I recently decided to explore the East Bay Hills in an area near Hayward, California, just south of Oakland. Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park promised to be an area of open grasslands and green velvety hillsides worth exploring. So, I put a group of hikers together and we met this morning for a romp-n-stomp. There were 11 of us, and none of us had ever been there before. It didn’t appear to matter, however, that we were all going to tread new ground.
Hey, sometimes that what it’s about, right? Discovering new territory, seeing new places, enjoying the possibilities of the new and different. And sharing it with like-minded folks.
I had originally planned a ridge run loop that would be about 10 miles. Alas, we didn’t complete the entire loop. For the first time I can recall in a very long time, I found myself suffering – in real pain – and proposing to the group that we cut the hike short.
Fortunately all agreed and, having completed about 6 miles, we returned to the trailhead. We had already planned on a post-hike picnic, though, and by the time we had returned, the low clouds that had covered us all morning had largely burned off and the day was becoming most pleasant. I was glad to remove my pack, having felt shooting pains on the left side of my neck and down my left shoulder. As we picnicked, it was good to have my friend Gary Fox there with his delicious supply of home-made Merlot, a liquid anesthetic that I found most refreshing.
The fact that we lingered awhile, noshing our bounty, admiring the green hillsides, dreamily soaking up the day’s warmth and enjoying each other’s company found us all glad to be together – even though some of us were strangers to one another – and wishing we didn’t have to leave.
Some days are like that, you know? It feels good to know that, even when things can feel rotten in some respects, people can pull together to simply be happy about where they are and who they’re with. I count myself among the very thankful that I associate with such good folks. Far be it from me – pain notwithstanding – to rain on such a parade. In fact I was quite happy to just be where I was with such an engaging group.
It’s because of such moments as this that I do what I do on the hills and trails of California. Despite days that can challenge me beyond the realm of comfort, I am glad to take comfort in what really counts, and that’s the desire of people to be the best they can be with each other. And sometimes, that’s enough to pull the pain right out of me.