Walk On. And On. And On…

By Ernie Witham   |   May 21, 2020
They say "he who sits on a fence gets splinters." Still, it beats mountain lions.

Not much opportunity for exercise right now. Gyms are closed. Yoga classes are cancelled. Swing dance lessons have gone dark… “Oh, ah, umpf. Someone turn on the dang lights willya?”

So, we head to the great outdoors and we walk until our motivation starts to wane.

“You can do it. Just pretend there is a giant refrigerator at the end of the block full of free beer.”

“Domestic or imported?”

After eight weeks, my wife and I had walked our neighborhood so many times that little things started bugging me. “Fuchsia? Who paints their fence fuchsia? And that juniper needs a prune. And why in the world do you have a lawn if you are never going to mow it?”

So, Pat suggested we try some new spots, like More Mesa, a huge piece of property with lots of crisscrossing footpaths, including some right along the edge of sheer cliffs. “Great. As soon as I plummet to my death, I’ll probably find out my lottery ticket won.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Pat said. “But just in case, where is that ticket?”

Next day, Pat suggested we drive to Nojoqui Falls Park. “I’ll bet the falls are running pretty good after all the winter rains. You can bring your camera. Get some award-winning photos.”

“Hm. I could use some fame and fortune right about now.”

The place was eerily empty. We parked at the trailhead. There was a sign warning about the possibility of mountain lions on the trail. “If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run, do not stare into its eyes, and if attacked, fight back.”

“’Spose the mountain lion will care if I wet myself first?”

We saw a big guy with a dog heading up to the falls. We followed him – at a safe social distance, of course. As we got close to the falls, there was a sign saying to go no further because of the possibility of landslides.

“Perfect,” I said, as we skirted the sign, “free burial with a nice view.”

Turns out we didn’t see a single mountain lion or any new landslides and the falls were beautiful. “I wasn’t really worried you know?”

“I know,” Pat said. “But can you walk in front of me now instead of behind me? You keep stepping on the heel of my shoe.”

 A few days later it was suggested we walk around Sheffield Reservoir on Mountain Drive. “Half-mile-wide paved loop,” Pat promised. “Easy-peasy.”

“Huff, huff. How many loops have we done now?”

“One… quarter of a loop.”

“What are the early signs of a heart attack?”

And now Pat has found a new spot: The San Marcos Foothills Preserve, near Route 154. There are other cars, which is good. I’m not one of those people who wants to go off into the wilderness alone for months at a time to “find myself.” The other good news: no warning signs for mountain lions, bobcats, bears, or large deer with anger management issues.

“Wow! Look at all this mustard grass,” Pat said as we began walking. “It’s so yellow and taller than we are.”

“That will make it impossible to find us when we get lost.”

“We can’t get lost. There are trails.”

I turned around to face Pat. “I used to get lost all the time in the woods of New Hampshire. It’s pure luck that I’m here with you today.” I tripped, automatically grabbing for any kind of support, taking Pat down with me. I looked at the ground. It was full of ruts caused by mud from the recent rains. “Guess we’d better turn back. This could get dangerous.”

“Excuse me!” An older gentleman trotted by jumping athletically from side to side to avoid the ruts. “Beautiful day, huh?”

“Look, there is a smoother path on the other side of this fence.” Pat climbed over. “Come on.”

I threw one leg over, straddling the fence. “I think I’m stuck.” Pat grabbed my shoulders and pulled. My other leg came up to a ninety-degree angle and briefly I looked like a posing ballet dancer. Me and Mikhail Baryshnikov, I thought. Then I toppled over, again taking Pat with me.

“You know, I’ll be glad when things stabilize and my gym opens up again.”

“Me too,” said Pat. “Me too.”


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