I’m going hiking in the Grand Canyon!! Countdown, 11 days!
After my first training walk in Hospital Lake Forest, I was all charged up about walking 10,000 steps every day. It would be the least I could do to prepare. There isn’t much I can do to replicate the altitude change, but to walk for several hours at a time in my hiking boots, that I can do.
Thinking that it would be beneficial to train on a grade, I decided to look for a hill in Hayward, my Northwoods hometown. It’s in a river valley, and there are hills on both sides of the river, as well as glacier formed terrain throughout the forests and fields – how hard could it be to find a good place?
Since I also had an errand at the far end of Main Street, I packed my papers in a backpack along with a snack and some water. (I’m trying to carry a backpack as part of conditioning too.) I set off down an ATV track that follows an abandoned railway bed, toward the center of town. I live on the north edge of this booming metropolis of about 2,300 people. I am within sight of New Moon ski/bike shop, Pizza Hut, AmericInn, Walmart and the tip of the flag flying over Perkins.
This is the town I grew up in and always thought of as quaint, and pretty, in an old-fashioned way. But growth, most of it outside the city limits, has deposited a large electrical station at the intersection of two of the main roads. There is no disguising this huge collection of gray metal poles, insulators, wires and fencing. It clearly does not say “Welcome to lovely Hayward”. There’s not a time I go by it that I don’t wonder why they put it there in such a prominent spot.
Our Main Street however, is a popular tourist site during the summer, and has even been listed as one of the prettiest in the Midwest at Christmas time. It ascends from the river and Lake Hayward up a gradual slope, past numerous shops, the bank, the Congregational church, and finally the courthouse and the financial office where I stopped to talk for a minute.
“I’m looking for a hill to climb. Maybe County Hill?”
“Yeah, County Hill might be okay. Are you parked somewhere near here?”
“No, I need to get 10,000 steps in, so I’m walking, why not?”
No response, other than the “why would you do that?” look.
My destination was only about three miles from home, but somehow this is considered a long distance in a place where no one walks anywhere they don’t have to. Urban walking is a lost art, at least in Hayward. One of my best realizations, upon moving here, has been that everyplace I really need to go is within walking distance, as was County Hill.
I passed houses where my high school friends had once lived, where my cousin’s family lived, the parsonage of the church (where I practically lived) and the empty lot where my elementary school had once stood. I had time to look at the condition of the houses, to see who had raked their lawn of last fall’s leaves, to see where remodeling had added rooms and a complete new look.
I’m sad to say I saw a lot of neglect – places that made me want to start pulling weeds or scrape peeling paint. Maybe this is always the way things seem when you go back home after many years. Memory is selective and I tend to think things were lovelier in the past.
It wasn’t much of a grade. I walked up one side of the road, had my snack at the top while enjoying the view, and walked down the other side. My attention had been caught by the town cemetery at the bottom of the hill. Cemeteries have kind of a spooky fascination for me. I walked through looking at names and dates, imagining scenarios. There were many family names that I recognized from my childhood years in Hayward. I found the stone for my first-grade teacher and one of my junior high teachers – people that I had loved and been close to.
The rest of my walk was uneventful, but I was beginning to feel some soreness in the lower legs. This after about five miles, showing that my conditioning has not been sufficient yet. But my feet were fine, boots were good and I finished with 13,300 steps, meeting my goal for the second day in a row.
Training is tough, especially when I have to have at least two free hours to walk. Being a little sore is to be expected. I will give the legs some rest tomorrow, and then think of another place to see. Believe me, things look different and you see things you did not notice before when you are on foot. Try it.