The old expression “go take a hike” is intended to be a rude way to tell someone to leave or get lost. To that notion, I say, gladly I will take a hike, which is exactly what we did this weekend.
We hoofed around for about two hours along three miles of trail in a national wildlife management area scouting ahead of time for a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department drawn hunt for deer. I saw one deer. Well, I saw its backside romping away into the thick forest. We also saw seven wild hogs, which are an invasive species.
Upon our arrival, a blue heron greeted us. We ducked under the banner-like webs of banana spiders. Later, we saw a roseate spoonbill in flight over a lake laden with lily pads. We met a leopard frog. We inhaled fresh air and admired the Spanish moss. We saw bright green algae laid out like a carpet in a swamp filled with bald cypress trees.
We walked slowly and quietly and stopped often, sometimes to wait to see if we’d notice something, other times to watch hogs grazing on the forest floor. We brought and used plenty of bug spray, sunscreen and water. The forest enveloped us, providing a sense of cover and protection from the chaos of the human world.
In other words, we took a hike and loved it. Such walks take you on a mental journey too. The imagery of the flora and fauna stay in your head and you can draw on that sylvan landscape whenever you want. It stays in your mind’s eye like a retreat you can return to over and over.
The other helpful aspect of this hike was the location is about an hour-and-a-half drive from our home, which felt like a veritable road trip for people housebound by the pandemic. We’d had not been there before, so our eyes, hearts and minds were open. Bonus: we didn’t see other people, so we weren’t concerned about Covid-19 transmission.
It was a wonderful respite. The next morning, I woke up and started making something I have never made before: carnitas. I seared chunks of pork butt in lard in a big cast-iron skillet and placed the meat in the slow cooker along with Mexican Coke, water, condensed milk, cinnamon sticks, cumin, chili powder, coriander, cardamom, ground black pepper, minced garlic cloves, and orange slices. After several hours, I scooped out the meat and placed it back in the hot skillet. It shredded beautifully. I served this with homemade tortillas, sliced avocado drenched in lime juice, diced jalapeno, sliced green bell pepper, chopped cilantro, Mexican crema (sour cream), and homemade pickled red pepper slices.
While the hiking and cooking were recreational activities, I felt as if I had accomplished new things and had refreshed my mind. 2020 has been a tough year and yet it has also encouraged people to try new hobbies and other endeavors to stretch themselves. Keep stretching, keep trying, keep going.
Take a hike.
The Sage Leopard, firstname.lastname@example.org