Two Miles to the River and Back

Today is my 66th birthday, so yesterday afternoon, Bear and I went out to attempt a challenge.

Below is the map of the Rio Grande Wildlife Area where we like to walk. Our trails are marked in white. Our most common trail is the loop you see over the word “Homelake.” Homelake is a veterans home built in the 1880s for Civil War Veterans. It’s historic, beautiful and is still a home to veterans. The white line that is directly across from it follows the Rio Grande for about 1/2 mile. Then we turn around. It is the trail where I have seen the owls and have taken most of my photos of the Rio Grande. It’s a wooded, shaded hike in summer, mosquitoes and verdant beauty.

Yesterday Bear and I took on the hike you see starting at a parking area near Sherman Lake. We’ve gone on it before, a short distance. It’s (clearly) a trail that goes on for miles and miles (maybe four miles). It’s a “road” through the wetlands, bordering a few farms. In the fall I saw many, many cranes feasting on fallen grain.

On some level, for a while, I’ve been working (psychologically? physically?) toward reaching the river from this trail and yesterday Bear and I succeeded. It is a two mile round trip.

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area marked up

I tried not to think of what I was once able to do. I tried only to think of what I was doing AT THAT MOMENT and, mostly, succeeded. Bear enjoyed all the (apparently) incredible smells. I saw tracks of badger, deer, birds (mostly ravens, I think) and raccoon. For a while we got to watch a red tail hawk hunting. There was a flock of ducks that took flight when the thump of my cane on the ground vibrated through the water. There was one crane.

We were completely alone and except for the sound of a well being dug in the distance, it was silent, country silent, winter silent.

We reached our destination and I was so happy! I couldn’t have done it without my new friend and its shock-absorbing properties and the pointy end that sticks into the dirt.


I’m OK riding the “bike to nowhere” as a way to maintain some fitness and be in shape for what I know to be the inevitable hip replacement, but sometimes a person (me, for example) wants to go SOMEWHERE and see SOMETHING. My ultimate goal is at least once a week to manage a 3 mile hike on the kind and generous surface of the San Luis Valley. It doesn’t matter how long those three miles take me. I have already won all the races I need to.

Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all;the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances,—master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature.”

23 thoughts on “Two Miles to the River and Back

  1. First of all best wishes for the birthday. I told Mr. Swiss and he also congratulates adding when I told him your age, that you are still young. We both seem to have the “wanderlust” at the moment. We seem to write our blogs at the same time. It is good to get out and experience something different. whether you need a stick or not and we can do it, just remain as mobile as possible. I almost feel at home on the Rio Grande thanks to you walks.

    • Thank you and Mr. Swiss!

      Yeah, I don’t care if I walk with a cane as long as I’m walking. I’m going to soon face a dilemma — return to Switzerland OR have hip surgery. I’m going to find out this week how much the surgery will cost me out of pocket, then I’ll have something more concrete with which to ponder the question. It’s a conundrum. Return to Switzerland without the ability to walk well, or NOT return to Switzerland EVER and walk great. Seriously, I wish we’d sort out this medical insurance thing. And I’m lucky. My job left me with great insurance to complement Medicare. But, it’s really a luxurious dilemma because I CAN have surgery or I CAN return to Switzerland. There are a lot of people who don’t have a choice like that. ❤

  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! MORE CAKE!!! (It gives you energy to hike farther 🙂 )

    Congrats on doing the longer loop. A wonderful testimonial to your inner strength. Looove the pics, as usual. Now stop reading this – MORE CAKE!

  3. Sometimes I forget because it has been a long time since I could hike anywhere, but when we lived in Boston, Garry and I used to hike the entire city, literally end to end. Miles. We hardly ever took the car because is was so hard to find another parking space. If you had a good, legal spot, you walked. I had thighs of steel. Amazing what I could do, marching up those hills with grocery bags in each hand.

    I have some good — or really, better — days, but mostly, my back is bad enough that it hurts more than I can tolerate most days. It’s probably healthy for me to do it, but balancing pain against health, pain wins more now than it did in the past.

    If a hip replacement will give you back your ability to hike, then you should go for it. Nothing will give me back my spine. It is simply too far gone and there’s nothing surgery or drugs can do that isn’t already done. I could have foreseen this when I was very young, but I never looked at that piece of my future. I was sure I’d overcome it – mind over matter. It turns out, mind over matter only takes you so far. After that, you need medical intervention.

    The sooner you do it, the better.

    You are still young enough to get some really good years out of it. 66? You’re still a KID.

    • It’s not a question of “if” with the hip replacement. It’s a question of when. Also how much ($$)

      I will find out $$ this week when I make the call and possibly drive the 1 1/2 hours up to the hospital to talk to people. Logistics is probably the biggest problem because I am alone. Rehab isn’t simple and the dogs are a problem, also a financial problem. My friend who is planning to help me out — well her husband is having hip surgery right around the time I’d originally planned to so that leaves me having to figure out a new plan. Meanwhile, the more ambulatory I am now (and remain) the better both for the future rehab and the present moment. As for really hiking again? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. I would probably have to get a new knee but there are a lot of limitations with that along with the whole rehab, dogs, money yadda yadda sigh. Generally, it’s a matter of being grateful for what I have already done, grateful for what I can do, and making the best out of the future. 🙂

  4. Many happy returns of the day! Congratulations on your saunter, and what an amazingly beautiful place to wander. Your quote by Emerson rounded off the day and the experience wonderfully! Thanks for sharing

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