons: 1) This was not a unique event, it has happened fairly often. I see a whole lot more than I think I see! Something inside me saw that dot on the mountain and knew it wasn’t supposed to be there. I have a connection to my surroundings that I can’t describe or understand. 2) There is a camaraderie amongst walkers and I think it is that thing inside us that recognizes itself in another person.
Hopefully we can go for a walk together one of thee days Lloyd!
Walking, yes. Hiking, no.
I hate it when some goal-driven alpha person says things like, “Let’s get to the top of the that mountain before lunch! Yeah! C’mon, let’s go go go!”
Okay, I get it, some people need stuff like that. They need challenges and accomplishments. I don’t. I amble. I observe. I soak it in. It’s the journey, not the destination, right? Not the PHYSICAL destination, anyway. It’s a mental and spiritual destination. And that destination can happen with every step, not just the last few.
Al, I understand and agree with what you are saying. I don’t think of myself as a hiker, I am a walker. I have been a hiker, and I understand and appreciate them, but now I am a walker. I like how you put it: “I amble. I observe. I soak it in. It’s the journey, not the destination, right?”
I am an Ambling Observer! I like that!!
Jjo, hang in their and keep working diligently and it will fall into place. When your dreams are in line with the Universe, it wants to make them come true!
I Love walking !!! and hiking but especialy just walking and seeing all that you talked about. I just got back from a hour and half walk in the woods near my house. I live in the sierra mountains so easy to walk every day.
Walking is good for the soul. If I am feeling down at all, I just get out for a walk and always feel better.
Sue, walking is the thing that keeps me as sane as I am! There are lots of scientific studies that show that walking in nature can be as effective as some anti-depressants for mild depression!
Hugs to you for saving that dog’s life and reconnecting him with his people!
FYI, I have hear that there is a vaccine for dogs against snake bites – I believe it’s specific to rattlesnakes, but I could be mistaken.
Thanks for yet another wonderful post.
You are right Naomi, there is a vaccine. I have a friend who got his dog one. I looked into it once but never did it. If memory serves they don’t last long, like maybe 6 months. I probably should get one for him, but Homer really doesn’t seem to have much interest in snakes. He has an incredible chase instinct, but if something doesn’t run he just doesn’t care about it!
I think I’m in a halfway place somewhere. I get the ATV & Jeep thing. I’d like to horse my F-250 4×4 down a difficult trail sometime, but it’s not really suited for doing that kind of thing. And if I break it or get stuck, I’m in deep do-do. It’s all I have, and I absolutely depend on it. So, I don’t treat it as an expendable toy.
What saddens me is not a parade of ATVs. I like driving, and vehicles. I get it. They’re just out having their brand of fun. What seems startling to me is to see a loaded toyhauler move in and deploy for a few days, and then pack up and move out again for somewhere else. One or two people, and four or six machines. There’s something about having and maintaining all that machinery, and the machinery is the sole motivator and goal. After the third stop, I think I’d be bored to tears and resentful of the financial and work demands that keeping it all running makes. Are we having fun yet? I guess I’m sensing my former life of having to keep up the suburban/rural essentials of cars, lawn mowers, trimmers, chainsaws, log splitters, etc. It came to own me, instead of the other way around. If anything, all the stuff was a distraction from more significant things.
I’d be tempted to get a small motorbike of some kind to save on diesel fuel on long errands, but aside from the money, I’ve been cautioned to walk and ride my bike. Since I’ve seen firsthand what happens when us more “mature” folks employ too many laborsaving devices, I’ve managed to temper my innate laziness with a desire to stay ambulatory. I’m still far short of any sense of communing with nature – my own newbie encounters out here have been mostly unsettling so far – but I agree that rolling past a place in a truck falls far short of actually experiencing it on one’s tootsies. Even a bicycle steals a lot of it – I’m devoting too much attention to picking a path and not going down on a too-large rock. Gotta walk it if I’m going to really experience it. Call it “Bob’s Law of Biped Experiential Enhancement”. I figure it doesn’t apply to quadrupeds because the majority can’t balance a bike or drive an ATV anyway.
You were guided to the lost dog. I love your answers in this post, I understand completely…
When I slow down and my heart is open, full of joy and appreciation, my awareness shifts from doing into being and then nature can reveal more to me. : )
Lynnzie, it’s so odd that simply “Being” is such a challenge for us. It comes down to the old question, “Are you a Human Doing or a Human Being?” I am going to have to come clean and admit that the great majority of my life I am doing and not being. It is just as much a struggle for me as for anyone else. If I am not careful, my walks turn into activities instead of inspired moments. But, with only a little effort they are times of subtle joy and appreciation. That’s why I keep doing it!!
Hi Bob, certainly enjoyed reading about your walk with Homer this am, nice start to my day and the pics of the spring desert blooms were lovely:) Biscotti and I walk many times each day, my favorite is the long one in the morning right after he gets up and I’m forever grateful he came into my life 2 yrs. ago, he keeps me connected to mother earth, is always ready to see what the day has to offer and I return in a more serene and grounded place ready for breakfast. I will look for the book you recommended. Thanks, Gretchen
GretchenRose, as I often say, I determined to give Homer his best possible quality of life, and as a side-affect I gave myself my best possible quality of life!! Hmmmm, now that I think about it, maybe I should stop saying that. It could be taken to mean that I aint nothin but an Old Houndog!!
I find being in nature, wherever it is, to be soothing.
I do too Douglas! Getting back into connection with Nature has changed my life.