The winding, hilly path from the main, north entrance of the park to the back entrance to the south and east covers almost three miles and as such, is the perfect course to train for 10k runs or, if one is a little less ambitious, overall fitness goals like improved stamina and a slimmer waistline.
While I’d actually once run entrance to entrance (and back again) with a girlfriend, I normally preferred to simply walk this somewhat challenging route instead. Either way, it provided me with an effective workout and besides, I always loved the peaceful, quiet setting surrounded by thick woods, native flora, birds, squirrels and other wildlife that called this place home. I recall once seeing a doe resting in the shadows along a hiking path and being surprised by a garter snake underfoot at the bottom of a steep trail as well as wild turkeys that quietly emerged from the deep woods totally unaware of my presence as I hiked. My son and I enjoyed stumbling across puffball mushrooms and the occasional morel and we also took great delight in small discoveries such as the three small stone bridges built along one of the trails. And every trip to Pilot Knob State Park required we make the steep climb to the tower with its stellar view of the surrounding countryside.
Some thirty years later I’m struck by the realization that if only I had continued with those daily treks, where my hour long hikes led me up and down a variety of paths and horse trails throughout the park, I might be in pretty fantastic physical shape right now. Our recent trip to Colorado (where my husband and I experienced true elevation!) reminded me of those tranquil moments that my son and I both enjoyed with so much satisfaction. When my legs were weary and my spirit even more so, I would utter the mantra I’ve used my entire adult life: one foot in front of the other, keep moving forward. And so too, I must look toward possibilities of what I can and might and WILL do rather than nurturing regrets and grievances over what I have failed to accomplish or to dwell on mistakes that I’ve made.
Nature is like that. Beautiful, serene and thought provoking. A wondrous cocoon, a place that offers both comfort and protection as well as a harsh landscape that demands respect and must be navigated with care, Mother Earth tugs at something deep within us as nothing else can or does. Sadly, there are too many who have allowed material, superficial ‘realities’ – wants, needs and desires driven by marketing ploys and a 24×7 culture – to negate and minimize and essentially diminish (if not destroy) any recognition of what our planet has to offer.
But for those of us who see and appreciate the beauty all around us, we are forever changed by the possibilities and opportunities to live a pretty heady life of wonder, adventure, peace and joy!