Archived Opinion

Sometimes a walk is better than a run

 op quintinFor many years I was a dedicated runner. These days I’m much more likely to choose to walk, both for exercise and pleasure.

I enjoyed running, particularly trail running. There was a sense of freedom and power about running through the woods that I sometimes remember with longing. But you miss a lot when you run. There are all these goals involved: Improve your time, or run a certain distance, or something along those lines. By comparison walking seems pressure free. There are no particular goals, or at least I don’t set goals for walking. I tend to amble along enjoying what there is to see. Henry David Thoreau put it best when he noted “it is a great art to saunter.” It is indeed.

My morning walk lasts about 40 minutes, and though I take the same route each day it’s never the same. As usual, this morning I headed down the dirt road from the cabin I live in. This takes me past the goat pen, which causes great bleatings of unhappiness because the goats can’t believe I would simply pass by without first feeding them. Just past the goat yard is the chicken yard. The chickens are indifferent to me passing by, though I enjoy watching them go about their chicken business — scratching the ground busily and pecking at anything that moves.

Next I pass a beehive, which this time of year is active even in the early morning because honeybees get out and work at about 50 degrees or warmer. Sometimes I stop a safe distance away and watch for a few moments, as I did this morning. Some of the honeybees were bringing in dark yellow and orange pollen in the pollen baskets on their legs. This is a good sign of honeybee hive health, because it means there is a laying queen. The pollen is fed to baby honeybees as a protein source. I moved on comforted that the hive was thriving and well.

Down off the dirt road that leads to the cabin where I live is Ashe Loop, a two-lane road that isn’t very heavily traveled. Those drivers who do pass by generally slow down and wave. As you can see, this is an ideal and pleasant place to walk, and I often see other people walking the road, too.

Ashe Loop opens into an expansive valley, which is perfect territory for bluebirds. And in fact the valley is rich in these beautiful birds. This morning I noticed a bluebird on a power line that kept dropping down to the road and then flying back up. The bluebird repeated this action several times. When I got to that particular place in the road, I saw a big fat caterpillar. I suspect it was an enticing feast to help feed a nest of hungry baby bluebirds.

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Along with bluebirds the valley is full of American goldfinches, the males this time of year looking exotic in their yellow and black uniforms. I watched as they voraciously attacked the tops of grasses, hanging on and pecking at seedheads, oblivious to anything around them including me.

Farther down the road there is a small pond. I always approach this cautiously in hopes of seeing a great blue heron. They often can be found here, but are frightened easily and usually take off with their great flapping wings, making me feel guilty for disturbing their fishing.

Circling around on the loop brings me past a house that currently is home to six or seven kittens. I resist the urge to offer to adopt one, though they are incredibly cute. I have three cats already, and that’s about two too many for the tiny cabin we all call home. Besides, four cats would definitely designate me a cat lady, and I’m just not ready for that.

A bit on up the road is a mountainside pasture with Katahdin sheep and Boer goats. Today proved a lucky day because the herd was down next to the fence beside the road. I got to admire the Boer goat kids as they hopped around play fighting, rearing up and clashing their heads together in a headache-inducing way.

The loop finished, I started back up the hill to the cabin. This took me back by our goats, who were as stunned as before that I would pass by without feeding them.

So while I miss running, I’ve come to love my morning walk. It is never dull and ever changing.

(Quintin Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)


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