Sun, trees, dirt, flowers. My nose is full of the smell of Eucalyptus leaves. I used to hike twice a month with my senior hiking group called DASH. Then my sis moved in with me so that I could be her care giver. My hiking days stopped except for once last summer when I lucked into a sitter for the five hour event. And today.
It’s not that our hikes are that long, but by the time we gather together and break up into carpools, ride to the trailhead, circle up, count heads and introduce ourselves, hike our five or six miler with a break in the middle, ride back to the park where we left our cars and drive home, it’s five hours. I am one of the youngest in the group, and that’s fine with me.
I love to walk at the back of the group – today there were 18 of us — and take photos. I use my old Nikon camera, the size of a deck of cards, from Costco. Why? It fits in my fanny pack, it isn’t as valuable as my phone (if I drop it into a ravine of poison oak), and it takes better photos. I love to photograph the wildflowers, the trees, the way the light hits the plants, anything else that catches my eye.
By the time we are done, my feet hurt, my head is sweating in my Aussie hat, and I may have pulled a glute muscle. But I got to: walk in the sun and shade for three plus hours, chit chat with friendly strangers, and help to bandage up the sweep hiker in the back who tripped over a root and did a face plant.
Back at the cars, I drink my cold Snapple that I’d packed frozen. On the way home, we discuss this and that. Twice our driver/hike leader changes lanes and narrowly misses getting hit by another driver merging into the same space we are about to take. We pass several ambulances and two smashed-up the cars going the opposite direction.
The tree that fell onto the freeway Monday, killing a 58 year old doctor from my town, is still lying on its side on the hill above the roadway, its upper canopy removed. It was morning commute time. The tree was rotten. What were the chances of something like that happening?
Tuesday at the chiropractor I heard a woman say, “It could’ve been me.” That afternoon at the hair dresser, I heard it again. Everyone who lives in my town and uses the 680 corridor to get to work or run errands was thinking the same thing. They made up reasons for the tragedy.
“It was her time.”
“Her number was up.”
“She must’ve done something awful to have that happen to her.”
“If she would’ve left a minute later, she wouldn’t have been killed.”
The thing is, it was a force of nature, or as the insurance companies call it, or used to anyway, an act of God.
We carpool of hikers discussed trees that squeak and crack and give warning before they fall. That’s when you’re out hiking, not when you are in your car. Or, as a kid, when you sleep upstairs in the one and a half-story house, your bed by the window. For weeks I heard the elm tree outside squeaking. I told my mom, and she said it was my imagination.
I got told that a lot as a kid.
One winter day I came home from school, and half of the elm tree was lying in the snow in the front yard. I ran inside the house.
”I told you the tree was squeaking!” I said to my mom.
“What?” she said. “I don’t remember that.”
Either you’re tuned into nature or you’re not. A good way to get dialed in is to hike.
With old people.
On a Wednesday.
We go just slow enough to take it all in.