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.