Hands down Clear Creek Metro Park is one of my favorite parks anywhere. And I’ve been to a lot of parks.
You can wade into the stream and walk for miles into the steady currents. You can walk in the cool shadow of sycamores and sandstone cliffs. Leave streamside and climb up through the ravines carved by spring-fed brooks, the scent of hemlocks wrapped around you. Hemlocks give way to pines and eventually, you are shaded as you walk along the ridge beneath the umbrella of 200-year-old hardwoods. Dogwoods in bloom hang like fog beneath the canopy of hardwoods. The forest opening to small prairies full of native Ohio flowers.
As I trudge this path, I find the steep climbs of the ravines and gentle streamside walk a metaphor for so much of life. Look too far forward and you are liable to trip over the roots jutting out of the hillside and across the trail. Spend all your energy looking down and you miss the whitetail deer, turkeys, dogwoods, wildflowers, and mushrooms haunting the hillsides. Wide-brimmed hats offer protection from the sun and rain but you miss the sky, clouds, birds, and treetops.
Look backwards? Well, looking backward makes room for whole new levels of folly.
Walking in the woods requires a balance between sensing what is around you, where you are headed, and knowing where you have been. Without being able to read the boundaries around you the forest can be an unforgiving place. You can walk in circles or become lost and disoriented. Randomness and lollygagging have a place in the forest but, like life, it must be tempered with an understanding of time and boundaries.