Happy Trails to Us


By John E. Paul

As if the coronavirus stay-at-home restrictions weren’t enough, the rain last week drenched the soil, tightened our home-boundedness and certainly dampened our spirit even further.

This week, however, the weather has been beautiful. We felt welcomed back outdoors, with mild temperatures and bright sunny skies. Cabin fever, go away!

We have been outside every day this week for walks on local trails, and I have marveled at all the available options. The Triangle is fortunate to have an incredible number of trails, offering easy walking as well as more strenuous hikes. The options include trails owned and maintained by the Triangle Land Conservancy (https://www.triangleland.org/explore/nature-preserves), trails in the extensive Duke Forest network (https://dukeforest.duke.edu/recreation/maps/) and trails maintained by the cities and counties, among many others.

It’s easy to get descriptions, directions and trail maps online. Although the North Carolina Botanical Garden is officially closed due to the coronavirus, there are still outstanding trails open on their property as well: https://ncbg.unc.edu/visit/mason-farm-biological-reserve/.

There are appropriate reminders, however, of the times we live in: trailhead signs all request social distancing and observing the CDC guidelines to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Most everyone we meet respects social distancing, and many also have and use facemasks.

Most recently we walked over three miles on a heavily-wooded Triangle Land Conservancy trail. Road noise was long gone, the air was clear and fresh, and the sun shone through the trees, beautifully dappling the ground around us. We saw birds, but few other people.

Mary Oliver sums up our experience in the first verse of her poem “When I Am Among the Trees”:

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

With all the local trail options for much-needed outside activity and inspiration, we don’t have to restrict ourselves to just walking around the block, on pavement and sidewalks. We can go further afield. (Literally! But don’t forget your facemask!)

We can enjoy the quiet and the fresh air, and admire the beauty and unboundedness of nature. Then we can return home refreshed.

John E. Paul is a resident of Chapel Hill.

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