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Hiking Vs Hunting

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I drove out to Matthiessen Park today near Utica, IL, for a hike with a shining sense of accomplishment I had from cleaning the house.  Finally I got to the park after several detours with my 15 yr old memory of having been here before (all I seem to remember are how pretty the waterfalls were). The park entrance sign said “Hiking Trails Closed” and since we had some storms over the weekend I thought maybe it was due to the mud, but since I wore my mud shoes I pressed on.









Driving in I flashed back to being little and my parents driving through parks like this.  I used to watch all the separate units of families that had gathered in groups throughout the park from the loneliness of the back window. Each unit of people had their own special food spread and kids that all seemed to be my age and running around with kites and games and everyone seemed so happy.

Now at 30yrs old I’m looking across what seems like acres of abandoned picnic tables and BBQ pits.  Not a single person in sight, it sends a chill down my spine.  Is this really how it is now, everyone is at home with their Xbox? Don’t get me wrong, I am equally obsessed with my kinect because it’s actually keeping me in shape, but this is just scary to see.  Thinking that I realized that it was in fact Monday, and a sigh of relief mixed with the hope washed over me. If this was a weekend day, I would be witnessing a similar scene from my childhood.

I saw an outhouse on the way to the trailhead and thought “GBUG”, (which was the clever acronym “Go Before You Go” from my past as a camp counselor) and I headed in. I am slightly grossed out by outhouses, mostly because soap and water doesn’t exist. So, you know for a fact that no one has washed their hands before grabbing the door handle, instead of just being suspicious about it like in public restrooms. But, when I’m sitting down and I feel the cool breeze (where the majority of the people in the world have never felt a breeze before), I am flooded with memories and feelings of adventure from A.T. on my thru hike in ’02. On the trail, when there is that much airflow, the smell is never a concern.  Your biggest fear comes with the necessity of having to glance down in the hole before you sit down to make sure the pile hasn’t accumulated high enough that you actually have to hover yourself above the toilet to avoid sit down on something horrible. Now of course that would never happen here in a government maintained state park; however, I have memories that keep me from shaking the habit of always checking almost 10 years later.

Finally I am parking to hit the trail.  When I get out of the car I see this sign:

Finally it dawns on me: I could actually be killed if I hike today.  Here in the good ole Midwest, hunting is more important than hiking. It seems so incredibly absurd to me that I’m not even sure if I have been in California too long or just far enough away from the Midwest loop to pay attention to something like this.






Since hiking today isn’t important enough to get shot over I bust out my Jimmy Johns sandwich on the closest picnic table, appreciating the fact that I am not in California because you can’t get one of those in Cali. I wonder for a moment if Jimmy Johns was actually the tipping point that led me to deciding to move home.  I have a crazy love for this sandwich; it must be something in the mayo…


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That Free Thing

“"We don't see things as THEY are. We see things the way WE are." ”

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