A Walk Off the Beaten Path Part II - by Sonya Lovine

One day in early January we ventured out on a 10K walk from East Sacramento to Elmhurst.  Elmhurst is a beautiful, historic residential neighborhood established in 1908.  It is known for its large elm, ash, and oak trees.  One of the historic landmarks we would see on this walk was the Julia Morgan House.  The Julia Morgan House has always been one of my favorites.  As a grad student in Public History, I studied historical homes, their architecture, and the history of who built these homes and who lived there.  Many years ago, I attended several events at the Julia Morgan House.  When I was a child, my grandfather lived just blocks away from it so we’d always walk past it.  Designed in 1918, the Julia Morgan House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.  Visiting this landmark while on our walk was sure to be the highlight of my day.

As we powered along on our six mile walk it seemed like it would be forever before we arrived at the Julia Morgan House.  I had the camera ready for when we got there!  Finally I see it – “there it is,” I said to my friend in excitement.  I ran up to the front porch of this beautiful white/grey mansion as I hurriedly told my friend to take a picture of me.  “Take lots of pictures!”  As I sat down on the porch to have my picture taken, I noticed there was a garden hose sprawled across the porch so I rolled it up.  Then I noticed a lone tennis shoe laying there.  I thought to myself, “They sure aren’t doing a very good job with upkeep around this beautiful home!”  Finally we did our mini-photoshoot.  I was delighted we arrived – took our pictures – and now, we were ready to carry on with the remainder of our walk.

As we continued down the block, only about two mansions down, my friend and I were both struck by this beautiful yellow house we came upon.  We both stared at it in awe and almost simultaneously said “THIS is the Julia Morgan House!” 

We both laughed hard at our shenanigans at the previous house which we had mistaken to be the Julia Morgan House!  I proceeded once again to run up to the front porch and there in all its glory was a sign saying this was indeed the Julia Morgan House!  To this day we continue to chuckle over this.  I am just grateful that I didn’t get hauled away by the cops at the other house as I took multiple pictures right next to a large alarm system sign in their front yard. 

In such a short period of time I have had so many enjoyable experiences by simply walking.  Walking is therapeutic, it’s exercise, and it’s a means to go sightseeing.  It makes you happy and gives you energy.  It can be meaningful and it can be a lot of fun.  Walking can be educational and can give you a chance to really learn about the community you live in. 

Five months later as I sit here and write this, I am just starting to “get back out there” again.  Our plan of doing at least one hike a month didn’t go beyond January.  Apparently there were other plans for my life as medical problems began to take over me.  But I’m finally starting to feel better and I find myself eager to start hiking once more – if only for a simple nature walk.  Remember I was the one who thought walking would be boring and not helpful – just a waste of time.  But I learned differently.  After having my simple day-to-day activities taken away from me for a brief period of time because I couldn’t manage the physical pain I was dealing with – I learned to appreciate how healthy I felt when I was walking daily.  When I was challenging myself for lengthier and faster walks, I felt strong.  When I went on hikes and thought I might get lost, I felt brave.  When I walked down memory lane, I felt thankful.  When I walked the simplest of walks with my friend and our dogs around my neighborhood, I felt alive.  I have learned that walking can be so very powerful.

About Sonya

Sonya Lovine is a Sponsored Research Officer at California State University, Sacramento. She has worked at Sac State for over 25 years.  Sonya received her master’s degree in Public History and bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Sacramento State.  She will begin work on her second master’s degree in Information Science in the fall of 2015. Sonya is an active volunteer with the Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park and enjoys spending time with her Boston Terrier and going for long bike rides along the American River Parkway.

A Walk Off the Beaten Path Part I - by Sonya Lovine

To kick off the New Year 2015, a friend bought me a book entitled Best Hikes near Sacramento.  We agreed that we would do at least one hike a month.  Hiking was completely new to me.  In my younger years, I was a runner; and in my older years, I cycled.  I just didn’t see the fun in such a tedious form of exercise.  But when I saw the amount of weight my friend lost from walking and the joy on his face – and after a bit of nudging from him and the really cool hiking book – I decided to give it a try.

The book provided a number of local hikes in the Sacramento area that ranged from an easy nature walk to a challenging, full-day hike.  In the first three weeks of January, we went on three different hikes.  I loved being outdoors and the “adventurer/explorer” aspect of it, and I especially loved that I got to shop for a whole new hiking wardrobe.

One hike took us on a tour of a park that was in the neighborhood of my friend’s childhood home which brought back wonderful memories for both he and I of our childhood in Sacramento.  A park that we both visited quite frequently as kids now meant so much more.  It took us back on a journey of memories that we made with our parents and siblings – it made us reflect on how those days are now long gone – but here he and I were, walking back in time together in “our own backyard”.

A second hike we took was to a ranch which I remembered visiting on a field trip when I was in elementary school.  But here I was now, as an adult, having a whole new and different appreciation of nature as I walked through fallen leaves, muddy puddles, in almost complete silence.  Walking is wonderfully healing and can be a very soul-searching experience.

The third hike was through an arboretum trail on a nearby University of California campus.  This tour was informational and educational – we were exercising our body and our brains!  By the end of this beautiful stroll we were able to identify a great number of plants that we had never heard of before.

Our hikes prompted us to join the Sacramento Walking Sticks (America’s largest American Volksport Association walking club.)  This is a club that holds walking events of varying distances and levels of difficulty each month, all month long.  Members walk for free – walk at their own pace – walk with a group – or walk on their own.  Most all walks are local to Sacramento but on the weekends the group ventures to outlying areas to do their walks.  Most often my friend and I walked on our own.  When you do so, it is up to you to find the guided maps/tours of the walks you want to go on.  It is almost like a hidden treasure hunt just to find the maps which makes the whole walking experience even more fun!

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The walks that we set out to do became more than just a method of exercise to me – and more than just getting some fresh air.  Walking through the streets of Sacramento became a chance for me to see the city that I was born and raised in.  I have lived in Sacramento for 48 years but by no means have I seen it all.  Just as cycling allows you the opportunity to see so much more of your community than you would driving in car – walking provides you the same feeling of being more in touch with all that your community has to offer. 

In addition to the hikes we took in January, we also participated in five different walking tours through our city that month.  We walked through Old Sacramento, Downtown Sacramento, Midtown, and several affluent neighborhoods with beautiful homes.  One walk was a late-night holiday lights tour, another walk was during horribly high winds and cold temps, another took us to historic landmarks such as Sutter’s Fort, and another brought us to the construction site of our city’s new sports and entertainment complex.  All things I may not have ventured out to see had my walking travels not taken me there.  One walk even took me to the pediatrician’s office/hospital that I used to go to when I was a little girl – only to learn that several months later that hospital would be torn down.  I was glad that I got to walk through it one last time.

In one month’s time, I learned how much joy walking can bring.  It relieves stress – it puts you amongst strangers that you naturally say “hi” to in passing – it gives you that “one with nature” feeling no matter where you are.  It triggers feelings inside you that tend to make you think while you’re walking.  Not that “racking your brain” kind of thinking that you do at work – but a very contemplative type of thinking.  For me, walking is simply rejuvenating for my mind, body, and soul.