I walk a lot, and prefer to walk in what might be deemed more “natural” areas. Somewhere with trees and grass and trails and rocks and water. I try to get out and walk as much as I can. It’s good for me physically and mentally. It’s a chance to try out gear and dream about gear to make or modify. It gives me a chance to take photos. I just plain like to explore an area. Walking makes me ready for walking. There are a multitude of reasons and they are all good. Oh, and I also like to get out at any time. Sunny, raining, warm, cold, windy, day time, night time. Doesn’t matter to me.
Now, for all its faults, and it has a few, the area I live has many wonderful spots to do that in. Hamilton and its surroundings, has the lake (Lake Ontario), and the cliff (Niagara Escarpment). It’s a beautiful area and there are many paths and trails of various descriptions, forested areas, parks, waterfalls, scenic views, wildlife. Yet it is within a major metropolitan area. I can easily take a bus or a taxi out to an area and walk back. On bike there are many trails and designated routes to take out to areas to explore. If I wanted to use a car or go in a car, there are places to park and explore from there. If I was in a boat or a canoe or kayak, I could access interesting areas. It’s never that hard to find a quiet, secluded spots, that offers a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of life in a city. I’ve featured many of them on here.
But what always strikes me is how relatively few people I ever encounter. It can be the most gorgeous day, perfect temps, smells wonderful, animals flitting about, things to see, water falls to pass by, perfect network of routes for people to follow and explore.
And I almost always only ever encounter a handful of people. A woman walking her dog, a trail runner, a mother and father and their two young kids, a young couple walking a dog, maybe a couple with a child carrier on their back, someone out on a bike, another trail runner.
And that’s it.
Several hours in a wonderful natural area, lots of trees, meadows with flowers, open areas with birds circling overhead, views of the Escarpment, views out over bodies of water. And all I encounter are a small number of other people.
I have seen as few as two and as many as a few dozen in a lot of accessible trails and natural areas. There are roads nearby that could facilitate drop off and pick up. Buses will drop you off not far away. Cell phone coverage is a given in any area. But few people seem to take advantage of the tremendous recreational possibilities within a 15 minute drive of where I live. It’s a free activity, it has health benefits, it’s easily accessible. But over many years of walking I have taken note of how few people are ever out beyond the pavement.
Not that I mind having the place largely to myself, but it does freak me out a little. Largely because I’ll bet good money the shopping centre parking lots are jammed.
The past few days have been hot, the radio reporting high humidex levels, high UV ratings. Yet I went out and wandered for several hours each day in the past 10. Sometimes just for an hour, sometimes for many hours. Sometimes with a purpose, other times just to meander with no plan at all. I wandered through both sun and moon lit parks and golf courses and cemeteries, and along trails and roads of varying descriptions. I didn’t find it that unpleasantly hot at all, the bugs were very tolerable, the days are long, the moon was out making it very bright even after the sun set.
On Canada Day I went to the same spot I went last year. It is not that accessible, but it is certainly not that inaccessible either. There were a few boats anchored off shore, but I was the only person on land. I sat on my own little stretch of beach, surrounded by trees and bushes, looked out over the water, had a little fire, had a wonderful dinner, had some aperitifs, watched the fireworks, lounged around for a while longer, packed up and wandered home through the trails and cemeteries, and quiet streets and alleyways.
People are often shocked when I tell them about my nocturnal adventures. “Aren’t you scared?” they’ll ask me in hushed tones. “Of what?” Granted I’m the scariest thing out there, but the truth is, there is no one out there. I rarely ever encounter people at night, even in urban areas. I actually feel much safer in the dark. And it’s also just cooler and quieter. And I also really like using my night vision. Humans actually have surprisingly good night vision, if they just let their eyes adjust. It’s a skill I suppose like any other, but it’s one I have practiced for a long time, and I have learned to become competent at it.
Again, I don’t really mind that I often seem to be one of the few out there. But I have also been observing how it ties in to how utterly disconnected from the natural world so many people are. They hear one mosquito buzz around, and they scurry inside because ”they’re being eaten alive out here.” A few drops of rain, and they have to scurry inside because “they’re getting soaked out here.” The temperature requires putting another top on, and they scurry inside because “they’re freezing to death out here.” They feel a drop of sweat on their brow and they have to scurry inside because “they’re broiling to death out here.” Dusk approaches and all the lights have to be turned on because “they can’t see anything out here.” They walk a kilometer, and they have to scurry inside because “they’re exhausted.” It doesn’t take much to constitute an extreme these days for many people.