Nature Walk in the City

“Here’s a good one,” I say.  I turn the screen so my wife can see a picture of a wooden bridge going over a river in a meadow.  I look out the window at the full sun, and can almost taste the smogless wind.  It’s been too long.

She and I hurry through our afternoon chores and stuff a picnic in my day pack, careful to spread the mayo at an acceptable consistency and center muenster cheese and organic spinach on each thick slice of whole wheat bread.

We pile into our SUV (which is still covered in dirt from my last scouting adventure), and dream of eating turkey sandwiches on a fallen log or watching birds come to steal multi-grained crumbs from our lunch site when we leave.

To be honest it feels good to be going somewhere, finally.  We tend to stay in on the weekends because I’m burned out from work, or I have to go to the office to finish something.

The baby happily gurgles to himself in the back seat, laughing at our golden retriever in the cargo area behind him.  The dog pants in anticipation, drooling on one window and thumping his tail against another.  I check my blind spots, which the dog is now blocking, and reverse from the parking spot.  I have to go slowly because the stalls are narrow, and the cars next to mine look expensive.  We make it over two speed bumps, and take a left around a blind corner.  Cars packed on either side of the road make it impossible to see, so I cross one lane and stop, stretching my neck to see oncoming traffic in the other lane.  The city bus barrels down the street, not stopping or slowing, so I hit the gas and finish my turn.  The light is red with thirty cars or so idling in front of it.  I hit the brakes.  The bus stops before it runs over my dog, and we wait for the light.

I run the light as it turns yellow, the bus follows on red, and we meld into the bumper to bumper traffic that defines Saturday life in the Washington DC Metro Area.  Nothing special happens, just jay-walkers and five lane pileups in both directions, but the baby starts to fuss without continuous motion of the car.  If I can just get on the open freeway he’ll go to sleep, but we are nowhere near the freeway.

After twenty minutes of stop and go traffic (and angry baby) I look at the GPS, which tells me we have traveled exactly five minutes out of our twenty minute journey.  Quick math warns that nature’s wild fury will be joining us from the back seat if we fail to nourish the young one soon.

We decide to go to a privately owned trail closer to home.  It lacks forest, having instead apartment buildings crowding the scenery, but it’s still a good alternative.

Ten minutes later we pull up a narrow street.  Cars are parked on both sides, no empty spaces to be found.  At the end of the lane we find the wrought iron fence shut.  A sign reads “Nature Trail Closed at 4:00 p.m.”  We park in a no parking zone to feed the baby and eat our sandwiches.   As we enjoy muenster cheese and fresh turkey we dream of a day when nature will stay open late.

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