The ladyfriend took me hiking this past weekend in the Shenandoah, and it was glorious. I loved just driving somewhere away from home with her, something we’ve not done in as long as I can remember. I loved being out in the woods, seeing waterfalls and views, waving an occasional hello to others out doing the same thing. Driving into the park it seemed busy, but once you’re off the main drag, it’s easy to find quiet.
I love this national park because it’s a national park and I love national parks, because it’s relatively close to us, and because the trails seem limitless, thanks to the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in laying them all in. They also planted so many trees to replace all the forests that had been logged. One of the park films calls Shenandoah “America’s biggest cultivated garden,” and I love that line for the reminder that the nature we embrace is often shaped by human hands, too. Nature’s not just natural. The CCC was an amazing work program that produced so many benefits for all of us. I wonder if we could do something like that again, but I digress.
Sunday’s hike was supposed to be a four mile loop, but it somehow turned into fourteen miles, and three days later my body is still mad about it. It was a lot of climbing, and though I bike and run regularly, I don’t hike a lot, so it was rough. My body is good at doing things it does repetitively, consistent effort over time. The long hike made me want to do more hiking, but once I was back in Baltimore Sunday might, the long hike just made me want to stretch, drink water, and recover.
For me recovery meant a long walk on Monday and a bike ride on Tuesday. My feet got blistered, so I figured keeping them on pedals would be easier than having them pound the pavement, and I was right. Tuesday’s ride took me down the hill and left in the protected cycletrack on Monument Street before turning right on Broadway down to Fells Point. It has now been over two years since I was at Broadway and Orleans all the time for cancer treatment, and when I rode by yesterday, it felt like it had been several lifetimes since then. I stopped at the red light and looked up at the new cancer center that opened right as I finished treatment. I wonder when I’ll be back there, I thought. I wonder if that’s where I’ll die. It wasn’t a distressing thought at all, just an idle one that pushed out of my brain when the light turned green, I took the lane, and did that last little uphill before rolling down to the water.
I got off my bike to walk around the water and take it all in. It’s not the Shenandoah, sure, but the harbor is beautiful, the sky was perfect, and I was so happy to be out and about, feeling my body stretch itself out in a familiar way. I snapped this picture before heading toward Harbor Point for my first trip through the Sandlot. It was such a beautiful day, but eerily empty. We are six months in, and the catastrophes of food and housing are only just starting to run through us. It was a beautiful day, and it was another day of struggle for so many. I can hold both of those things at once.
I rode home up Central, noted that a Dunkin Donuts has replaced the Jimmy John’s by that hotel, took the lane through the endless construction zone of that part of downtown, and then up Fallsway, one easy pedal at a time. My body is sore in a different way today, and I’m grateful for its reminders of how much it can and will do, how far its limits can be pushed. It was a great day to be alive, and I was feeling overwhelmingly lucky to be there.