I believe in walking. Often I’ll walk around the block at sunset, but I prefer to get out in the natural world where I can move slowly through the landscape feeling the sun, breathing fresh air, observing God’s creation just as my ancestors did 50,000 years ago. I live in Phoenix Arizona’s suburbia so it’s a 30 minute car ride to hiking country. Along the way I pass a new Wal-Mart which has supplanted a family of burrowing owls that I chanced upon only last year. I speed past a new megamall, and in a little while I’m at the trail-head ready to walk into a very different world.
As I head down the Walkin’ Jim Trail highway sounds soon fall away, and a well worn path entices me onward. An antelope ground squirrel, tail straight up, darts down the trail ahead of me while a redtail hawk glides along a ridge line festooned with the yellow blooms of brittlebush. Oddly shaped saguaro cacti raise their spiny arms high into the blue Arizona sky. This is my Garden of Eden. There is no good or evil on the Walkin’ Jim just life, evolution, and the beauty of God’s creation. When I walk into the natural world time slows, and landscapes linger. I drink it all in.
Passing boulders etched with images of bighorn sheep and geometric designs, I’m aware that other beings have passed this way long ago. People quite different from those whose hiking boots now leave ephemeral designs in the dust. They lived with nature, almost as a part of nature. We moderns are very different. We have shaken the tree of knowledge to its very core – hydrogen bombs, dna, space walks – and its all happened in a blink of God’s eye. A barbed wire fence blocks the way, and my illusion of eden dissipates. Even here the built world intrudes, but there’s a large gap at the bottom where javelina have scrambled through, and so do I. The trail eventually takes me into the Hell’s Canyon Wilderness area before looping back through classic Sonoran desert to the trail-head and civilization.
Sitting in my car waiting for the AC to kick in, the big butte to the west looks so very far away, but just a few hours ago I was close enough to see turkey vultures spiraling on thermals near the summit. For a moment I muse about the antelope ground squirrel and the historic stretch of rainless days it survived last year – what tenacity! I’m a little tired, but my walk through God’s country has been exhilarating too. I’ve seen some things, thought some thoughts, and got some exercise. It’s been another great day for walking.