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Years ago people in our valley walked everywhere. Katherine Garetson walked to Allenspark. Residents of Big Owl Road walked to Wild Basin to visit friends. I often walked to Meeker Park and once walked to Estes Park, which is a trip I’d rather not repeat.
My grandfather often walked over all his 160 acres and one of his favorite observations was that “the best thing for the land is the foot of the owner.”
Recently, however, we’ve been much more concerned with our roads and our cars than with walking. The Devers used to walk from the lodge to their various cabins, but they now use a golf cart and who can blame them? We think nothing of getting in our cars and driving to Longmont or Boulder or Denver. Many of us commute every working day. There are a few reprobates like Phil Stern who think that straightening curves is the work of the devil, but most of us are interested in better cars and better roads and the only walking we do is from the car to the Post Office.
The question is whether our horizons are expanding or shrinking? For most of us, our horizon is the dashboard. I get my driveway plowed and the other day when I tried to get in before it was plowed I really resented having to get out and walk the 100 feet to my front door.
Not everyone I know has fallen into this trap. Eliza and Martin Shockley take a walk almost every summer and fall afternoon on Coyote Hill, and a few years ago they were rewarded with a magnificent pair of elk antlers. I often see Phyllis Zumwinkel walking the half mile from her place to Meeker Park to get the Sunday paper, and I see other people on missions, walking the dog or jogging, but it’s rare to see someone just out for a walk. These days we’re much more likely to go for a drive. And even when we go for a hike or a climb it’s an event and we get there by first getting into our cars.
It’s more difficult these days, of course, as people build fences and put up No Trespassing signs, and it’s too bad. There’s much to see along our streams and in the forest, especially in the spring when the animals begin to stir and the flowers and mushrooms poke up from the forest floor. For most of us, however, we’re content to put up feeders and let the animals come to us, and to plant flowers in pots around our front doors.
It’s true that walking takes an effort. And one of the reasons we don’t do more of it is that it no longer seems to have a purpose and we live in a time when you’re supposed to have a purpose. If I had been able to ask grandfather why he went on walks I think he would have been surprised that I asked such a question. I think he would have said, “Why, it’s to be one with nature — to join with the infinite.” He was a pretty serious thinker and given to that kind of profundity. But he knew that his reason for choosing this place had an real connection with that notion and he took it seriously. He was capable of simply wandering about his land, listening to the wind in the trees and the gurgling of the brook and the twittering of the birds and the beauty of the flowers and the mountains and thinking about his place in the universe. That seems to be a lost art. Too bad.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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