I’m sure there was a gentle breeze floating amongst the falling and fallen leaves, making a wonderfully wistful sound, but unfortunately, I was only able to hear my labored breathing and pounding heart. The steps… they just kept coming. Step after craggy stone step. From up ahead I heard a voice asking if I was all right. “Yes,” I cheerfully answered. I lied.
It all started with the innocent suggestion, last Sunday, that we drive over to Devil’s Lake State Park. It was a beautiful day, and the activity we had planned to undertake had to be scrubbed, so rather than sitting in the recliner watching the Packers, I thought we might take a leisurely stroll in nature.
The drive there was pleasant. I especially like the ferry ride at Merimack. Although, I always keep my eyes peeled for the Monitor. (That was a Civil War navel battle joke, for those keeping score.) We arrived to find the park office closed, so we headed off in what seemed to be a likely direction for a walk.
The air was cool, but we were dressed for it. We passed some fisher-persons who were spending their afternoons watching bobbers and catching fish. We kept walking. We met some hikers who advised us of a trail up through the wooded hill overlooking the lake. They were our age or so, and seemed to have survived it okay, so we started up the path, which, if my memory is correct, included around 8,000 steps upward.
I knew I was out of shape. I didn’t know how badly. The first thousand or so steps weren’t bad, but somehow the gentle slope we viewed from ground level had become Pike’s Peak. Finally, we reached a plateau of sorts, and once I regained my ability to breathe normally and stand up straight, I could see that the view was breathtaking. A perfect fall day in a very nice park. Large quartzite boulders tinged with pinkish-purple, a very blue sky, and hillsides splashed with browns and yellows and reds of the remaining leaves.
I was thinking of calling Medflight, but instead we carefully worked our way back down the hill. The steps and rocks were quite slippery due to the dry leaves and the dust they left. Plus, by that time my legs felt pretty rubbery, and going down a hill works a whole different set of muscles than walking up. Thanks to gravity, breathing wasn’t a problem, and my heart mostly regained its composure.
The walk back was close to the shore on a semi-paved path through giant boulders. It’s very impressive, and makes a person think of the power of the glacier that moved those huge stones around.
All told we probably covered less than five miles. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t have a heart attack, and if I am smart, it will have served as a good start on an exercise program.
I’m not sure why that body of water is called Devil’s Lake, but after having taken that leisurely Sunday afternoon hike, I think I might have a pretty good idea.