Strolling The Dunham Loop

There are some fine walking paths and hiking trails on Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle.  Yesterday we decided to try the Dunham Loop, which follows country roads that circle Dunham Point.  It’s a popular stroll that is about three miles long.  Yesterday some of the fellow travelers on the Loop included two mothers pushing strollers and three young people who were using rolling skis to get in some summer training for the winter cross-country skiing season.

The Dunham Loop gives you a taste of some of the varied sights Deer Isle has to offer.  After you park your car you follow the road past a small marina and dock, and then bear right into the woods, where you get to breathe deep the tangy piney scent of some of the towering trees and enjoy the deep shade.  Along the way, from time to time, you catch a glimpse of the rocky coastline and the water through foliage.

The road then emerges from the wooded area into an open area where the water and hills are visible on the horizon, down across rolling pastures and pine trees along the shoreline.  This is an area of beautiful old farmhouses and barns — one of which had an antique pickup truck parked in front, to complete the image.  After the forest, you’re exposed to the bright sunshine, and it feels like there’s lot of elbow room.

Another right turn — on the Dunham Loop, you’re like a NASCAR driver in reverse — and you head up another country road to see more pretty homes, and a pond with lily pads and a croaking bullfrog.  The road dips and rises, and it”s so quiet you can hear the cross-country skiiers clattering in the distance behind you.  It’s almost a surprise when a car passes by.

Another right turn, and you’re back on the road toward the harbor and the boats.  There are kids playing with dogs at one of the houses you pass, where a mother holding a baby is filling an above-ground pool with water.  The road moves downward and ends at a pebbled beach dusted with oyster and mussel shells and a boat-filled vista overlooking some of the neighboring islands.  The Loop has been completed, and it has been a wonderfully simple and pleasant journey indeed.

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End Of The Strip

This morning I walked down to Mandalay Bay, which anchors the far end of The Strip. Saturday morning is a good time for a walk in Las Vegas — the crowds are gone, and other than a few joggers and some muttering people lurching out of the casinos, you’ve pretty much got the sidewalk to yourself.

The end of The Strip is a bit strange. Unlike the other end, where the modern Strip morphs into Old Las Vegas in a haze of Strip malls, construction sites, and cheesy wedding chapels, the Mandalay Bay end is more abrupt. You’ve got a fake New York skyline, a fake castle with multi-colored turrets, a fake Egyptian pyramid and Sphinx, the golden Mandalay Bay towers, and then . . . desert nothingness. Guests at Mandalay Bay look in one direction and see a gambling fantasyland, and look in the other and see a desolate waste.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

Beachwalking

I’m a big fan of walking in all of its many forms, but I think I may like beachwalking best of all.

Beachwalking has all of the positive attributes of walking generally — fresh air, exercise, feeling your body get into an almost mechanical rhythm while your mind has the freedom to roam wherever it wants to go. But beachwalking has a number of plus factors, too. It’s pleasantly hot, for one thing. There are soothing surf sounds and seagull cries in the background, rather than traffic noises. You’re barefoot, and you feel warm sand between your toes. And if you’re on the right kind of beach, you can walk for miles, uninterrupted by crossing streets or cars or traffic lights or other reminders of civilization. It’s an opportunity to work yourself into an almost trance-like, zen state.

Yesterday I walked for miles on a basically empty beach, plodding along until I came up to a stone jetty and had to turn around and trod back again. I thought about nothing but sand and sea and the distant goal. It was a wonderful journey.

The Walking Lot

The “Walking Lot” is the newest long-term parking option at the Columbus airport. Unlike the other lots, it’s not serviced by transport buses; you have to hoof it to the airport. As a result, it’s less expensive than the other lots.

We used it today, and given that it was close to full, others obviously are using it, too. It’s reasonably close to the airport, just past baggage claim. You won’t have a bucolic walk to the terminal, as cars and transport buses speed past and taxiing and landing planes contribute to the overall volume, but you’ll get some exercise and save a few bucks, besides.

I’m glad they’ve added the “Walking Lot” to the mix. Anything that gets more people walking will always get my support.

Infrastructure Insecurity

Every morning on my way to work I cross over the combined roar of the I-70/I-71 traffic on the Third Street bridge.  I use the same bridge to get home at night.  The bridge is a key part of my commute because it is one of the few avenues for pedestrian traffic from German Village and the south side into downtown Columbus.

img_5527.jpgOn Monday, I noticed that part of the bridge was blocked off by yellow construction tape and some skinny orange cones.  When I went over to investigate this development, I saw that chunks of the bridge appeared to have fallen off.  A glance suggested that, with one ill-timed stumble, a luckless walker could go pitching through the gap and tumbling down the hillside to the traffic stream below.

Yikes!

Since that close examination, I’ve given the orange cone area the widest berth the sidewalk will allow.  And, because you can’t help but think on a walk, I find myself wondering about what the problem with one part of the bridge means for the structural integrity of the bridge as a whole.  What if the bridge started to crumble just as I am walking across?

Double Yikes!

That thought has helped me to pick up the pace on my morning walks.  But I’ll be very relieved when this personal, visible, and unsettling reminder of our national infrastructure problem gets fixed.

Pear Pressure

There a spot along my walk to and from work where a property owner has planted a pear tree in front of his building.  Pear trees often are favorites of landscapers because they tend to grow quickly, and for much of the year it’s a perfectly nice tree.

But here’s the thing — pear trees produce pears.  That’s OK, as long as you pick the pears and consume them, or donate them to the local food bank, or compost them if they aren’t especially tasty.  But you can’t just let the pears fall to the ground unattended.  Pears rot, and rotten fruit smells, and attracts bees and flies, and gets stepped on and smeared all over until the whole sidewalk is a disgusting, reeking, bee-ridden mess that the intrepid walker must approach with grim caution and careful footsteps.  In short, it’s not a pretty sight.  Which raises a question:  why would any business owner want anyone coming to their front door to pass through such an area? 

Pear tree owners need to pick up after themselves.

The Benefits Of “Forest Bathing”

The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku, which translates into English as “forest bathing.” It has nothing to do with bathing in the normal sense of the word, however.  Instead, the concept might better be described as “forest immersion.”

IMG_1396For some time now, Japanese people looking to reduce the stress of everyday living have been heading to the forest.  Their approach to shinrin-yoku is simple:  go out into the woods, shut off your cell phone, and take in the forest atmosphere to the maximum extent you can, without a specific goal or destination in mind.  Use your senses as you wander.  Breathe in the cool fresh air that leaves your nostrils tingling.  Touch the rough tree bark and the soft moss.  Listen to the wind rustle the leaves, and hear the birdsong.  Sit down on the ground or a fallen tree and smell the humid mix of growing plants, decaying wood, and moist earth.  Feel the tree shade on your skin.

The proponents of shinrin-yoku say that it produces all kinds of health benefits, in addition to stress reduction:  improved functioning of the immune system, reduced blood pressure, improved mood and energy, heightened mental acuity, and better sleep.  In short, regular leisurely, relaxed strolls through the woods can provide the kind of mental and physical health benefits that stressed-out Americans typically try to obtain through prescription drugs or some other artificial means.  Should this come as a surprise?

One of the weirder things about modern America is how resistant some people are to actually experiencing nature.  Every morning, as I’m on my morning walk, I travel past a small health club where people are jogging and walking on treadmills, watching TV —   when they could be jogging around the same park I’m heading to only a few blocks away, where they could breathe some fresh air rather than stale sweat smells, experience the morning quiet, and chuckle at the quacking ducks waddling by.  Why make that choice?  Why do people hop in their cars rather than walking, even for short distances?

I don’t think you need to plan a trip to a primeval forest to experience the benefits of shinrin-yoku.  I think any effort to get out into the natural world, in quiet way, walking at your own pace and listening and looking and feeling, is going to be a good thing on more levels than we can count.