I have never been an outdoorsy girl. Even when I worked with one of the most prestigious travel agencies in Ethiopia, and dated a Tour Operator for four years, I stayed true to my “home girl” nature – the sort always heard whining in the background why we can’t go back home [and what’s wrong with home anyway]. It’s not because I don’t like the birds and the bees, the trees with various shades of green and the fat fish in the small quite creek. Infact, I find them so touching that I wept like a baby the day a friend took me to Lake Washington and had me over-look the area around the [Lacey V. Murrow Memorial] floating bridge.
Adventure has never held an appeal to me because it involves the dreaded “r” word, taking risk. Risks I dodge. I dodge them like a bullet even when they appear harmless and everybody else seems to be willing to take them. Like sitting in the front sit of a car. Or enjoying a swing-ride at one of those fares that come but only once a year. Or learning how to swim. “Paralyzed from the neck down” is how I imagine myself ending up when asked to be involved in any kind of adventurous activity – including hiking!
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Ofcourse, after I moved to the Emerald City, I have gotten used to walking around; first out of necessity, then for pleasure. Downtown Seattle maybe an expensive, densely populated place with the sort of air-pollution that makes a girl get a headache every time she breathes clean-air. But it has a lot to offer in the way of “sight for sore eyes”. The Waterfront. The Olympia Sculpture Park. The Pike Place Market and the whole 9 yard of the Piers neighbourhood. Places I could, and usually do, walk down to when feeling lonesome. Or need to check out exotic imported stuff at World Market. Or drop the pounds.
So this thirst of mine for beauty and desire to keep my neck on my shoulder, has helped me seek out a middle ground. Which I found in parks!
Now if anybody can boast of parks, the state of Washington can boast more! Parks, public libraries and NPR, infact, are what I repeatedly said I’d take home from America if I can. A walk in the parks is full of the wilderness bounty minus its perils. Sure — there would be the occasional coyote, the slithering garter snake [that is “afraid of you more than you are afraid of it”, I have been told. I have decided it’s a guy] and wooden bridges one can slip on and take a toss in the nearest body of water. Parks are full of flora and fauna, quite breezes and shushing creeks. There are wooden bridges winding for miles that the occasional teenager has scribbled undying messages of devotion on, gazebos one can take a breather at or ponder the beauty around one, and everything that reminds you being civilized means putting effort into stuff that can function well without one. It’s beautiful and the one place where a man and a woman can hold hands, and not appear sappy or pretentious.
But you haven’t seen the beauty the out-doors has to offer until you have huffed and puffed your way up a hiking trail on one of Seattle’s cascade mountains; with an 83 degree sun beating on you and giving you a tan you don’t need, while rocks stabth your toe as a disagreeable younger brother would and mosquitos eagerly take bites out of your neck like it was in. The dust from hiking shoes of fellow hikers ahead of you hitting you right between the eyes can probably be avoided by leading the troupe. But the muscles [!] – nothing can be done about the muscles feeling like they are splitting with every step-up you take.
You’d experience all these even if you, like me, were tagging along a seasoned hiker who:
1. Had you buy fabrics that are breathable and draw sweat away from the skin to help cool you down
2. Provided you with
2.a. Hiking boots [that provide comfort for walking over rough terrains, mud, rocks and other wilderness obstacles]
2.b. Hiking poles [that help you transfer some of your weight to your shoulders, arms and back; reducing leg fatigue]
2.c. 100% mosquito-repellent bug spray
2.d. a back-pack full of snacks and cold drinks.
Not to mention a shoulder for your frustrated tears and a handkerchief for your sweat.
Oh but what a reward awaits the persistent traveller who considers not the exhaustion and pains of the now, but walks heartily, knowing that from the view on the top he shall receive his eternal reward [in the form of a deeply satisfying spiritual connection to all things created and beautiful, as well as plenty of photos he can post on facebook and send to family and friends] – of snow-covered mountains, waterfalls, lush-meadows!! And, when, upon hitting “camp”, you get a glimpse of the car that brought you up that your guide has remembered to fill with a cooler full of cold drinks; a change of clean clothes and a sandal to set your toes free – your relief would know no bounds.
Only one more thing can top this delight, this utter jubilation, this moment of thanks and praises!: watching a group of people preparing to do the hike you just got done with — preferably without:
1. A bug spray.
2. Hiking poles
3. In tennis shoes.
Civility stops you from sticking your tongue out and saying “na-na na-na-na”. But you’d be thinking it!