Walking in a new town is an exploratory adventure involving barking dogs, songbirds, dead ends and wildflowers. My quest is a ninety minute loop away from heavy traffic, with a nice balance of shade and sun.
Not that there aren’t places to walk in Denton. There is a public walking trail a few miles from our new home, paved with crushed limestone. It follows the old rail road route, where the tracks have been removed. A few Sunday’s ago, Bob and I went for a very enjoyable, two hour walk down the tree-shaded Denton Rail. It was one of those bright, blue-skied days and we had the trail nearly all to ourselves.
The Rail Trail fits the bill except for one thing. I have to drive to it, and that defeats the purpose. The purpose being – to walk out the door and head into the day, as if I weren’t dependent on my car. I prefer to burn calories, not fuel, so I’m looking for a route that begins and ends on on our street, Mockingbird Lane.
On one of my first exploratory walks around my new neighborhood, I was treated to the sight of a scissors-tailed flycatcher, a bird we didn’t have in Colorado. It flew across open space and perched in plain sight so that I was able to look at it as long as I liked. That put a smile on my face that lasted for hours.
Day after day, walk after walk, I feel like I’m working my way through a maze as I systematically pursue connecting routes that will ultimately, add up to 90 minutes of stress-free fresh air and exercise. Like most communities in the United States today, the streets are laid out in small loops that lead no where as opposed to a navigable grid. There are few sidewalks and it is rare to find a tree between the sidewalk and the street. In other words, they are not designed for walking.
The other day, I walked to an unfinished development that led to an open field, and then a long lane which ended at a busy street. “This could almost work!” I thought, as I looked at my watch. Then I turned around and noticed the “No Trespassing” signs.
More often than not, I do feel like a trespasser as I walk past back yard fences and across people’s lawns to keep myself off the street. And when I encounter motorists, I imagine they view me as an inconvenience to be driven around or waited for at crosswalks. I confess to no small amount of frustration as I dodge traffic, wade through weeds, and send the lonely, stay-at-home yappers into frenzied fits.
Four days into the process, I once again put on my sneakers and set out for a walk. I was still winging it, despite studying the map – still hoping to find a footpath through an open field, which would give me access to a second neighborhood, and perhaps add another thirty minutes to my route.
Where Mockingbird takes a jog to the left, I saw a sidewalk stretching ahead for at least five minutes and turned onto it. Things were looking up! Five minutes later, the sidewalk ended at a busy street, but there was a footpath going north across an undeveloped field and I took out across it, hoping to add another five minutes to the route.
That’s when I noticed the wildflowers. They were spiky and blue. Next, I spied some tiny white and yellow daisies. I decided to pick some for the house on my way back, which came soon enough at a highway intersection.
The walk back was a whole lot more fun than the walk out as I searched for flowers and bent to cut them with my little pocket knife. With each discovery, the smile on my face broadened. By the time I got home, I had a huge handful of blue, yellow, white and magenta wildflowers. I was triumphant! I filled two bud vases and a mayonnaise jar and placed them around the house.
The bottom line is this – I won’t stop trying until I find a way to get my exercise without driving, and I am going to do my best to stop and pick flowers and look at birds along the way.