Getting out there, Doing things.

Recently, in my latest attempts to test out my allergies/asthma in the spring weather, I went to Creve Coeur Lake. Despite the crowds, it was wonderful. I did the lake trail plus a side trail for a total of maybe 5 or 6 miles. It was cathartic and even though my muscles were stiff afterwards, it was exactly what I needed. Fresh air, sunshine, and exercise! The day after, I took my nephew on a long evening walk through the neighborhoods near our house just to get him (and me) out, and it calculated out to just under two miles. I could get used to that kind of weekend!

I recently joined a hiking/outdoors group through in hopes of getting myself out of the house more when I don't go hiking on my own, and having a good outlet in which to meet new people and try some new things. I had joined a different group through the same website but somehow never made it to any outings (though now I might actually try).

This Wednesday, I actually joined the group for an evening hike at Castlewood. Hiking with a large group of people had never really appealed to me, as I tend to like hiking on my own, or with one or two people. But determined to meet some people and push myself out of my comfort zone, I went regardless. Because of getting off work late and rush hour traffic, I was actually late and did not meet the group at the starting point. But I figured why quit? I would just have to deal with traffic again if I left right away. So I decided to hike the trail anyway; if I caught up with the group, all the better. If not, oh well! At least I had done a nice hike!

Hiking in the evening is also new for me. The sounds, the light, it is very different than my usual morning/afternoon hikes. It was kind of peaceful. There were a few serious trail runners out there, but mostly I had some quiet peace while hiking. About a third of the way through I actually caught up with the group. While trying to get to know a bunch of new people in the middle of a hike is kind of awkward, as is hiking with that many people when you're not used to it, I still had a surprisingly good time. Most of the people were very welcoming, and I talked to a couple people while walking along the river and climbing up the debris on the trail. I can't make it this week, but I will definitely try it again. I also really liked the idea of an after-work hike. Some exercise was both calming and made me feel like I had a definitive finish to my day.

Over all, group hiking may take some getting used to, but I am kind of excited to see what kind of events the group plans, and start going on some hikes. Hiking with others is always safer, after all, and I might see some places I might not travel to on my own.

On a slightly related, but mostly not, note, I am currently reading: Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record Setting Run Across America by Marshall Ulrich. I won a copy of the book from a  friend's fitness/food blog, and promised to do a review. Even though I don't run, the book fascinated me and I couldn't wait to read it. Can't run, but I do want to do my own Great Walks one day in the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails!

Powder Valley revisited

 This weekend I took a test run. It has been a terrible, terrible spring for allergies for me this year (though luckily my asthma has been fairly tame so far), and half the time I'm miserable even just being indoors. So in order to give myself a taste of the outdoors and test how my allergies would hold up, I decided to do an easy walk at Powder Valley, where it is easy to get to my car if I suddenly was about to die of my eyes swelling shut. It went well, to say the least, and I immediately could feel myself relax just being outside under the trees.

I have been to Powder Valley multiple times, I think the most recent visit being half a year ago in November. There are things I love about it and things I dislike about it, but convenience is definitely a big selling point for me. It's kind of a surprise to find it when you go, because it seems stuck right in the middle of a fairly urban area. One minute you're driving down a road with doctor's offices and houses, and then you turn and there are woods around you. Powder Valley also offers a really neat nature center with kid-friendly activities (that I found kind of fun too, when I went), and very friendly staff who were willing to talk to me about teacher-education opportunities and classes when I went this time.

This is the first time I've done all three trails in one day, though that isn't saying a ton. Broken Ridge Trail is 2/3 of a mile long, but has a few ascents to make things interesting. Tanglevine Trail is barely a trail at all, 1/3 of a mile and very flat, basically just a small circle. Both of these trails have signs on the trees or near interesting wildlife in case you are wondering what kind of tree/plant you are looking at, and the Tanglevine trail also has a few poster signs along the way about the habitat of the wildlife. The Hickory Ridge trail is just a nudge over a mile long, though there is a shorter loop option (I did the long trail and then finished up on the short trail back to the parking lot, just because). This trail has the most ups and downs, and is different from the other trails in that it spends a bit of time on the valley floor, following along the stream. Overall, all three trails add up to about 2.2 miles, not a bad little walk.

Cons for me on this trail are:
-all paved trails
-fairly well traveled and full of families/children (which for families with kids, would be a pro, I imagine)
-there can be lots of noise from the nearby highway and roads-- I had to use my ipod the whole time.
-Fairly uneventful scenery, without much variety on the trails.

-Good short length for a day walk
-helpful staff and plenty of facilities
-Despite the lack of variety, the scenery is nonetheless beautiful. Tall green trees, wooden bridges, and streams really give you a peaceful, calm feeling
-Just enough up and downs on the trails for it to be more than just an easy walk.