COUNTDOWN – 13 DAYS!!
Yesterday’s hike at Sugarcreek MetroPark was filled with sunshine, fresh air, people and dogs. This is quite a popular trail-running spot and a great place to exercise your dog. With spring stretching its morning arms in beauty, people want to be part of the experience. Today I passed three different groups of folks with binoculars straining to catch site of the early spring birds. This is such an ideal time with the barren branches providing minimal camouflage for our feathery friends of song. Dogs of all sizes and shapes were sniffing the air in search of wild game. Some K-9s were in great shape with tails wagging and heads darting back and forth with a true spirit of adventure. Other dogs appeared to have a case of winter inactivity as they walked with floppy tails and open mouths looking for air.
I get a lot of strange looks as I hike this loop trail with a 35-pound pack on my back – my tent and extra pair of shoes attached to my pack cause some to wonder what in the world I am doing and have I lost my way or just my mind. I also receive lots of smiles and greetings, lots of nods and grunts, and an occasional failure to acknowledge my existence. Some are hesitant to say much the first time we pass each other going in opposite directions. I always say something like “Hi, great day for a walk!” – then on the second pass, there is a bigger smile when I comment, “Hello, again”, and by the third encounter, it’s almost like we know each other as friends. I think they’ve some to realize that the homeless guy is harmless.
There was a handsome, middle-aged couple hiking down the hill as I was making my way up. We smiled at each other and I gave my normal greeting. They responded in kind. When the loop brought us back together, I could tell by the look on the man’s face that he wanted to stop and chat. I slowed down and smiled. He said, “Are you making a trip soon?” I shared about my Appalachian Trail adventure and that I was leaving in 2 weeks. His wife’s face light up with smiles, “He told me that he thought it might be the A.T. – what an exciting experience! Have a great time.” After a brief chat, I was on my way with an encouraged attitude.
I thought I was making pretty good time and maintaining a healthy pace, when a single walker overtook me and within a minute was out of eyesight. As she passed she asked, “Training for sometime special?” I smiled and quickly responded, “The Appalachian Trail – I leave in 2 weeks.” She looked back and shared, “Thought so, no one walks around here with such a pack unless they are seriously focused on something bigger – best of luck!” I waved and said, “Thanks a lot. Have a great day,” knowing that my hike had very little to do with luck and everything to do with God’s hand of protection and guidance.
At the beginning of my last loop, there was a couple who had just entered the path going in my same direction. They were accompanied by one of the biggest dogs I have ever seen. It was a huge white Great Dane with black spots (kind of looked like a Dalmatian on steroids). There were not walking very fast and I knew I would need to pass them on the left. I was about 20 feet way from them when the man turned around to let me pass – the dog was as docile as he could be, standing 4 ½ feet tall and weighing in at 300 pounds (my estimates!) The man asked if I were preparing for a long hike. My normal A.T. explanation met with smiles. He and his wife have just gotten into backpacking and they are planning an 80-mile hike in May. I figure they could just ride the dog if they get tired. They were a very friendly couple and I was glad to have had a brief talk about their plans.