Sometimes we take a wrong turn. Other times we Robert Frost our paths and choose the less-traveled route. Whether we veer off course by mistake or intentionally, we learn from the journey. On two recent hikes, distractions took me away from the path and I chose the path with more Frostian undergrowth.
I lost my way on the trail at Leita Thompson Park. The park offers a scenic, easy two-and-a-half-mile (four km) trail. The park lacks the striking visuals that many recreation areas highlight on their brochures and websites. It has neither majestic waterfalls nor striking public art.
However, Google reviews state the park is “lovely, with tons of shade and mild hills,” “a great place for running and hiking,” and “loop in a simple to follow circle.” Once on the trail, I just focused on the moment as Zen proponents advise us to do.
Absorbed in the moment, I allowed the Instagram-worthy sky to divert my focus.
In addition, a variety of mushrooms I had never seen pulled my attention groundward.
As a result, I didn’t pay attention to the trail markers and the path took me to a residential neighborhood. I walked back to the trail. I returned to the neighborhood. I repeated this cycle four or five times, absolutely flummoxed.
Finally, I had to ask for directions back to the trail entrance. The two-and-a-half-mile “loop in a simple to follow circle” had become a five-mile hike.
Knowledge gained: look up, look down, focus on what’s ahead and don’t worry about Instagram.
Unlike Leita Thompson park, Vickery Falls does offer striking public art and a majestic waterfall.
Before the area became a park, it was home to the Roswell Manufacturing Company. The company created Vickery Falls to provide water-generated electricity for the machine shop. However, fire destroyed the mill in 1926 and the land sat dormant. In 2008, the United States National Park Service designated the land for recreational use and incorporated the mill ruins into the landscape.
As a result, park visitors usually hike the north bank of the river to reach the falls. This route allows hikers and dog walkers to pass through the ruins and witness the previous era’s manufacturing methods.
However, on a recent hike, I chose to walk along the south bank.
Consequently, I discovered why people walk along the north bank.
Lesson learned: Sewage pipes are not guides.
Either way, drifting from the trail or choosing an ultimately fruitless route, a hike is always a learning experience and we return to the starting point. As the Japanese Zen poet Matsuo Bashō said, “The journey itself is my home.”