When I was a kid, my father, mother, and I took a walk one Sunday afternoon.
I don't remember where we walked or how far. But I do remember the walk...with my father and mother.
I think walks are emotional. Besides being good for the body due to health advantages they provide, they enable one to think, to feel, to relax.
And, such as the one with my mother and father, they can be great chances to share time with someone else.
In my life I've walked, hiked, and wiked. ("Wike" is a rather new word, which I think I just created.) A walk is generally pleasant, over relatively easy ground, while a hike seems to involve a lot more uphill and often climbing, such as Baldpate, Katahdin, or Sugarloaf mountains.*
I have found some walks that didn't quite become hikes, but they did become wikes. A wike, by my brand new definition, is a walk with a bit of roughness, such as a hill along the way.
I recall several good hikes, that mostly involved climbing steep trails that ended with gorgeous views of distant country. I'll never forget taking the kids up Saddleback, the long uphill with the dome summit. The Owl in Baxter State Park provided a real climb -- definitely a hike or climb, not a walk -- which ended basically atop a narrow piece of geography from which we looked down on the majestic lower slopes of Katahdin's northwest side.
Katahdin, of course, is a hike culminating in a climb. Few who climb it forget it. That climb was one of my teenage experiences which pulled me back into Maine as an adult. Still here, and please don't give me a roadmap or GPS to my childhood home. Maine is home and is where a lot of my walks and hikes and climbs took and take place.
Oops, forgot to mention climbing in that graph above describing stuff you do while moving forward on your feet. A climb is well, you know, a lot of uphill all at once, where at times, if your feet could see, they'd say, "Hey, we're not taking you up that crazy section. We could stub a toe there."
Squirrel Rock over in Grafton Notch State Park is a great little climb, too short to be a hike, too steep to be a walk, and from its summit where you can sit and gaze out at Old Speck and Route 26 far below. You can take the easy path back down the back way to the Appalachian Trail and on the AT back to the road.
But it's those walks that seem to draw me, even when I'm napping. They are pleasant and give me time to meditate.
Way back when I was in the Air Force Reserves, I walked miles through the town of Manchester, NH, kind of seeking hills that were far away. I don't recall finding the hills, but I do recall the long walk.
When Dolores was being operated on at Massachusetts General Hospital, the surgeon said to me, "There's no use in both of us hanging around the hospital all day. Why don't you go for a walk."
I followed the doctor's advice and walked from the hospital all the way to Bunker Hill. It was a long time ago, but I still remember the musicians under some bridges, crossing the Charles River, and finally climbing the tower. It was a pleasant, tiring walk.**
And ended pleasantly with Dolores' surgery being successful and my bringing her home a week or so later.
Which led to a walk up to the Thuya Gardens in Northeast Harbor, a pleasant gravel path with some stone steps to get you up the up parts and benches on which to rest and look out over the harbor. On the way down, dummy me for not thinking about this problem beforehand, Dolores' head was "banging" from her recent brain surgery.
After a week, we returned to MGH so the doctors could remove her stitches, and right after that we went down to Cape Cod. It turned out Dolores didn't feel well so spent her time in our motel. I spent a good bit of it on a walk, a nice gravel walk from somewhere to somewhere and where I met a woman walking a cat.
A walk that sticks in my failing mind is the off-the-touristed path through the woods from the Jordan Pond House to Seal Harbor. We walked it one July Fourth without seeing anyone except a woman with a St. Bernard that was well out of her control and showed his friendliness to us by jumping up on us and nearly knocking us over with his friendliness and drowning us with his drool. Dog is man's best friend, and big dog is man's bestest friend.
I once walked another path from the Jordan Pond House through the woods, near the carriage roads, that came out just above Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor. A nice quiet shady path alongside a stream with little ripples but no rushing rapids. That walk too remains in my cranium as a pleasant memory.
Wikes were a couple of walks in Maine's White Mountain National Forest that began on paths through fields and ended on low mountaintops. Pleasant enough to walk and contemplate, just high enough to have made me wike. I''ll never forget a view from one of those wikes, where I could see through the forest to a distant mountain. I could "feel" some kind of peace enveloping me that day. I've remembered that wike and its peace for years.
What am I suggesting? Don't look for a hike. You'll get all huffy and puffy even with the view at the top. Look for a walk. It may be from the front door or it may be from a distant parking lot. (Of course, if you want to go for a hike and get all huffy and puffy, be my guest.)
Wear sneakers or walking shoes on that walk, the second of which are designed to allow your feet to roll along in a healthful motion. And allow your mind to contemplate. And allow the manufacturers of walking shoes to keep on making the big bucks.
What to contemplate on that walk? I've never really tackled the tough problems facing me during those walks. I think about that porcupine "rushing" away down the woods road ahead of me, the stream alongside me, the doe that followed me from about fifty feet away and "chatted" with me, the clouds in that blue sky.
I've always come back relaxed. And I've never forgotten the really nice walks.
Today's advice; put this column away and go for a walk.
* To be accurate, I've read that you can tell a walk from a hike by the type shoes you're wearing. So, if I don my hiking shoes and walk around the block, I've been on a hike. Doesn't quite seem right. And a bus passenger of mine has hiked most of the trails in Acadia National Park, probably some 125 miles. When I asked what kind of shoes he had worn, he held up a foot and replied, "These old sneakers." The article I read defining a hike by the type of shoes you're wearing, didn't mention old sneakers. Plus, my first hike up mile-high Katahdin was in leather street shoes from which the soles peeled during the following week. And on one six-mile walk in Acadia, I finished the soles, so they came off that day. No one has ever mentioned a wike to me.
** I forget how many steps there were in the stone tower, somewhere around 4,796, I think.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013