On Walking

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Walking is an important skill for any traveler.  Wherever you go, you’re bound to need to walk.  A lot.  Where I currently live, we drive pretty much everywhere.  This is a driving town.  If you’re downtown, there are places to walk around, but that’s more for tourists.  As a tourist here, you’d probably walk a lot.  As a local, not so much.  Not unless you’re doing touristy things (which I do enjoy from time to time), or you’re deliberately out for a walk.  The nice thing about North Idaho, is that there are many places that are nice to go for a walk.  Just in town you can walk in your neighborhood (obviously), the section of the Centennial Trail that runs along the water, hike around Tubbs Hill, or, for more of a challenge, hike to the top of Canfield Mountain.

Mostly, I walk near my house.  We currently live near the river, and there’s a little path that runs along the slough just down the road.  It’s a popular place for people to walk around the neighborhood, and we often see people on the road going to or from the trail or while we’re on the trail itself.  Not so many in the winter, but the people with dogs are usually pretty dedicated.  There are a couple islands in the river.  In the winter the water level drops significantly, so the slough between the shore and the islands is dry.  We like to go exploring on the islands this time of year.  One of them houses a boat launch and a boardwalk over the wetlands, and is run by the Bureau of Land Management.  It’s closed this time of year, so I always feel slightly rebellious when we access the island from the water side, rather than the road.  The other island is only accessible from the water, and appears to be inhabited by beavers.  I saw them one night while out for a walk.  The male beaver was standing on the riverbank, not 10 feet from the trail, and it slipped down into the water as I approached.  Its mate was on the island’s bank, and later I saw them swimming around.  That’s the only good glimpse I’ve had of them, but now that I know they’re around, I can see evidence that they’re around.

Walking is such a great way to get to know an area.  You discover things you never would in a car or even on a bike.  You can stop an look closely at the little plants sprouting up in the middle of winter, giving a light dusting of green along the edge of the path.  You can feel the bark of the weathered tree on the river’s edge.  You can stop to photograph the rusting pipes poking out of a concrete slab that are left over from who knows what and who knows when.  Who knew that most of us developed one of our most useful skills by the time we were only a year old?

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