Typically when I walk my neighborhood I pick a small segment of it and take my time, inspecting plants and pausing at animal sounds so as not to scare them away. There are a lot of great trails within a few miles of my home, and I like to frequent all of them to change things up. It’s nice to have so many options for nature watching so close to my front door. Today, however, I was in the mood for a challenge. I’ve got bigger goals for myself for the next year both for exploring more difficult to hike areas and for increasing my overall activity level. My usual 1.5-3 mile walks are making me feel a bit cramped, so this morning I set out with a plan to extend it. I would walk ALL of my neighborhood trails in one big sort-of loop! The route I chose would conveniently equal my daily step goal, but I would plan to do it in about 3 hours. Plus, I could check out all of my favorite spots at once!
I set off at a quick pace and immediately felt unnatural about it. Like I said, I usually take my time and try not to miss any details as I walk by. Speed-walking instead of sneaking through my favorite wetland park was excruciating. If I always went this fast I would never have checked as many animals species off of my list as I have. As I passed a number of joggers I felt kind of sad for them – they run through here every day and have no idea what they’re missing with their headphones on and their loud footsteps scaring away anything before they even get close. But, I reminded myself what I was here for and kept it up. Even walking 16-minute-miles, I still managed to take in everything I love about my neighborhood.
I walked through a flooded peat bog on a floating boardwalk, then wound through side streets until I came to the entrance of a paved trail which runs parallel to the city’s town center, but is separated by a green belt of native plantings. Somehow, it is secluded enough that the noise of a busy Saturday full of traffic and shoppers and people brunching cannot be heard less than half a block away. The paved trail meanders through old growth forest, swamps, new growth forests in the process of recovering and residential areas. At the end of it is a fairly nondescript city park, which is where the trail ends and I had to turn around. I backtracked to a certain point, then cut through the town center and trekked up a bit to a much less known trail head where I could follow a different creek upstream along hilly dirt paths. The creek here cuts a path through a gully and the forest is much denser here, full of different bird calls than the rest of town. I like to come here every spring before the grass gets to high to see the only pair of Wood Duck I’ve seen in these creeks. I think they always return to this spot because of the lighter foot traffic it sees. After coming to the end of this trail, I turned around and went back through the wetland, ending up at home with a few minutes to spare from my goal, and some seriously burning thighs to remind me that I should add some extra miles to my walks more often.
Places visited: All of my neighborhood trails
Distance walked: 9.7 miles
Total elevation gain: 360 feet.
Species observed: Spotted Towhee, American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, American Crow, Bald Eagle, Song Sparrow, Violet-Green Swallow, Mallard, Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Wood Duck, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Yellow Spotted Millipede, Banana Slug.