Over the years, I’ve shared in my blog posts some of my favorite hiding places. These are secluded spots where I can be alone inside my head. It’s like a tabernacle for the less than religious like me to worship.
These retreats of respite come crowned with all kinds of monikers like secluded glen, woodland retreat, seaside monastery and one of my favorites, Vision Quest. Each space presents a very different atmosphere in which to explore the unseen but felt, the indescribable but imagined and the attitude adapted from altitude and surroundings.
Some are in Minnesota and others in California. The location, along with their respective seasonal changes, helps to add tone, color, mixture, hue and flavoring to the experience. The one commonality is their ability to open the abyss that is daily life and move on to a new level of consciousness in which to explore the unexpected. The mind works in funny ways-that way.
California seems to hold the lead in this vicarious mind-hiking exercise. It probably started a long time ago with several books on the wilderness.
‘On the Loose’ by Jerry and Renny Russell started it all and then continued on with Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling book ‘Wild.’ While I wasn’t quite up to doing the Pacific Crest Trail, I was motivated to get off my duff and go back to hiking on some mountain trails as I had in the past. The trails around Palm Springs turned out to be the answer.
Not that Minnesota was left behind. Our mulch garden in Minnesota is the result of shade trees gradually killing all the grass around them. It’s the perfect spot for hummingbirds, regular birds, and all sorts of woodland creatures to move about.
The two rocking chairs and gliders provide the perfect spot from which to take in the peaceful surroundings and listen to the birds and insects buzzing about. It’s a sanctuary right in my own backyard.
Along the the banks of the Mississippi flows a constant stream of pleasure craft, debris, vegetation, and unidentifiable objects. There is always a spot to find among the crags and rocks lining the riverbank to sequester myself and let the water do the thinking for me.
There is a trail in Lebanon Hills Regional Park that meanders around Schultz Lake and provides numerous spots in which to get down and dirty with nature. The Park is a wondrous mixture of bike trails and footpaths.
It’s a great place to retreat to an aging version of trail running; minus the serious ground-pounding. Summers in Minnesota offer up a perfect blend of warmth and humidity, chill and dampness that adds tone and texture to these mental wanderings.
California offers up a totally different perspective; minus the waterways and adding up a lot of elevation. Mountain trails cover hundreds of miles through a variety of terrain and difficulty. For residents and visitors alike, trail hiking is one of the perks of living in the desert.
Civilization ends not far from my home where the mountains and canyons collectively take over from putting greens and turquoise pools. There are a cluster of canyons, long revered in Indian culture and lore, that stretch for miles and miles for as far as the Raven flies. Long ago, the land twisted itself up into mountains, canyons, washes, and arroyos.
Skirting the mountains is a wash long favored by riders from the nearby Smoke Tree Stables. The wash is one big playground for hikers, riders, runners, mountain bikers and mountain goats. Add in the seasonal rattlesnakes, lizards and unnamed rodents and it’s a menagerie not to be missed.
For most of each year, the wash is quiet and serene; a great place to get lost inside your head. There’s usually a small muddy creek meandering by. The scrub brush is in full bloom in spring and nesting birds flitter about endlessly. The stillness there can be deafening with only a few fleeting sounds floating by. All is peaceful until once or twice a year when the rains come and wash that complacency away with astounding fury and force in just a matter of moments.
Fortunately for me, the wash isn’t the only place I’ve found tranquility and peace in this part of my world. As a fellow hiker commented the other day. “It really is one of the best playgrounds for adults in the world.” I’ve also found a host of other newly discovered venues to get lost in around the Coachella Valley.
Although it’s called a ‘hill’ at 2200 feet on most maps, Murray Peak is, in fact, the highest peak in the vicinity of Palm Springs. It’s been labeled a moderate to strenuous hike with a total distance of almost seven miles and a vertical gain of over 2200 feet. It takes an average of five hours for completion with only a few rest stops along the way. For the seasoned hiker it’s a refreshing walk up the mountain. For less conditioned souls, it can be a gut-buster and taxiing on the lungs.
Then several seasons ago, another trail caught and captured my attention. This one is called the Garstin Trail. That old goat path climbs up over two miles that switch back and forth and practically stumble over themselves in the process. Elevation rises from roughly 700 feet to 1500 feet up Smoke Tree Mountain. The trail rises to a plateau connecting up with the Shannon, Berns, Wild Horse and Eagle Canyon Trails. Even for the most ardent, experienced hiker it can be a gut-sucking, deep breathing endeavor.
But I don’t have to go high to get high. Closer to home in my backyard are two old orange Adirondack chairs sequestered behind my orange trees. I call it my secret garden.
To be honest, it’s nothing more than a couple of orange chairs (estate sale specials) in one corner of my small orange grove. Nevertheless, it’s a place to go when I want to get lost inside my head and escape my daily routine. The orange trees are neighboring a couple of lemon trees; all of which went through an off-season last season. So while the grove wasn’t as thick as usual, it still provided enough greenery to close me off from the rest of the world, literally and figurative.
Then again, it’s not the view I come for. Instead it’s the quiet that surrounds me, an occasional bee or hummingbird out snacking or tiny lizards scampering about my feet. It’s another world where I’m cut off from the real world, at least in my mind. It’s a wonderful place to reflect and refresh my perspective on life.
So from my Minnesota mulch garden to my secret garden in the desert, I always have a place to go hide and reflect on how fortunate I am to be living the life I am living.