Mar 08 2010

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Rail Trail

Posted at 6:24 pm under Blog Post

It’s mundane, really, this crushed gravel trail passing through farmer’s fields and woodlots, following the ghosts of past trains.  With its absurdly gradual grade and perfectly manicured surface, it doesn’t seem right to even call it a trail.  This is more like a sidewalk devoid of concrete, cutting through the countryside.  This trail couldn’t be any less wild unless it went right through a city.  But there’s nowhere else I’d rather walk today.  After all, it’s completely exposed to late-winter sunlight so it has been stripped of snow for the most part.  And until the next snowstorm comes along, I can press my boots into its soft, gray mud and pretend that spring has already arrived.  The Rail Trail won’t tell me otherwise.

The Rail Trail is one of my guilty pleasures – an easy alternative to woods wandering, when I haven’t the time or the inclination to drive half an hour to the mountains.  My dog, Matika, doesn’t care.  Rail trail, park trail, or deep forest bushwhack, it’s all the same to her.  All she wants to do is stretch her legs and sniff around a bit.  And yes, I have days when that’s all I want to do, as well, assuming that sniffing and daydreaming are pretty much the same thing.

Remarkably enough, I often feel a sense of desolation on the Rail Trail – something similar to what I feel in deep woods.  Not all the time, mind you, but on days when no one else is around, when it is possible to look half a mile in any direction and see nothing but empty landscape.  Empty of other walkers, that is.  That’s room enough for my mind to wander about wildly even though the furrowed fields all around me are shouting cultivation.  This is prove positive, I suppose, that wildness is more a state of mind than anything else.

While walking, I hear the caw-caw of nearby crows.  I stop and look for them, looking around as if I’ve never been here before, or as if I’m about to see something I’ve never seen.  But everything in view is very familiar after years of walking this trail, and the only surprise is the feeling bubbling up from within:  everything’s going to be all right.  As long as I can keep walking, with the wind or against it, everything is all right.

Everyone should have a place like this, minutes from home, to stretch one’s legs without having to think about property rights or passing cars.  My dog appreciates it and so do I.  Truth be told, my sanity is more dependent upon the Rail Trail than it is the wildest landscape, especially during this in-between season when the forested hills aren’t quite as accessible as they’ll be in another month.  No, not wild by the strictest definition of the word, but wild enough.  This’ll do for now.

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