You’re a busy person. You’ve got a job, or school, to deal with. Maybe you have a family. You have friends, social obligations, cleaning to do and errands to run. There’s that book you’ve been meaning to read, and you have really got to catch up on all those DVR’d episodes of the Vampire Diaries. How in world can you find time to hike, particularly if you live in a city and hiking involves waiting for the weather to be nice, then driving out of the city and hoping the close-by hikes aren’t too crowded and you can find parking and anyhow won’t that just annoy you and shouldn’t you be doing laundry instead?
Or maybe that’s just me.
I struggle with finding time for “real” hiking. Because I live in Boston, there aren’t a lot of mountains nearby. Getting to a “real” hike — i.e., one that involves reaching a peak (or the bottom of a canyon), is at least several miles round trip, and requires packing a lunch — is not always possible, especially since I’m not naturally an early riser.
What is a city girl to do?
Take your hiking wherever you find it.
This past Sunday, I had one of those days where I decided not to set an alarm, and I clearly needed sleep, because I didn’t wake up until after noon. The night before, I had told myself that if the timing worked out, I would drive up to southern NH and get in a “real” hike, but at that point it wasn’t a real option. By the time I got going, stopped for food, and got up there, it would be after 3, and I wasn’t comfortable starting a hike that late in the day.
Instead of throwing in the towel, however, I decided to try something a little different. I went to the National Park Service website and looked up all the NPS sites in Boston and the surrounding area (there are twelve of them, in case you’re curious). I’ve been to most of them, but since the weather Sunday was amazing, I wanted to go somewhere where I could hang around outside, even if I wasn’t hiking up a mountain. I chose Minute Man National Historical Park.
Now, I’ve been to Minute Man before, but, as it turns out, I’ve only been to one corner of this site (the one in Concord by the North Bridge). This time, I started at the main visitors center at 250 North Great Road. The center itself was gorgeous, but more on that another time. I didn’t stick around there long enough to watch the film — it was beautiful outside, remember? — but instead set out on the Battle Road Trail.
The Battle Road Trail stretches five miles, connecting historical sites from Concord to Lexington, following much of the path the British soldiers took on April 19, 1775 culminating in the battles of Lexington and Concord that mark the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Along the road are sites such as Hartwell Tavern, Wayside (which, among other things, is the house where Louisa May Alcott wrote her first published work), and the place where Paul Revere was captured during his famous ride to raise the alarm that the British were coming.
The trail itself is level and wide. There isn’t an elevation gain, you don’t have to be careful of your footwork, and you’re unlikely to run into wildlife (aside from a squirrel or two). At some points along the trail, you can see cars whiz by on Route 2A, though for the most part the trees mask the auto road and muffle the sounds. Walking on this trail won’t give you a hard workout. You’re likely to run into other people, but even if you don’t, you’ll never feel like you’re far from civilization by yourself.
Even so, the Battle Road Trail gave me what I needed last Sunday. I was outside. I was moving. I was surrounded by beauty, and when no one else was in sight, that familiar calm settled over me — even though I didn’t feel like it was just me and nature, the quiet of the park and the absence of others in front of me or behind me gave me time to think and be. (Also, I got to see a reenactment with muskets being fired. Serene? No. But very neat.)
Sometimes, you have to take your hikes wherever you can find them. You don’t always have to be climbing a mountain. Figure out what it is you’re seeking from your hike — solitude, being outdoors, whatever — and find a place where you can get that. You’ll be glad you didn’t just throw in the towel because you didn’t have time for a “real” hike.
© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.