The Joys (and Perils) of Walking in Your Own Neighborhood
How well do you know your own neighborhood? We’ve lived in our current house for 38 years (egad!) so I thought I knew the area pretty well. Turns out not so much. Perhaps the same is true for you?
A little background. A few years ago I started to notice various aches and pains when I woke up in the morning. This seemed odd, since for most of my life when I would wake up with pain or a bruise I always knew why and could remember the cause. Exuberance and clumsiness in combination was usually at the root of the problem. But now, random soreness or stiffness in various places with no known cause. I mentioned this at a physical and both the doctor and his nurse burst out laughing. It turned out the medical term for my problem is… “aging.”
Then things got a bit worse. For no reason I could recall, I began to notice swelling in my left elbow. In about two days I had a lump of fluid that looked a bit alarming. On a visit to Pullman a sister in law who works at a clinic diagnosed the problem and gave me a rather stark analysis. “We can either drive down to my clinic so I can drain it, or you’ll be in the Emergency Room in two days.”
Two weeks later I had it drained again, and my doctor’s advice was to wait and see what happened. The swelling returned, but not as badly. Over the next several months I had swelling in my elbow, or my wrist, and sometimes in my left hand. When it was bad it was a tad difficult to pull in the clutch lever on my bike, and this prompted me into action.
A referral to a surgeon and an MRI ensued, and she patiently explained the results. One tendon in my left elbow, and probably both of them, completely severed. How could this have happened and me not be aware of it? “It happens,” she said. I could have surgery and have it repaired, but she was cautious. Surgery always brings some risk, and if it was not bothering me all that much…
The swelling was gradually lessening. I chose to do nothing. Now I rarely have any issues with my left arm at all, so perhaps my body has figured out a work-around for the problem.
Then there is my right knee. Twice surgically repaired after a basketball injury when I was 27 and thought I could play, it was starting to act up again. I may need to have a 3rd operation to remove some pieces of meniscus that have torn loose, but for now it’s no big deal.
All of it added together let me know that I could not just sit back and wait for things to get better. Now retired, it was easier to hit the YMCA more often and with more intent. I also began taking walks of various length several times a week. Sometimes I would drive to an area I did not know and just explore.
The Redmond watershed comes highly recommended by me, as you can cover a great many miles of trails if you do them all. You can also get lost, as I did one day, ending up with about a ten mile hike by the time I got back to the car. In the midst of the watershed you are more alone that pretty much any other time except for an occasional interaction with a representative of wildlife. There’s a large beaver pond; the owner occasionally chewing on a piece of wood. On one occasion a young cougar strolled around the corner and was shocked to see me.
The solitude prompts thinking about whatever book I am writing, and most of the plots of the last three novels have been created here. There is probably such a strolling opportunity a short drive away from you.
Recently things began to get worse. Pain in my arms at night, and swelling in both knees that gradually worsened. I could no longer jog at the YMCA, and stairs became an issue. Over time, I discovered that one Aleve in the morning and another before bed seemed to eliminate this. In addition, I added a stretching session to my workouts led by Susan, as she has obtained a lot of physical therapy exercises from her own maladies over the years. Now I could get back to my longer walks.
Most of my favorites begin and end at our house. Today I chose the three mile loop. First time I had done this one since last spring. You walk up the street and then through the small park and soccer fields behind Northshore Junior High. Then out to a pipeline access swath that goes down and then up and up and up past a huge housing development. I always pause to note the progress and wonder at the logistics of the enterprise. It is obvious that many millions of dollars have been spent over the past two years, and yet they have yet to begin construction of a single building. Do you have any construction projects going on near your home? What are they, and why, and how are they doing?
After reaching the top of the pipeline access you turn right on a small street that bisects the trail and walk down a steep hill. There was a large lot for sale on this street for years, and I was in the habit of pausing to design in my head a dream house for the site. In reality, should I ever have the money to buy the land and the have built the extravagant house I designed, I’d probably toss patience and buy a house that already existed. For a few million you have a lot of choices. Still, I was saddened to see that someone else has purchased the lot and construction is under way. I doubt the result will resemble the magnificent edifice I’d created for myself.
Then it is up a long hill to the intersection before Kamiakin Junior High. A turn to the right takes me up and over a small hill and down to the Kingsgate Safeway store and other businesses.
Over the course of these walks and the many variations I’ve scoped out along the route I’ve discovered many things I never knew existed. Small businesses, and for some of them I cannot tell exactly what they are about. Various little parks hidden here and there that many people never visit. As I taught at Kamiakin, these walks bring memories of students and incidents over the years – most of them happy memories. There’s also the occasional retail space for rent or purchase, and I ponder what business would do well there. And of course, I’m always on the lookout for homes that have an interesting or unusual vehicle or two. Your results may differ. All in all, each walk is just that little bit different, and I learn something new almost every time. Today was to be no different.
With my physical issues of late, I was wary as to how my knee would respond. Fortunately, all went well. Plan A was to do most of the walk, and pause at a temporary Kingsgate library facility to renew my card. On another walk I had discovered that the library we used to visit was an empty shell, undergoing a down to the studs remodel. That brought the thought that I had not used my library card in years, and it was time to get back in that habit. I could not find the card, so stopping by the temporary facility to renew would be a good thing.
Except they do not open until 11am, a half an hour away. Instead, I chose to explore yet another small park. I’d noticed the signs for this across the way from the Safeway store on yet another previous walk, but had never set foot in it. From the street you can hardly see the entrance, and when I mentioned it to Susan as we drove by in the car one day she doubted there was anything there. Time to find out.
It turned out that what I thought was a driveway leading into the park was only about forty yards long. After that a graveled trail led off to the left, and then turned to a wide path of solid dirt covered with needles and leaves beginning to be shed. The path led up and around and back and forth until I could hear nothing of the outer world at all, even though I knew I was less than 50 yards from streets and stores and buildings on all sides. Remarkable.
To my surprise, the trail opened up to a mammoth BMX park! Obviously purpose built, there was a wooden platform where you would start, and then a dizzying array of jumps and banked corners and leaping obstacles that covered a deeply wooded area of about thirty yards or more on each side. It was amazing, and utterly deserted. If BMX bicycles had existed when I was a lad and a park like this had been near my house, my parents would have had two places to find me. On the lake playing hockey in the winter and at the BMX park the other half of the year. When you go for a walk in your neighborhood you may also find surprising places that prompt thoughts of long ago.
I assumed that the trail continued on the other side of the BMX ramps and whoop de doos and berms, although I could not see it. The various obstacles were actually difficult to walk over, especially with some concern for my knee, as I had now walked more than three miles.
On the other side there were more BMX trails and obstacles down to the right, so I clambered over more challenges to find the trail. There was no trail. Hmmmm. I did not want to go back because I did not want to take on the obstacles again, so I forged ahead following what looked like an old and narrow path through the bracken.
Which soon petered out. I knew the original trail had to be up and to my right, so I began to bushwhack my way through the forest. Bad idea. The going gradually got worse and worse. The many vines and branches underfoot managed to untie my hiking shoes every few feet, and I needed to clamber over a lot of fallen trees. Worse, the ground underneath was laced with all sorts of holes leading to burrows for someone, and occasionally I would put a foot down and crash though for another foot or so. Each time I suffered a spasm of worry about knee.
Over time my worries increased, as I was gradually getting soaked from the inside out from my labors. My jeans were also getting sodden, and the chill air was going to be a problem at some point. Worse, I had no idea where I was. If I fell and wrenched my bad knee or sprained an ankle, or worse, I could call Susan for help, but I did not know where I was or how I would be able to tell her how to find me. If I’d attempted this in the dark it would have been seriously perilous.
Right about the time this adventure ceased to be fun. Fortunately, my concerns disappeared when I managed crash through to a trail. I set off downhill, and it turned out to be not the trail I had been on previously. When it dead ended at a street I turned to the left and in about 20 yards figured out where I was.
I arrived home having hiked for longer than planned, and having put more stress on the bad knee than was advisable. On the other hand, a complete change of clothes soon had me warm and dry, with that remnant of adrenaline rush you get from real or imagined peril.
You probably have similar adventures awaiting you near your home. Give local walking (in daylight) a try!
Copyright 2015 David Preston