Hiking the Winsor Trail is a lesson in mindfulness

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When I tasted the moist cedar in the air, I forgot about any pending deadlines or any mundane tasks that awaited me in the city.  We didn’t have a plan, the map we brought didn’t contain any markings that indicated we were on the Winsor Trail, yet when the trail marker said to take a left to continue on the Winsor, we didn’t hesitate or question the map.  My wife and I just stepped lightly and headed upward.  “Strange how our bodies know we’re going uphill, huh?” The grade wasn’t so steep that we might as well have been running stairs, but it was steep enough that our hear rates sped up and sweat collected at our brows.

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“Yup,” I said.  “The elevation thins the oxygen in our blood, to start with, and the climbing is hard on the body.  It’s like getting twice the workout for the time spent on one.”

She smiled, “Good, I don’t have time for two-a-days.”

The trail itself was well maintained, if a bit rocky and slippery.  But with each step, we saw that we became level with hilltops that seemed to be unreachable when we started.  Since we had no map, we relied on our phones in order to estimate the distance we’d traveled.  When I run similar trails, I average 13 minutes miles: 16 minutes per mile running up steep hills, 10 minutes a mile running downhill.    Because we were hiking at a moderate pace, I figured we’d probably cover a mile in around 20 minutes, uphill.  “Let’s try for an hour and see how we feel?” Cj, my wife, was feeling good and somewhat ambitious.

“Sounds good to me,” I said and continued moving forward.  The sun was out when we started, but the higher we climbed and the longer we stayed on the trail, more and more clouds gathered.  Not only was the air moist with the taste of cedar, it was also flavored with the scent of ozone.  “We probably have a few hours before the rain gets us.”

The Winsor revealed its magic to us in the form of hummingbirds darting and flowers springing from gray rocks.  Time passed, but we had to pay attention to each step we took to the point that we hardly noticed that we arrived at a fork in the trail.  We could either take a left, which would lead downhill to the Big Tesuque trail, or we could ascend to a marked Viewpoint.  I’d never heard of the Viewpoint and it wasn’t on the map, therefore I didn’t know how far it was or how high we’d have to climb.  “Where do we go?” I asked CJ.

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“Well,” she said and looked at the climbing trail that led to the Viewpoint.  “It would be neat to get to the top.”

“How long have we been hiking?”

“Just 35 minutes.  We have 25 to go before we should turn around.  I say we go for the Viewpoint.”

“Ok,” I said and almost stepped on a cactus.

“Watch out,” Cj said and pulled me away from where I was about to step. “Be careful, look at all the cactus.”

I did as she said and smiled.  Though I spend a lot more time on trails than she does, her eye for detail probably saved me from a pretty nasty accident.  Because she’s relatively new to hiking, she was far more focused than I was. She was exhibiting her “beginner’s eye” and I was taking far too much for granted.  Once I realized that I needed to find my own sense of beginning, I was far more focused and didn’t come close to any cactus again.  It was a lesson I needed to learn; all too often day-to-day tasks become mundane and i can often trudge through without focus.  I’ve been writing technical documents for so long that i hardly even pay attention to what I write anymore.  But, the quality of my work would greatly increase if I paid more focused attention to what I do. Perhaps I needed to almost step on the cactus so that I could be awakened from the sleepwalking I do through so much of my days. “Thank you, mi amor,” I said and continued ahead with renewed focus and energy.

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We climbed until I could see the sky; we were close to the summit.  The last few yards were steep and rocky, but it wasn’t long before we covered the distance and arrived at the summit’s Viewpoint.  We could see Tesuque Village and Bishop’s Lodge.  We could see U.S. 285 carving its way to Espanola.  Our reward was far greater that our effort; Cj and I both felt and expressed elation and achieving a goal we didn’t even know we sought.

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Hiking the Winsor Trail for those two hours was exhausting and enriching.  By being present to its magic, the trail taught me a valuable about remaining present in all I do.

 

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