Sunday, May 27, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


One needn't travel far afield to go for a good walk

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. And on the Waterville-Grand Rapids Trail.

A cool, crisp, sunny Saturday. We shared part of the nine-mile hike with several troops of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and an occasional jogger. A couple of snack stops and 2 hours, 40 minutes later it was over, and we determined to go out and do the same again the next week. And the next.

Over the years we have trudged this trail in deep-heat mosquito summers and ankle-high snows, but rarely has it been so beautiful or so invigorating. The Maumee River, the fall colors, and all.

Back home again, it was time to take the black labs out to the Wintergarden Preserve for their daily constitutional. Eighty gorgeous acres of woods and meadows, practically in our own backyard, and thankfully saved by city and citizen action from the ubiquitous developers' bulldozers.

Just down the road, the cyclists, in-line skaters, and walkers of all ages were out enjoying the 12-mile Slippery Elm Trail that runs down through Rudolph to North Baltimore on a smooth asphalt path that recently replaced a section of abandoned railroad - part of the Rails to Trails project.

We can imagine too, similar activity all over Northwest Ohio on such a bright, sunny fall weekend. In the wonderful 4,000-plus acres of Oak Openings and the Wildwood Preserve, in magnificent parks like Sidecut and Secor, Providence and Pearson. So much open space, so many trails, so many opportunities.

Striding out on this specific Saturday stirred some rather special personal memories, for it was on this day, exactly two years ago, that I crossed the finish line of the 200-mile Thames Path - 18 days from the river's source to the Thames Barrier past Greenwich. Two-and-a-half incomparable weeks of solo perambulation alongside what must surely be the world's most historically significant river - and certainly one of the most picturesque.

We were reminded once again of that Thames Path odyssey - and of all the other hikes and rambles that we've undertaken over 20 travel years - as we set about a major project of reorganizing thousands upon thousands of slides badly disoriented by a fire that ruined our house a couple of years ago.

There were fabulous photos of treks through northern Italy, of Swiss Alpine paths, of cool Alaskan seascapes and early-morning tours of Ayers Rock in Australia's very hot center.

Add literally dozens of city walks - self-guided strolls of discovery with maps and instructions, both slick and simple, but where one can appreciate so many things about a place that the more passive tourist rarely experiences.

Walks, hikes, or rambles can be accomplished anywhere, by practically anyone and in any kind of weather, with nothing but a good pair of shoes and a waterproof jacket.

We recall once on a visit to Ballymacarbry in southern Ireland, watching with admiration as a couple of young female Aer Lingus flight attendants prepared for a long day's hike ... in a pelting rain.

Caps and gaiters, sturdy boots and thick woolen socks, mittens and maps. These two had come to the Nire mountains for a weekend of rambling, and a little bit of “Irish mist” was not going to stop them.

That night at dinner, the two sat flushed but physically content, and tucked into steaming bowls of stew with joyful abandon.

The real beauty of walking for us is that it can be either a strictly independent endeavor or a highly social affair. A therapeutic chance to clear the mind or solve a problem (for feet are almost certainly connected directly to the brain). Or a pleasant ramble in the company of like-minded friends.

For this latter group, there are literally hundreds of tour operators out there willing and able to take you on walks of any length, to practically any destination, at any degree of difficulty.

So whether it's a soft adventure ramble with catered picnics and cozy digs, a long-distance walk with backpack and hiking poles, or a simple city stroll for exercise and enlightenment, it's time to get out and “stir those stumps.”

And there's surely no better place to do the stirring than on Northwest Ohio's brilliant selection of parks and trails!

Readers may write to travel advisers Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at P.O. Box 272, Bowling Green, OH 43402. If a reply is desired, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

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