On the Trail: The sounds of urban hiking
August 21, 2006
I took a stroll up Sunnyside Trail recently – if you can really stroll on the steeps. Let’s just say I wasn’t moving very fast, but I was huffing and puffing and sweating aplenty – one of the consequences of hiking under a blazing sun.But that’s all good. I wanted a bit of a workout, maybe a tan. That’s how I like to hike. It’s a mind, body soul thing, or, rather, a body, mind and soul thing.First, I like to treat the body to an accelerated pulse, high enough that I can feel the blood blasting through my arteries, clearing away the plaque from last night’s fried whatever-that-was as if my heart were engaged in some sort of venous Heimlich maneuver.Eventually, when my watch tells me I’ve gone as far as I have time to go, I like to sit down, let my pulse drop and switch my focus.With only 45 minutes for this particular hike, I stopped at one of the switchbacks and found a shade-covered rock a few feet from the trail. I sat down to reflect and to pray. It’s a little ritual I use to quiet my mind and my soul. Sometimes it actually works.Not so on this day. As I looked out over the valley, my moment of Zen was interrupted by an insidious evil.A man was making his way up the trail, and just as he reached the switchback, I heard the familiar “brrrring” of a cell phone. He answered the call and had a short conversation. For a moment, I thought I was at the office.I was already in a bad spot emotionally, and I’d hoped the hike would help me adjust my attitude. But I guess that is one of the perils of urban hiking – urban noise. As the man and his phone continued up the hill, I realized I could hardly blame him for the interruption. At least two jets had already taken off, temporarily drowning out the sounds of the highway and the persistent “beep, beep, beep” of the construction trucks backing their way around who-knows-where. It’s a narrow valley, and it traps the noise as eagerly as it does the greenhouse gases.I’m not complaining – well, not wholeheartedly. I do appreciate a good, steep hike like Sunnyside, and I like the trail’s proximity to town.I was reminded, however, that I was hiking not on a rural trail, but within earshot of an “urban growth boundary.” I’ll be back, but I’ll stick to the “body” part of my ritual and seek the “mind” and “soul” parts further afield.