I like to hike. No, that's not right. I love to hike.
I love putting on my shoes, slathering myself in 40% Deet and heading to the Bay Ridge Trail that is less than a mile from my house.
The dogs seem to like it as well. Every time Jada sees me putting on my trail runners, her tail wags and she begins to jump in anticipation. Blondie hears the commotion and comes running as well. They love the trail. It's one of the few places they are allowed off leash. And the trail, unlike the dog park holds endless wonders in the form of lizards, pheasants, wild turkey, the occasional deer and odd coyote. Yes we all love to hike.
When we get to the trail, the dogs start going wild. They choke themselves pulling me to the point where they know the will be released into the wild. Jada goes off leash first and bounds into the dry grass prancing like a stag. Blondie stays on leash a little longer. Being a terrier mix, she has a tendency to run off. I wait till we are further up the trail where there are no detours for her to take before I let her go.
The first hill we climb is not that steep but runs about the length of two football fields. Two hundred yards of gradual incline is enough to labor your breath, feel the strain in your quads and begin to feel sweat form on the back of your neck, regardless of the temperature. Achieving this first slope is always a satisfying reminder that I can triumph over obstacles if I keep a steady pace. I've done it before, thus I can do it again. When the incline flattens out a bit I take a quick swig of water and continue on.
The next hill is much shorter but steeper. My second wind kicks in and I reach down to let Blondie off the leash. She takes off like a rocket running back and forth like a white streak with Jada close behind her. They will spend the rest of the hike playing this game of chase back and forth up and down the trail as I progress up and down the hills. When I get close to the top of the second hill I allow myself a look back at the world below. I can see the hills of Contra Costa county and a good portion of South Hampton Bay that makes Benicia so picturesque. Sometimes when I look back I see the Amtrak train on the tracks on the other side of the water glowing from the reflection of early morning sun.
When I get to the top of this hill I can also see the Carquinez Bridge which is the first bridge to the San Francisco Bay Area when coming west on Interstate 80. Occasionally when driving across this bridge I'll see an out of state car, obviously on some sort of cross country trek. I always look at the passengers just to see their amazement that there is water on this side of the land and this is where one really sees it. Beyond the Carquinez Bridge lies the rest of the Bay Area of which I can only make out various hills that I know are covered with eclectic suburbs, oaks, and dry grass not unlike that which I currently work my way through.
The third hill is the steepest. The trail winds back and fourth to get to the top. The dogs will typically stop running at this point and simply trail behind me. It's steep for them too. We get to the top and I begrudgingly turn back. Beyond this hill is a meadow, a ridge, another slope, and then a good steep climb that yields a view of the Golden Gate Bridge on one side and the inland delta on the other, this of course if the weather is clear. But I don't have time for that on my morning hikes. I only have time to make it to the third hill. So, I sigh and return back to repeat my steps back to my car.
I take this hike 2 to 4 times a week. I do it for a number of reasons. Stress is one. It's a great way to expend excess energy that comes with unresolved drama and strife. Weight loss is another. I've lost a good 20 lbs. since I started hiking these hills. But more than anything, I do it to think. For some reason, this is when I do my best thinking, and my thoughts have a way of aligning themselves in an order that makes sense when I work my way up and down those hills. The views, the wildlife, the sounds, are all just a backdrop to the larger symphony that goes on in my head where deeds and intentions align themselves like chords, and it all begins to make sense. Sometimes it's like a waking dream where thoughts I didn't even know I had float to the top of my consciousness and I'm forced to consider what they signify.
Hiking for me is an exercise both physical and mental. It reminds me that I'm strong, and allows me a space where I have no choice but to hear what my mind says. Sometimes what I hear is scary, and other times it's informative, but almost always it leaves me with a sense of clarity that I'm thankful to have when I am done.