It had been a lonely month. A month of solitude and forced rest. And now, driving through the barren winter fields, vast and silent and so still, I felt it all catching up with me. The boredom, the slight depression, the sudden slamming to a halt of any and all movement; I was so over it.
A month ago I fell while running and broke my right ankle. I went from training for a race to lying around in bed with my foot propped up or hobbling around on crutches. Life became very small. I missed training with my friends, hiking with my kids, taking walks with my dad and dogs, and, of course, running. I graduated off of crutches to hobbling around in a boot. A small freedom, but I was restless.
I drove west, through more empty fields, and realized that I needed a quick micro adventure to make me feel like me again. Just a touch of new and unfamiliar and a little activity. So I pulled over, opened google maps, and looked to see what was nearby. I found something that would work and I was off, headed to a new destination.
There’s a quote out there I see every once in awhile: “Once a year go somewhere you’ve never been before”. That always makes me sad.
Once a year? That’s the goal?!! Do some people actually go an entire year without going anywhere new? I get that there are people for whom, due to various circumstances, this might be difficult to achieve, but I usually see this quote connected with travel. It’s aimed at those who can easily go someplace new, yet I think most people consider “new” the other side of the world or a vacation a day’s drive away. But what about a new town, a park you’ve never been to, or even driving home from work on a different road? An adventure close to home.
I chose a park along the Mississippi River. I drove on country lanes through more fields, empty except silent irrigation systems and black birds searching for remaining seeds. Soon I came to a tiny town and turned into Columbus-Belmont State Park. I parked, put on the boot to secure my broken ankle, and started towards the top of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi.
This park was created because of all of the history that has occurred here on this tucked away spot throughout the years. Native Americans used the land and, later, the Trail of Tears passed nearby. This was also the site of a fort during the Civil War. A giant chain was placed across the river here, from Kentucky to Missouri, in an attempt to keep boats from going downriver. A devastating flood in 1927 caused the entire town of Columbus to be relocated uphill from the river to its present day location. Now, what’s left is a small, seemingly dying town and a park that helps us remember.
The only other people there were a couple with a dog who was literally running circles around the park. The dog looped up to me, never slowing down, and I swear she was smiling! I’ve never seen a dog look so happy. I laughed out loud and told the dog I was jealous that she could run and then she was off to continue running circles around the park. Soon after that the couple called to their dog and left. I was, once again, alone. Only this time it didn’t feel lonely.
I reached the top of the bluff and looked down at the Mississippi River far below. It was really wide here. The winter sun was setting quickly and sparkled off of the water. Massive barges lined both sides of the river, tied up and waiting. I could hear men talking and the noises of the ships being loaded. A lone tugboat pushed upriver, struggling against the strong current.
The path continued along the bluff, so I walked along it, shuffling through the last of the year’s leaves, until I reached a bench overlooking the river. I have always been drawn to the Mississippi River; this massive body of water that practically cuts the country in half. It’s so different than the mountain streams on the other side of my state. Cold, crystal clear streams that fly down the mountains, laughing as they tumble over giant rocks. These streams are meant to be played in; a spot to rock hop and cool off on a hot summer day and then be lulled to sleep on the rivers’ banks by their endless chatter.
But the Mississippi is so different. It’s massive and brown and deadly silent. The Mississippi never stops and takes with it anything that dares cross it’s path. It widens and narrows at will and regularly redefines state lines. It’s one of the few natural features in this country that we have failed to control; and oh do we try. And maybe that’s what had draws me to it in the first place; despite anything we humans do, the Mississippi moves on, unchanged and uncaring and so powerful.
The sun was now low in the sky and darkness was falling fast. I rose to leave, one last look at that giant river before I turned to hike (ok, hobble) back to the car. I felt more at peace than I had in awhile; more rooted. Fresh air, a change of scenery, and staring out at that mighty river had helped me gain some perspective. Even injured, I could still get out and experience something new. Feel a bit like myself again. It had been the perfect micro-adventure!
And while exploring new places may not be something that excites you as it does me; I highly recommend looking for ways to add a bit of extra adventure into your life. Maybe it’s trying a new food, meeting new people, taking a class, or going out of your way to help someone. Something that is new and exciting, yet quick and easy to do. Adding a little adventure to a day is such a great way to break up the routine that sometimes life can become.